Klein on Design: No. 15, Mission Hills – Olazabal Course
Monday, November 30, 2009
Bradley S. Klein, Golfweek’s architecture editor, offers his opinion on one great hole:
Yards: 555, par 5
Architect: Jose Maria Olazabal, Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt, 2003
Where: Shenzhen, China
Event: Omega Mission Hills World Cup, Nov. 26-29
It’s great because . . . more than any other hole at the 12-course complex, it’s completely over the top and embodies the most crass and extreme design values. The Olazabal Course is a showcase for immoderate shaping, thanks to concave fairways and massive, cauliflower bunkering with flash-white sand. This wild, relentless dogleg par 5 looks like a seahorse in convulsions. It culminates the entire Mission Hills experience, thanks to a lake down the inside left of the hole with two distinct bays and 24 bunkers, roughly equally distributed at each crucial point: in the primary landing area, the lay-up second-shot zone and around the green.
It would be even better if . . . this hole were not so focused on making it so bold for pros while leaving behind the everyday player. Down the aggressive left side the hole plays only 497 yards, which is like a normal par 4 these days for pros, although the approach shot here has to be struck with remarkable precision because the green is so shallow and well-guarded. By contrast, the path along the outside perimeter is 600-plus yards and still requires two forced carries over water. There isn’t a hole in the world that better illustrates the modern disparity between the pro and amateur games. For that reason, I wouldn’t touch it, but leave it as a reminder of how polarized golf has become.