A short drive from the Hainan city of Haikou, NaLiHu is an unusual golf and residential development with a low profile but extravagant Lee Schmidt designed golf course. Schmidt has worked in the past for both Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye, and this is very much a throw back to the Dye days rather than the Nicklaus, with enormous and randomly positioned grass-faced bunkers, extreme shaping and odd features like a bunker within another bunker.
This course had real potential, given some reasonable undulation and the fact that parts of the front nine touch the banks of one of the most peaceful lakes on Hainan Island. Unfortunately the layout doesn’t really work, thanks in part to an over-abundance of bunkering and some very strange shaping decisions. The vegetation management and client’s planting lines don’t help either, but design wise the quality here is not up with Schmidt Curley’s best at the nearby Mission Hills resort.
The round begins in unusual fashion, with no par fours until the 6th hole and the first five playing in a par 5, 3, 5, 5 and 3 sequence. Par is not the only unusual aspect of the routing, with the 1st hole featuring a quite severe split fairway that doesn’t really work for the average golfer. The 2nd is an uphill par three of limited appeal. Rising across a heavily bunkered ridge, the hidden green site on the long 3rd has some merit but the myriad sand sizes and shapes back in the fairway only confuse matters and lack genuine style and aesthetic appeal. Better is the left and then right bending 4th, which has an unnecessary bunker beyond a pronounced mound but is a good hole nonetheless. The par three 5th then plays across the lake to a semi-peninsula green pressed against the water. As far as highlights go, this is the most obvious hole and is reasonably well done despite being a cliché concept.
Each of the nines at NaLiHu end with long uphill slogs on either side of a cascading waterfall. Perhaps the best of the rest is the short par four 15th, along with some of the more subtle bunker complexes and a couple of interesting green sites. Too much here is randomly positioned, however, and excessive. Plus Lee Schmidt will not win any fans with his brutal par four 17th, complete with all-carry tee shot and sunken lakeside green section.
Some golfers will enjoy the daring and challenge of NaLiHu, but this could, and probably should, have been a much more interesting and enjoyable golf experience.
Planet Golf understands this golf course was closed by the Chinese government.