An extremely private facility built for one of China’s largest tobacco companies, the HongTa golf course in Yuxi City, southwest of Kunming, was designed by Brian Curley from the design firm of Schmidt Curley. Squeezed into a hillside overlooking the small tobacco town, the course is located near the company headquarters and reserved almost exclusively for corporate executives and visiting VIPs.
Despite the fact the property here is quite tight, the golf course feels reasonably spacious and Curley deserves credit for a mature, natural feel to what is essentially a manufactured golf course. HongTa might accurately be labeled China’s Shadow Creek, as the client spent big on mature plantings and flowering shrubs to screen the park off from the outside world and disguise what was otherwise an unattractive piece of ground. The cascading creek and elaborate rock formations were also costly but create a pleasant, peaceful setting for golfers. Thankfully they rarely interfere with Curley's solid design.
Among the highlights are the short par four 2nd, which drops toward the tobacco factory and is bunkered to entice aggressive play from the tee. The right-then-left par five 5th also works really well from a strategic perspective, as do back nine par fours like the 12th, 14th and 16th. The green sites here are a feature, as most are quite subtle and built with small shelves and less pronounced features than you might find on Curley’s other courses. While they appear simple, often the putting surfaces are quite tricky and angled cleverly to complicate recovery play.
HongTa isn't a world-beater by any stretch, but there are few black spots here and lots of pleasing, strategic golf options. What’s interesting to note about the Schmidt Curley design team, is the difference between the philosophies of the company principals. At HongTa the lack of mounding around greens and the lack of catch basins within the fairways showcase the Curley school of design, and his preference for natural looking features. Curley did well with this site to create a good golf course that is both enjoyable and interesting to play, for all standard of amateurs. In some ways it’s a shame that so few Chinese golfers ever get to play here.
Note: We understand the Chinese government crackdown on golf has led to this course being closed.