The last of the twelve courses to open at the Mission Hills Shenzhen Resort, the Pete Dye Course was created by Brian Curley and built alongside the Nick Faldo layout on the Mid-Valley property between the resort’s main Shenzhen and Dongguan sites. Curley once worked for legendary architect Pete Dye, and he and his team went to great lengths to create a point of difference between this course and the other golf available at the resort. Dye not only provided the inspiration for these unique holes but he also apparently approved of the specific design concepts and the routing plan used. The resultant layout is a fitting tribute to one of modern design’s most influential course architects.
Those familiar with any of the iconic Dye courses in North America will recognize elements of his unique design style here, particularly the heavy peripheral shaping, the sharply contoured green sites, the large waste areas and complex bunkering schemes that mix small pot and elongated grass traps with dramatically fortified timber bunkers. There is even a disused railway carriage off the 18th tee, to further emphasize that distinctive Dye style.
Despite undeniably strong links to the work of the ageless architect, this is much better than a straight replica layout and effective because not only do holes look like Dye’s celebrated creations but the best areas are fun and exciting to play. First impressions in golf are always important, and this course is memorable from the opening hole for its heavy mounding, its pushed-up green site and the long, grass faced bunker down the left side of its fairway. The next hole establishes even more clearly the Pete Dye theme, thanks to the wooden sleepered bunkers behind the green and the snaking grass trap in front.
The first of a series of terrific short par fours, the 3rd is much more subtle than most here and dominated by a single bunker through the middle of its fairway that creates an excellent risk and reward dilemma for ambitious golfers. The other standout short par four is the 11th on the back nine, which is more complicated than the 3rd but built with the same inherent strategic values. Here players need to decide whether to take the high, tight option from the tee or instead play low and safe but face a more challenging pitch shot. There are five holes under 350 yards in total and although the remaining short fours are less effective than the 3rd and 11th, it is refreshing to play a course that doesn’t try to overwhelm you with length but instead encourages you to think your way through each and every hole.
The standout of the longer par fours is the steeply rising 17th, which is a little awkward from the tee but boasts a beautifully pitched green site and a glorious uphill approach across myriad deep bunkers. The par fives here are even better, particularly at the bookends with the 18th tiptoeing along a narrowing fairway ledge with a beautiful green site and the 4th falling downhill toward an enticing target cut sharply into a large water body. The short holes don’t quite excite as much as the par fives, but the back-to-back par threes at the 9th and 10th are both memorably bunkered.
The Pete Dye Course at Mission Hills may not have been designed by the great man himself, but this is a substantial test that incorporates many of the modern features that have made his courses so famous across America. Despite the very apparent bunkering contrasts on display, Brian Curley worked hard to maintain a visual continuity with the layout and his holes generally marry together well.
Those who haven’t experienced a Pete Dye golf course before might wonder what on earth is going on here, but those that can look beyond the goofy shaping and the unusual design features are sure to enjoy what is a thoroughly compelling round of golf.