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The Artist: Justin Rose savours double dose of Mission Hills

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JUSTIN ROSE is enjoying a double dose of Mission Hills, brushing up against Hollywood in the World Celebrity Pro-Am in Haikou before heading to Dongguan to compete against Ian Poulter as part of the first-anniversary celebrations for the Rose-Poulter Course.

 

October 25, 2014: A relaxed Justin Rose is enjoying the start of his China swing by making his debut in the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am in Hainan, where he’s partnering legendary Chinese film director Feng Xiaogang over Mission Hills Haikou’s Blackstone Course.

 

On Tuesday, the 2013 US Open champion and Ian Poulter will be in Mission Hills Dongguan to celebrate the first anniversary of the Rose-Poulter Course by facing off in a nine-hole match play contest – with the winner earning a villa overlooking their layout. The two Englishmen worked with Brian Curley on the redesign of the Duval Course, focusing on turning the layout into a matchplay-friendly design.

 

Rose, 34, and Poulter, 38, have experience of Mission Hills after representing England together at the 2007 World Cup at the Olazabal Course in Dongguan before competing at over the Blackstone Course in Haikou for the 2011 edition.

 

Last year, Rose reached World No. 3 and won the US Open to become the first English major winner since Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters. This year he won June’s Quicken Loans National for his sixth PGA Tour title and July’s Scottish Open for his seventh European Tour win, as the current No. 6 underlined his reputation as one of the game’s top players.

 

As a debutant in the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am, do you get starstruck playing in a golf event with celebrities like Morgan Freeman, Nicole Kidman and Jessica Alba?

I’m more starstruck still with Gary Player to be honest, really, just the way he is and the way I’ve always viewed the game. It’s surreal, I’d say, to meet all the other people. Golf is great at introducing you to many different people, successful people in business, athletes.

 

It always amazes me, especially growing up in England, all the soccer players and football players want to play golf. They’d all trade in what they do to be a golf pro, whereas we would trade in to be a football player any day. It’s amazing to me that they are sort of envious of what we do.

"I'm more starstruck with Gary Player, just the way he is and the way I’ve always viewed the game."

“I’m more starstruck with Gary Player, just the way he is and the way I’ve always viewed the game.”

You’re partnering Feng Xiaogang, the legendary Chinese film director.

Yeah, I’m playing with director Feng. Obviously he’s pretty well known here in China, a bit of a legend and very, very successful, so I’m looking forward to playing with him. We’re playing in the same flight with Gary Player and Morgan Freeman, so what a day that’s going to be.

 

How do you enjoy events like this, which in some ways compares to the likes of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship?

For me, I actually play quite well in a Pro‑Am type environment. You have to accept the challenges that it brings, the slower pace of play and the more distractions. But if you embrace it and you actually treat it for what it is – which is a fun event – and you go in with that mentality, I actually tend to play really well. You have great conversations and you’re having fun with people, and sometimes that brings out your best golf.

After the intensity of the FedExCup and Ryder Cup, can an event like this refresh you?

Yeah, exactly. I find the end of the year fun. It’s a time where I probably get less intense with my thought process and enjoy the travelling and enjoy seeing different places and enjoy going to far‑off places. This is the end of the year where I push myself around the globe to go and have these experiences. Obviously I plan and hope to play good golf every time I tee up, but part of the decision‑making process is still to play a global schedule and enjoy different places to play.

 

Is China playing a big part in that schedule?

Yeah, increasingly I would say. Obviously golf here is certainly growing and there’s a lot of emphasis on China now, by The European Tour especially. Obviously the PGA Tour are in Malaysia, but now with the HSBC Champions being really co‑sanctioned with the PGA Tour now, now that they have fully taken it on board, I think it’s a big step forward.

 

But just hearing what Ken and Tenniel Chu (Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Mission Hills Group) were saying about how they are trying to promote golf as best they can here, events like these are very, very important. I think it’s great that golf gets seen in this sort of light – that it’s fun, it’s sexy and it’s cool and attracting people who would not necessarily be your stereotypical golfers. For Nicole Kidman, an icon around the world, to be playing gives golf a lot of credibility.

 

Like I was saying, all the football players in England, when they’re perceived to be playing golf, kids start to think golf is cool and it has not always been that way, so events like this are important.

"Bunkering for me is the most important thing in any design on any golf course."

“Bunkering for me is the most important thing in any design on any golf course.”

On Tuesday, you’ll finally be playing on your first course design – or co-design – at Mission Hills Dongguan on the mainland. How are you looking forward to that?

Yeah, it’s going to be exciting. I’m anxious to see it. Ian [Poulter] and I are doing a nine‑hole Pro‑Am with some juniors before our match. Ian and I didn’t have a chance to get down here for quite a while, so we’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of all the discussions we’ve had. It has been an interesting process. It’s been exciting, taking Ian’s matchplay record and our matchplay career together. It’s a risk/reward, fun golf course to play.

 

Was it challenging re-designing an existing course?

Yes, exactly. You’re always limited somewhat to what you can do, but it’s mainly bunkering and I think just really giving people different sight lines off the tee. Because it’s somewhat of a matchplay-type course, you’re going to have more of a safe line off the tee, which doesn’t give you quite as good an angle, and to try to take on a slightly more aggressive tee shot, you’ll get the reward. Every hole is going to have that sort of element to it.

 

I think the key for us was just trying to figure out what type of layout we wanted. Because bunkering for me is the most important thing in any design on any golf course, we got the visuals of what we like aesthetically bunker‑wise and we settled upon that. Really, with an existing layout, you can’t change it aesthetically other than the bunkers, so once we decided on that it was relatively easy.

 

How have you enjoyed the process of your first course design?

It’s a fun project, different after designing two houses, and it’s not like designing a shopping centre or high‑rise building. Just to find architecture from something coming out of the ground and something coming off paper, bringing it to fruition and getting a tangible result is exciting.

 

The golf course design fits that mentality, but it’s something that I want to get into slowly. Right now I’m still obviously very focused on my golf. Course design takes a lot of time. To do it perfectly, you need a lot of sight visits and a lot of walking around and all that type of stuff. Sometimes I think it works better later in your career.

 

Is the Rose-Poulter Course lined up for a tournament at any stage?

Not that we know of right now. It will be interesting to play it, because you can have all the best-laid plans until you play the course and until you feel it. Obviously you do rely upon the guys moving the earth, the shapers and stuff like that. It’s going to be interesting to see how the humps and hollows that we think we’ve designed play out, so I’m excited as anybody to see it.

 

As this was your first course design, did you seek advice from other designers?

I haven’t really sought out advice, but I like some of the stuff that Coore and Crenshaw do. I love that really natural, sandy look that they do.

 

Most of the stuff I like, a lot of it’s in Australia, Kingston Heath, very natural, edgy, rugged, especially with the bunkers. That would be my go‑to style that I’d like to do.  Even some of the stuff like Bandon Dunes (in Oregon, USA), that type of golf. It’s sort of like where I grew up – it’s a cross between links golf and where I grew up, which is heathland‑style golf in Surrey, Hampshire, such as Sunningdale, Walton Heath, places like that which I think relate well to the Sandbelt in Australia. The weather keeps our courses a bit slower and softer than it does over there. That style and look is what I really enjoy.

 

"I’ve done it more in images, really, and seen stuff I like and think, Oh, I can use that idea."

“I’ve done it more in images, really, and seen stuff I like and think, Oh, I can use that idea.”

So I’ve done it more in images, really, and seen stuff I like and think, ‘Oh, I can use that idea.’ And I love basically just grabbing images and thinking, maybe you could use that somewhere down the road. In a sense, I haven’t quite developed my own strategy yet. I’m still going off what I like the visual look of and I think that’s the way to do it.

You’re only as good as the land you’ve got, so I think that’s the challenge of golf course design. That’s why I think redesign is probably a great business in that it’s harder and harder to find sites now. Governments are trying to be as green as possible and it’s getting harder and harder to find good bits of land designated for golf courses.

You said earlier you helped design your last two houses. What was your involvement and how did that experience relate to your course design?

The most recent one was something we worked hard on with the architect and it came from nothing. For the previous house, we had somewhat of a plan and then tweaked things here and there, but the latest project, which is where we live now in the Bahamas, has been a two‑year project and been exciting.

 

We were just trying to really figure out what the family needed and how we wanted to live. Me and my wife sort of had a rule – we wanted to use every room every day. I think you sometimes buy a house where you get a bit carried away with the plan and you don’t use certain things, so that was the general mentality, that we use every room every day. We just stayed true to that throughout the whole process.

 

You walk the sight and you get different ideas and you go somewhere and get another idea, but the whole thing was very rewarding and I think the way it’s come out is more than I expected. I think my wife will get an even better vision than I did. But once it got past the technical drawings, the main architecture of it all and the overall look of it, I passed the whole project on to her from the interior point of view, which I think is even more challenging.

 

When did you start living there and has it turned out how you hoped?

July, so it’s been relatively new. It’s been exciting and the result was more than I’d hoped for. It feels great for the family. The kids really enjoy it. There’s something sort of special for each of them – a boy and a girl – and they have their little areas that they love. But it’s funny, even the simple thing of just buying a bunkbed for my little boy … the thing he’s most excited about is the bunkbed.

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