A Chinese golf club, believed to be the world’s largest, has announced that all children can play for free on its par three course, described as the best in the world.
The news comes as China is gripped with golfing fever following the success of Guan Tianlang, a 14-year-old boy who was the youngest person to ever play in the Masters, earlier this year.
Mission Hills Shenzhen, which labels itself as ‘the leading golf brand in the world’, and features 12 championship courses designed by some of the greatest players of the last few decades, including Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Annika Sörenstam, includes the Zhang Lian-wei course, acclaimed as ‘the world’s leading par three course’ by the USA’s Golf magazine for its course design.
The club has revealed that all golfers under the age of 16 from anywhere in the world can play there for free from now on.
The move seeks to foster junior golf as the sport prepares for its return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and to encourage more children in China to take up the activity.
The club’s owner, Mission Hills Group, has added that all juniors can also benefit from immediate free access to other courses it owns on the tropical island of Hainan, Stepping Stone, a pitch and putt course surrounded by lava rock and thick vegetation, and Double Pin, which has two pins on each green.
Vice chairman of Mission Hills Group, Tenniel Chu, said: “We very much hope that this will benefit junior golf development right across the region as people increasingly see China as a top golfing destination for junior development tournaments and golf leisure. For the past 20 years, Mission Hills has been committed to promoting and popularising the sport of golf in China and across the region, and junior golf development has always been a central pillar of our strategy. With golf now set to return to the next Olympics, these exciting developments will provide a clear pathway for junior golfers to play their way to Brazil in the next few years.”
A spokeswoman for the club added that Guan Tianlang has played at the club, and won tournaments there, in recent years.
“Mission Hills has always been an active promoter of the junior game in China and has been involved with a number of initiatives to bring the world’s leading players, instructors and events to China,” she said.
“Mission Hills has co-founded and hosted many junior golf tournaments and development programmes across the region that Guan Tianlang has been the champion of.”
Dominic Wall, The R&A’s Asia-Pacific director, commented: “This is a wonderful initiative for junior golf and Mission Hills must be congratulated for showing leadership in this area. With course accessibility among juniors being such a key issue in the Asian region, this will no doubt lead to many more children having the opportunity to pick up a club for the first time and try out the game.”
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