Golf ain’t golf, all the fun that goes at the Mission Hills Haikou
Another caddie rolls up in a cart and hands me an icy beer. “Nice strike! Next time, make good shot,” he offers.
By the end of the round I’ve lost five balls, had three beers and barely walked 50 yards, courtesy the golf cart.
This is golf Mission Hills Haikou style — enjoyed slowly, shrugged off easily.
If there was a medical condition called “golfer’s curse” (symptoms: broken three-irons, sand-filled shoes, permanent indignation) Mission Hills Haikou would be the go-to rehab clinic.
It’s one of various developments to have taken advantage of Hainan Province’s “Special Economic Zone” status, which China hopes will see the island emerge as a major tourism destination.
‘After your round you can ease away the aching with any of our 220 volcanic mineral spring pools,” explains the reception girl on my arrival.
"Or you can try our luxurious spa for foot reflexology,” she continues. “Or refuel at any of our 12 restaurants and cafes.”
So let’s be clear — Mission Hills Haikou is not just a round of golf. It’s a full on, no-frills-spared vacation.
You could spend a week here without ever needing to leave the front door, and importantly, the wife/husband and kids, or even business clients, could join you.
At least, that’s the resort’s aim — to become the foremost upscale destination on China’s only tropical island.
"Mission Hills is a leisure complex which includes eight aspects — dining, accommodation, tourism, shopping, entertainment, conventions, health and tournaments, for all people around the world, not just hardcore golfers,” says Ken Chu, chairman and CEO of the Mission Hills Group.
Mark Liversidge, chief marketing officer at CSL Limited, owner of mobile brand 1010, has adopted golf as one of 1010’s “lifestyle signifiers,” with a series of pro-am golf events where mobile marketing is nearly non-existent — it’s all about the sport.
"Golf is one of those games where business nearly equals pleasure,” Liversidge says. “What attracts players to the game is enjoyment, socializing and health, but it’s also an important platform for networking, doing business and entertaining clients.”
Liversidge quotes a study by HSBC in 2007 of 1,500 golfers across Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Korea which found that "79 percent said they had clinched business deals on the green. One third said they closed business deals during golf every month."
So will the mergers and acquisitions of Asia’s future be taking place on what the Hainan Tourism Commission calls “the world’s most beautiful island”?
If we look at its natural attributes, it’s hard to fault.
Hainan Island has been dubbed “the Hawaii of the East.” Winter temperatures rarely go below 16C, summer can hit 38C.
A major surfing competition takes place on Hainan every year, accommodation options vary from beachside deluxe to backpacker budget and activities range from volcano treks to turtle conservation activites to fantastical, theatrical shows.
Not to forget the nearly 30 golf courses on the island.
Some 26 million tourists visited the island in 2010, putting it among the world’s top destinations already, and the likelihood is that this figure will significantly grow over the next decade, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
The Mission Hills Haikou resort is the driver in the golfer’s bag — 10 courses, hectares of manicured fairways, caddies who really can play, lessons for the whole family, well-equipped pro shops, major golfing events (such as this weekend’s World Celebrity Pro-Am event and the Omega Mission Hills World Cup of Golf) and few hold-ups between holes.
But it’s away from the fairways where Mission Hills Haikou appears to be trying to redefine the golfing resort.
There are those 200+ mineral spa pools (she wasn’t lying), activities for kids, a spa and other resort amenities including indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a shopping arcade (more details below).
The dining options are plentiful and the accommodation unquestionable.
International flights to Haikou can be taken from many cities in China and also from Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
In short — it’s got everything going for it.
Back on the course, my caddie lines up my putt using helpful arrows on the ball. “Strike firm, left to right,” she says.
I swing, the ball rolls … past the hole and onto the fringe 10 feet beyond.
I’ve got a date with a mineral spa to look forward to.
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