Course Review - Binhai Lake Golf Club and the AT&T Oaks Course
17 Apr 2012
After Louis Oosthuizen triumphed at the weather affected Maybank Malaysian Open, the European Tour moves to Tianjin - Beijing's neighbour and China's sixth largest city – for the second event in a three week Far East swing. Binhai Lake Golf Club in the sprawling new section of this northern metropolis is the venue for the 18th edition of the Volvo China Open.
Within the confines of an increasingly popular eco-tourism resort, the golf club boasts two championship courses designed by world-renowned American architect Pete Dye, with the North Course playing host. The tournament site is constructed in what was until recently a man-made lake, now drained and excavated to create the peninsula on which the course sits. Playing 7011m with a par of 72 this links-influenced design has many raised tees that offer panoramic views of the challenges ahead, with elevated greens adding to the spectacle. The greens and the gently undulating fairways are bent grass, and strong winds often sweep across the 10 lakeside holes. Though still very young, this Pete Dye layout is full of character and boasts many trademark Dye pot bunkers with facings riveted with railway sleepers.
The US PGA Tour touches down in the Lone Star State for the second time in the month of April as TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open. Completed barely more than two years, the AT&T Oaks Course – designed by all-time great Greg Norman with Spain's Sergio Garcia acting as player consultant – is hosting the 90 year old tournament for the third time. Norman's reverence for nature and keen sensitivity for environmental concerns enabled him to incorporate much of the diverse flora of this striking Texas Hill Country into his design.
Stretching to just less than 6900m and a par of 72, there are some wide open fairways, some tight corridors carved through mature oaks, gentle changes in elevation and the almost ever-present Texas wind. The signature hole is the16th, a 165m par 3 with the unusual feature of a yawning bunker in the middle of the green, and the round finishes with the excitement of a driveable par 4 and a reachable par 5. The A T&T Oaks Course is a tough design that will see few players reaching double figures under par on Sunday afternoon, and the layout provides a fitting stage for the sixth oldest professional golf tournament in the world.