Golfing In China - Mission Hills Haikou Golf Resort

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Superlatives are easy to come by when describing luxury travel destinations, but in China, where the vision and scale of tourism projects is often astonishing to visitors, the dimensions and facilities of high-end resorts set new records and defy ordinary comparisons. Mission Hills Haikou is located on the island of Hainan in China, often referred to as the “Hawaii of the East” for its tropical climate, white-sand beaches and lush volcanic setting which is ideal for a romantic getaway. It is also recognised on international menus for its one famous dish, Hainan Chicken, broth-poached and served with rice and a chilli, garlic, soy and ginger sauce. Hainan’s fast-growing reputation as the dazzling centre of the golf universe in China, and Asia, is not only due to the high standard and size of the golf courses on offer, but also its world-class hotel and fitness, wellness and sporting leisure facilities, and the celebrity guests it attracts. It’s a tropical playground built for the rich and famous, international visitors, and the rapidly growing domestic Chinese tourist market, where bigger is definitely better and more is, well, more.

The Accommodation

A satellite Mission Hills courtesy reception office is located and open until 11pm at Haikou airport, with a property bus shuttle providing regular scheduled transfers. However, arriving at Haikou late at night, I was the only English-speaking person there. Luckily my visa letter supplied by the hotel had directions in Mandarin for the (unmarked) taxi which soon whisked me a short way down a motorway where, reassuringly, there were signs in English next to the resort, and along the long private driveway lined with palms to Mission Hills. The imposing marble-lined lobby is designed to give a first impression that is echoed in every detail of the property; a grand scale of vision, design and most evident, size. My huge 60 square-metre-sized Premiere Room was located on one of the two specially designated VIP floors; sixteenth and seventeenth. It continued the same theme, with a sweeping balcony vista across the swimming pool, landscaped and natural scenery of the property, and surrounding golf courses that were even more breathtaking at dawn. Romantic? Yes. Elegantly and expensively appointed in modern but muted shades, with oriental silk fabrics and tasteful furniture and artworks, there was more than enough room to relax, watch movies on the huge flat screen television, or take an indulgent soak in the stand alone spa tub with aroma oils providing a soothing ambience. Besides leisure travellers seeking romance, business travellers are also well catered for, with a full-size desk and work area, fast, complimentary wireless internet, and a dedicated executive reception desk, lounges and breakfast bar area all located within easy reach on the same floor. Even standard rooms are much larger than normal (a term that really doesn’t apply at Mission Hills), and choice of accommodation across the 539-room resort includes a range of suites from spa to family, four two-story palatial Presidential Suites that are closer to grand apartments, and 28 stand-alone private Spa Villas complete with 24 hour butler service, and complimentary spa treatments.

The Golf Courses

When talking golf resorts to golfers, one course is good, two is better, but even the most avid golfer will be lost for superlatives, and “golf widows” simply lost for words altogether, where an impressive ten courses are offered at one destination resort. Mission Hills Haikou boasts the largest collection of volcanic golf courses in the world, designed by one of the world’s most influential design companies, with the ten separate 18-hole courses built on a bed of distinctive lava rock, featuring a natural landscape of jungle vegetation, magnificent lychee trees, lakes and wetlands. The Resort is part of Mission Hills Group, the world’s largest golf facility, with a total of 216 golf holes over three resorts, in Haikou, Shenzhen and Dongguan, all in China. It’s not just all about the courses either, as any golfer will tell you. To properly service such an expansive facility there is a golf shuttle bus program, full driving range and putting greens, a separate golf reception, an imposing Clubhouse and even a golf academy and museum. But golfers are a fickle bunch, and there’s credibility at stake; to attract the players and to earn boasting rights, courses are all about the international events and tournaments and the name golfers who support them. Mission Hills ticks these boxes as well. Since opening in 2010 it has hosted golf’s World No. 1 and major winners, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, at the inaugural, 18-hole, two-man, head-to head contest called the Match at Mission Hills in 2013. A resurgent Rory McIlroy shot a six-under-par 67 to beat World No. 1, Tiger Woods, by a shot to win and take out the title. 

The Spa And Other Facilities

Golf isn’t for everyone, however, and Mission Hills Haikou is far from a one dimensional resort. The Guinness Book of Records proclaims it as the World’s Largest Spa Resort, which includes a jaw-dropping dedicated “east meets west” spa facility, and acres of volcanic mineral springs themed with the bathing philosophies from five continents. Wander through the maze of springs, some dimly lit grottoes, and others resembling a beach or river pool, and bathe or soak in temperatures ranging from bracingly cold to steaming hot. If serious spa pampering is on your wish-list, you’re in the right place. Mission Hills Spa combines a legacy of age-old Chinese wellness, rituals and traditional medicine with the best of western therapies and treatments, and French spa products. It’s a unique experience that will leave you revitalised and refreshed or calm and relaxed depending on your choice of treatment. After arriving at the slightly "surreally" huge spa complex which made me feel a little dizzy, like Charlie arriving at the Chocolate Factory, I was invited to give my health and wellbeing history and preferences for treatment, while sipping a calming lily and apple soup. My Signature Body Massage was expertly delivered in a spacious, softly lit spa treatment room with its own en-suite bathroom and changing area. I would have happily wiled away several more hours (or even days) with one of the spa packages on offer including such delights as steam baths, gem stone foot rituals and a lychee refreshing body scrub, but I had other pressing matters to attend to. Instead, I returned to the hotel where I settled for a lychee martini instead. Despite the tantalising view over the main swimming pool which is more an aquatic theme park, complete with an array of outsize inflatables for kids, I never did get the chance to go for a swim. In truth, that’s probably a good thing, as I may have embarrassed myself, and given in to the temptation to try out all the toys and slides and recreational that bumped idly at the edge of the pool, simply begging for several families of overactive children to come along. And if the children tire of the pool, well, there’s always the other full–size indoor pool in the recreation centre along with a kids club, games, billiard and table tennis rooms. The vision and driving force behind the Mission Hills Group development, and to a large degree the impressive growth of golf in China, belonged originally to founder Dr. David Chu. Now his sons, Dr. Ken “Mr Golf” Chu and Tenniel Chu (chairman and vice-chairman of the Group respectively) are building on their father’s legacy. Twenty years in the making, the Mission Hills Group is still growing in scale and ambition. The latest development projects in Hainan include two family friendly metropolitan leisure destinations and low-carbon town centres which will feature internationally renowned hotel brands such as Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance and Hard Rock Hotel; integrated shopping, entertainment and leisure centres with the trendiest brands, restaurants, cafes and bars; IMAX cinemas; ice skating rinks; bowling alleys; a simulation racing centre, world-renowned auto showrooms; and no doubt a host of other options.  

The Verdict

Hainan, also called the “Hawaii of The East”, is already setting the pace for golf and high-end leisure tourism on a grand scale, and is on a fast track to redefine the future of golf tourism development in China to cater for, and attract, discerning travellers looking for the whole leisure package. Offering high quality facilities and all the leisure activities, and choices expected of an international destination, it is perfect for the family. Even better, go with your significant other on a romantic getwawy, or take like-minded friends or business colleagues for as much golf, spa or tropical temperatures as you can stand; but do try to resist the pool inflatables, if you can.

Guest Writer, Caroline Davidson