On top of the world
Mission accomplished - we're the best and the biggest, says club director Chu
Mission Hills Golf Club gained worldwide recognition last year by being accredited as the world's largest golf club by the Guinness Book of World Records.
While size certainly matters to most people, golf is still widely considered an elitist sport and is generally played by people who demand a high level of quality.
Mission Hills' drive to become the biggest and the best golf club in the world has seen a massive amount of investment in people, equipment and resources introduced to push the level of quality significantly above that found at other golf clubs.
Ken Chu (pictured), a director of the Shenzhen club, said that the vision of creating a top-quality golf club was born over 20 years ago.
'When my family first moved to Canada more than 20 years ago, the first piece of property my father bought was a house on a golf course.' said Chu, 'That's how we got introduced to golf.
'Growing up in a golf course environment, with its own community and friendly neighbourhood, provided us with the experience of what could be possible in China if it was properly planned and constructed in the right way.
'The development actually started 12 years ago when we drew up the original master plan and then set out to create a sporting lifestyle that would be comparable with the best residential sporting developments worldwide.'
The latest residential phase of Mission Hills' structured development programme provides 80 European-style villas, the largest of which measures a massive 16,000 square feet and carries a price tag of US$4 million. Part of the appeal to prospective buyers is the security offered by the club, which has its own private security force of more than 300 staff, 60 per cent of whom are former PLA officers.
'In our experience, people buying golf-course properties demand a high level of security,' Chu said. 'At Mission Hills you must go through five levels of security to get into your own home. We have a perimeter wall patrolled by dogs, then there's the main entrance, followed by another entrance to each gated community.'
Chu said that in creating the world's largest golf club the management had to devise new ways of dealing with logistical problems such as handling up to 2,000 golf bags on a daily basis.
'There wasn't a model that we could adopt from anywhere else in the world, so we had to devise our own management programme,' Chu said. 'Organising 2,400 caddies and getting the right ones on the right courses at the correct time each day takes a considerable amount of planning. Making sure that 1,200 golf carts are charged at night and ready to be on standby for all the different golf courses the following day also takes a lot of careful planning.
'We continually try to enhance the services offered to members with new innovations such as a GPS system that we're now adding to our fleet of golf carts.'
According to Chu, demand from members is what drives the management to provide the best service possible. 'Golf is still a very elite sport in China, as it's a business language and a social networking tool for businessmen and women,' he said.
'Clients are entertained on the golf course and people like to show off their status as a member of a club, so it is expected of such an elite sport as golf to provide a first-class service.
'In addition to the services afforded to our members we continue to work with a number of sponsors to bring more world-class events to Mission Hills, such as the Visa Dynasty Cup. China has become a massive market, and there are many potential sponsors who want a chunk of it.'