Tread warily in the thick rough
The greens will be lightning fast, the fairways tighter than a miser's grip - and the snakes well and truly alive at Fanling this week, says Iain Roberts, the Hong Kong Golf Club's resident professional.
All the ingredients are there for a fascinating week as Hong Kong welcomes back the leading professionals on the Asian Tour and European Tour. Apart from the normal obstacle they will face on the course, nature could provide them with an extra hurdle.
'A snake was spotted by the course manager just three weeks ago, and remembering the incidents we had last year, it would seem that we could be in for an interesting week,' laughs Roberts (pictured).
Last year, two visiting players reported encounters of the slithery kind on the 10th hole. Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol and Swede Daniel Chopra both had brushes with snakes - the latter even stepping on the tail of one as he searched for his ball in the rough.
'We let the rough grow before the Hong Kong Open to make it harder for the professionals. When the rough is higher, they come out. The snake which was spotted a few weeks ago was a big one,' says Roberts.
A shocked Chopra's description last year: 'It must have been six or seven feet but it seemed like 10 feet. It was thick and brown.' According to Roberts, the description matched that of a cobra.
Snakes aside, Roberts warned visitors the greens would be the fastest seen at the Hong Kong Golf Club, which for the 49th straight year will host the Hong Kong Open.
'Historically it is tough to get speed on the greens. But this year it is fast and the area around the greens will be tougher. The players had better have their short game up to speed,' cautions Roberts, who two years ago became a fellow of the British Professional Golfers Association.
In his 13th year as the club's teaching professional - he is only the third resident professional after Taiwan's 'Mr' Lu Liang-huan and Joe Hardwick - the 48-year-old Roberts is familiar with every nook and cranny over the composite course at Fanling.
'The course has always been a testing one and you can expect more of the same. We have made the fairways narrower and added two fairway bunkers at the 10th which will tighten up the tee shot,' says Roberts.
'We are in line for the best Hong Kong Open. If it gets any cooler, the greens will be even faster. I'm pretty excited.'