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Honma Hong Kong Open

Can this save Fanling golf course? Asian pros vote for Hong Kong as best golf course and best tournament for 2018

  • Asian Tour players voted for Hong Kong as the best tournament of 2018 and best golf course
  • The double award as the government mulls the future of the 170-hectare Fanling facility
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 10:01pm

Are Asia’s leading golfers sending a plea to the Hong Kong government? If so, the message is emphatic.

The Asian Tour players have banded together and voted the Honma Hong Kong Open as the best tournament of 2018 and the Hong Kong Golf Club’s Championship course as the best golf course of the year.

The double whammy at the Asian Tour end-of-season dinner in Jakarta on Sunday night comes just as the Hong Kong government is pondering the future of the Fanling facility where England’s Aaron Rai set a course record of 61 in November on his way to victory in the 60th edition of the Hong Kong Open.

Asked if the awards reflected players’ concerns about Fanling’s future, Hong Kong Golf Association CEO Danny Lai said: “Certainly. We have heard a lot of positive comments about the course and the tournament from players. They love coming here to Fanling and Clearwater Bay [for the Clearwater Bay Open on the PGA-China Tour Series].

“Hong Kong is a very welcome hub for players because of our organising power, convenience, the facilities and the city itself.

“This is a heritage course, more than 100 years old. There is no other course like it in the Far East and that’s why the players love it.”

The Hong Kong Open, which is also on the European Tour schedule, beat out more than 30 other tournaments, including the Singapore Open, Maybank Championship, Donghae Open and the Indonesian Masters to win best tournament of the year.

The Hong Kong government’s Task Force on Land Supply, appointed by the chief executive in September last year, will have its last meeting this month before furnishing a final report, with the future of the three 18-hole courses at the Fanling golf club under scrutiny. The government will decide on whether to keep the facility or demolish it to make way for large-scale public housing.

The picturesque 170-hectare Hong Kong Golf Club boasts three courses and has been in Fanling for more than a century.

Its classic design is popular with players and it has provided the stage for some of the world’s best golfers to shine, including the likes of Australian great Peter Thomson, Greg Norman, England’s Nick Faldo, American Tom Watson and modern stars such as Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland and England’s Justin Rose, among others.

“We are delighted to win the golf course of the year award from the Asian Tour,” said Ian Gardner, general manager of Hong Kong Golf Club. “The endorsement from the players will motivate us to do even better and we’ll continue to establish the Hong Kong Golf Club as the venue of choice on the Asian Tour.”

Rai, 23, who completed a stunning wire-to-wire victory at Fanling for his first European Tour title, also praised the Fanling course, saying he hoped the venue can be saved from the bulldozers.

“You know, it would be a real shame if that was to happen,” he said. “We play so many amazing courses on the European Tour, and sometimes the players as a whole are very hard to please and you kind of get mixed reviews about courses week to week.

“But this is one of those rare venues where 99.9 per cent of the people love it. It’s not crazy long. It’s tough.”

The club has hosted the Hong Kong Open for 60 consecutive years. The only other club that has hosted the same event for more than 55 years is Augusta National Golf Club, which stages the Masters Tournament every year.

Australia’s Scott Hend, the 2014 winner, tweeted after this article went online: “I voted for it..... there is no other course in the same hemisphere that can compete with it on the Asian Tour Schedule..... The City, The Course and the Members make it what it is..... AWESOME.”

The Donghae Open won the Spectator Engagement award for the third year in a row. Apart from a bustling and interactive spectator’s village, the 2018 edition had digital initiatives such as live broadcasts of interviews via Facebook and conveniently located interactive kiosks, where fans can check live scores and location of players.