The allure of southern China’s Hainan Island is finally getting some long-deserved attention by virtue of its pristine beaches and clear blue waters along over 1,000 kilometers of coastline that encircles virgin rainforests atop central highlands.
From Singapore to Seoul, the tropical island is fast becoming the answer to the holiday puzzler: Where can couples find that affordable but luxurious golf getaway?
At the top of the expansive list of Hainan’s resort destinations is Mission Hills Haikou, with 10 tournament-caliber golf courses and the most mineral pools of the lot, even nabbing recognition by Guinness World Records in 2012 as the world’s largest spa resort. The massive complex has become one of the island’s sanctuaries of relaxation and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.
|Mission Hills Haikou resort on China’s southern Hainan Island boasts more than 200 different mineral baths and 10 tournament-caliber golf courses. (Mission Hills)|
The resort boasts volcanic mineral springs with 168 natural hot and cold pools, an aquatic theme park and even a small river where guests can float along, which the resort has dubbed its “Lazy River.”
Nestled amid lush, green gardens, it caters to golf enthusiasts with each of the 10 acclaimed golf courses designed by American Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Design. The resort’s courses have since hosted a slew of international golf competitions.
For example, Mission Hills Haikou hosted the 56th World Cup of Golf in November 2011 where world-ranked athletes teed off on its Blackstone Course. The resort also welcomed a star-studded, international lineup of sports and entertainment celebrities for the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am in October 2012.
Earlier this month, it hosted the world’s best women golfers on its Sandbelt Trails course at the World Ladies Championship. The Sandbelt Trails is a 7,297-yard par-72 course patterned after golf courses like Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and the Metropolitan Club of the Australian Sandbelt.
The course features bunkers dominated by high sand flashes and crisp thick lips that rise above the fairway and green.
While some of the bunkers are surrounded by turf, others transition into native jungle vegetation absent a clear edge, creating a very natural-looking landscape; its large greens create plenty of movement and square tees add to the look. Prominent eucalyptus trees add to the Australian theme.
Gently rolling flat terrain is supplemented with broad widths to provide a variety of angles of approach over the fairway. Sandbelt Trails also features intimate green to tee connections for a pleasant, walkable experience.
Named Golf Magazine’s “Architect of the Year” and Asian Golf Monthly’s “Best Golf Course Architects,” Schmidt-Curley Design is an international golf course architecture and master-planning firm with offices in Scottsdale, Arizona and in China. Schmidt-Curley has designed more than 150 layouts in 25 countries.
In fact, Mission Hills Haikou’s Lava Fields Course is the only Chinese design ranked among Golf World’s “Top 100,” and was named Golf’s “Best New International Course” of 2011.
The resort complex is nestled in lush gardens with a luxurious 18-story hotel, nine-story annex and three-story clubhouse. It is complete with a myriad of tourist facilities including a shopping arcade, as well as sports and recreation centers.
Other state-of-the-art features ― beyond the multitude of golf courses to choose from ― include elegant guest rooms and suites, China’s first Hank Haney Golf Academy, meeting facilities, 12 world-class restaurants and bars and a fully equipped sports and recreation center.
Mission Hills Haikou is also home to Hainan Island’s only aquatic theme park, therapeutic volcanic mineral springs, a spa oasis and a shopping arcade.
In addition to Mission Hill’s massive display of therapeutic opulence is its to-die-for convenience. Mission Hills Haikou is just 15 minutes from Haikou Meilan International Airport with flights from major cities throughout Asia to Haikou available, including Seoul.
China is pushing a no-holds-barred plan to remake Hainan into the holiday destination equivalent of Monaco, Las Vegas and Hawaii combined.
Its current reputation as a luxury holiday destination is a far cry from its previous incarnation of Old China, a place to which recalcitrant scholar officials were banished to a fate marginally better than death.
Hainan Island is also called “Coconut Island” for its production of the eponymous export crop.
Each year in late March or early April, the islanders hold their Hainan International Coconut Festival. Visitors can go to Haikou to appreciate the coconut lanterns, and travel to the northeast end of the island to Wenchang to taste the delicious fruit.
Hainan Island is more like Southeast Asia than mainland China. One can expect to see more than middle-class Chinese wearing Hawaiian-print short-sleeved shirts and cargo shorts there. London travel agencies are now offering Hainan packages.
The resort is also conveniently located between the vibrant nightlife in the island’s provincial capital city Haikou ― where a 240,000-square-meter entertainment complex called Mission Hills Lan Kwai Fong Midnight Haven will be completed by the end of the year ― and the white-sand beaches stretched along the sleepy oceanside community of Sanya.
By Philip Iglauer (firstname.lastname@example.org