Golf has been played in China since 1000 AD, but from 1949 until the early 1980s the sport was banned and likened to extravagant eating and drinking. When the ban was lifted a frenzy of course building ensued. Today there’s a golf course in every one of China’s 33 provinces and regions except for Tibet.

Sheshan International Golf Club Hole 2
Sheshan International Golf Club Hole 2

Sheshan International Golf Club – the site for this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions is widely considered the finest in Asia. Built on the hills of Shanghai, this 2004 Nelson and Haworth design makes use of the terrain’s natural contours to deliver a real sense of peace and tranquility. Well placed bunkers and water hazards that come into play on at least 11 holes also makes Sheshan a challenging layout.

Membership at Sheshan costs roughly $400,000, with a waiting list longer than the legendary Green Bay Packers season ticket waiting list. Twenty Tuscan-style villas on the back nine are large enough to be clubhouses and reportedly sell for as much as $40 million. Reservations require at least six days advance notice, and weekend tee times are usually gobbled up within minutes of first availability. Clearly, Sheshan is a coveted membership and status symbol for those who can afford it, in addition to being a world-class golf course.

Overview

This par-72, 7,266-yard layout is set in the shadow of the Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan cathedral among gently undulating hills, ancient woodland areas, and serene waterways. This week marks the 13th time Sheshan International has hosted the HSBC Champions, and the ninth time since it became a World Golf Championships event in 2009.

Sheshan International Golf Club
Sheshan International Golf Club

Sheshan is a fairly long course and a couple of holes are brutally long. You have to hit fairways here if you want to go low. The rough is extremely thick. Some of the Gingko trees which line the fairways are more than 1,000 years old, and on many holes, you have to hit over water on your second shot making accuracy off the tee even more important.

Multiple doglegs at Sheshan require you to know the lines and carries, but the trickiest aspect of this course might be the greens. They’re soft and generally receptive, but when you miss them there are little fall-off areas that make it tough to get up and down from, especially to tight pins. The putting surfaces are big with a lot of undulations and ridges, which allows for a wide variety of pin positions over the four days of competition.

Key Holes

The 550-yard, par-5 second hole is reachable in two and can kick off the start to a very good round. No. 2 doglegs left off the tee with a cluster of bunkers on the outside corner of the landing zone, and water that runs up the entire left side and behind the green. The ideal line for second shots encourages you to play a risk-reward shot as close to the water as possible off the tee. However, if you decide to play it safe and bail out right, trees on that side can force a lay-up.

Sheshan International Golf Club Hole 16
Sheshan International Golf Club Hole 16

The last three holes are unique and interesting – each one its own adventure. Anything can happen from eagle to double-bogey or worse. You can make up shots in a hurry on the 288-yard, driveable par-4, 16th hole if you go for the green with driver or fairway wood. However, if you miss the wickedly narrow green that slopes left to right, you’ll either wind up with an impossibly tough up and down from the left side, or worse, be in the quarry on the right.

Sheshan International Golf Club Hole 18
Sheshan International Golf Club Hole 18

You need to find the fairway on the rousing 538-yard, par-5, 18th hole to have a chance to go for the green in two. This dogleg right hole features water all the way up to the green off the tee, and second shots will also have to carry water. The do-or-die peninsula green is narrow and deep, with some pretty tricky ridges, and multiple places for pin positions will bring the water even more into play on the right short-side of the green. No. 18 is a great finishing hole worthy of determining a World Golf Championships champion.