From Scottsdale to China for a mega golf resort

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Construction is under way on what some claim may be the biggest golf club in the world: Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China. Mission Hills is adding five more courses to five others it already has built.

The latest additions are being designed by Schmidt-Curley Design of Scottsdale with the help David Duval, Annika Sorenstam, David Leadbetter, Jose Maria Olazabal and Greg Norman on sites surrounded by national forest land, according to Brian Curley of the firm. Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley, well-known for their work in this country with golf superstars, previously did four of the first five courses with Nick Faldo, Jumbo Ozaki, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh.

Can China's population really support this kind of star-studded, pricey golf? "Shenzhen is to Hong Kong what Palm Springs is to Los Angeles as a golfing area," said Curley. "A fair number of golfers also travel there from Japan. And the owners and managers of factories in this area of China also golf there, even though the typical factory worker can't afford it."

All 10 are membership courses but there is a resort on the property and guests are also allowed to play. Some homes have also been built on the older courses.

Curley goes out to supervise construction once a month at the rugged site where more than 15 million cubic meters of material are being moved with the help of 1,000 workers and more than 800 pieces of equipment. The courses are expected to be open by the end of the year.

Southern Dunes' drive to the finish

Arizona's answer to Augusta National - Southern Dunes Golf Club, a men-only private club - sent out a recent newsletter indicating that "membership sales continue to move at a steady pace" but "current economic times have hampered our membership sales goals."

Still Southern Dunes, designed by PGA player Fred Couples and the team of Schmidt-Curley, mentioned in the previous item, has also been nominated as one of Golf Digest's Best New Private Golf Clubs in the country and Golf Digest rating members played the course recently and raved about it, according to the newsletter.

To encourage new membership sign-ups, the club has approved a program for April by which prospective members can play unlimited golf during the month for $500 when accompanied by a member. The course has enlisted a number of sports stars as members, including Dan Majerle, former Phoenix Suns player.

Southern Dunes is located on Highway 238 just off Highway 347 about 20 miles south of Phoenix proper in a relatively undeveloped area near the town of Maricopa. Initiation fees are fairly low, compared to many exclusive clubs in the Phoenix area: about $25,000. The course has an Australian sandbelt look and links-style design. Call (480) 367-8949 for information.

Also on the woman golfer front, Augusta Ranch Golf Club, an executive golf course in Mesa, is cashing in on the problems of Augusta National with the controversy over its all-male memb er policies. Augusta Ranch is selling T-shirts with the slogan. "The Augusta that welcomes women." Shirts are available in men's and women's sizes and cost $15. The T-shirts were the idea of assistant golf pro Mark Fallon. Publicity over the shirts has led to orders from around the country.

Augusta Ranch has played off the reputation of the original Augusta in Georgia in the past. The Arizona version has a clubhouse that looks like one of the "cabins" at Augusta National and also calls its dining area The Magnolia Room. Augusta Ranch is located at 2401 S. Lansing in Mesa. The club is off Ellsworth Road, about one block south of Baseline Road. Call (480) 354-1234 for information about tee times or T-shirts; Web site, Rates: winter, $45; summer, $14-$17. Par: 61.

Tournaments with a twist

April is often the season for very expensive, very unusual golf tournaments in Phoenix as the snowbirds begin flying home and resorts try to think up new ways to drum up business. Two of the more unusual upcoming events are the Alice Cooper Celebrity AM Tournament April 5-7 at Wildfire Golf Club in north Phoenix and the Celebrity Chef Golf Invitational being held April 25-27 at various locations in Scottsdale.

Rock star Alice Cooper, a Phoenix area resident, has been holding his event for several years now to benefit the Solid Rock Foundation, a Christian group that supports ministries for teens and children. "We started the foundation together seven years ago," said Chuck Savale, Cooper's friend who runs the non-profit group.

Every golf fan who has ever watched the AT&T at Pebble Beach or Bob Hope in Palm Springs knows all about Cooper's love for golf which has turned him into one of the better amateurs competing in these two events. He took up golf, he's often said, in order to take his mind off drinking. Cooper's manager Toby Mamis also told us "that he plays pretty much six days a week, 52 weeks a year, even when he's on tour doing concerts all around the world."

Well, if you as an amateur have $2,500 to spare, you can now play in Cooper' s own celeb-amateur tourney, although it sells out pretty quickly so you'd better hurry. Celebrities like Bruce Jenner, Cheech Marin, Dan Majerle, Dick Butkus, Elke Sommer, Glenn Campbell and Pat Boone are expected to play this year at Cooper's golf outing. The price tag includes evening events that your husband or wife can also attend with you. To find out more, visit Cooper's Web site at or call 800-767-3574

The chef golf thing, sponsored by Bon Appetit magazine, is a big more eclectic including cooking workshops and private tastings around the valley at various prices. The actual golf part of the festivities will be held April 26 at Grayhawk Golf Club on the Raptor Course in north Scottsdale.

Along the course, as you play, you'll also sample signature dishes prepared by the various celebrities chefs who will include: Bobby Flay, chef/owner of the Mesa Grill in New York, Bradley Ogden of the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, Calif.; Don Pintabona of Tribeca Grill in New York, Todd English of Olives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's in Scottsdale and elsewhere. Basically, you and the chefs put on a few calories and then try to swing your club enough to take them back off.

The event costs $500 per player or $1,200 for three players, a price that includes your green fees and awards luncheon following the golf in Grayhawk' s Quill Creek Café. Proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. For information, call 800-767-3574 or consult

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.

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