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Schmidt-Curley Design Opens Stone Forest International Country Club in China

(SCOTTSDALE, AZ) -- Schmidt-Curley Design announced Nov. 9 its 54-hole Stone Forest International Country Club near Kunming, China, has opened for play.

Three courses -- Leaders Peak, Masters Resort and Yufeng Ridge -- feature the breathtaking Stone Forest as a backdrop. Considered by many a "wonder of the world," its towering, 270-million-year-old karst peaks erupt from the earth over a 135 square-mile area.

"This is one of the most unique sites ever made available for golf," says Brian Curley. "Great care was taken to preserve the dramatic rock formations and gently nestle the holes among the rugged outcroppings."

Spectacular vistas, rock-strewn fields and dense pine forests abound, punctuated by lakes and open streams that reflect the stony peaks.

"Typically, with a multi-course facility, one would focus on creating layouts with distinct styles," notes Curley. "This site, however, is so astonishing that we did not want to distract from the surroundings with bunkering, or any other architectural elements, that said 'look at me.' We kept all three courses very natural to fit the site; there are subtle differences in each but nothing that jumps out. We wanted the stone to be the show."

Leaders Peak occupies the most heavily-treed portion of the property and can play up to 7,565 yards -- a necessity at the mile-high location. Noteworthy holes include the par-3 12th and its "island green" surrounded by stone, rather than water. Although four-to-five times larger than the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, it is every bit as intimidating as much is hidden from view by rock that rises above the green surface.

Yufeng Ridge starts high above the property with views of all three golf courses and the Yunnan countryside. One of the most scenic holes on the property is No. 8, a jaw-dropping par-4 playing into a massive wall of stone and vegetation. On the back nine, the 18th is a beautiful par-5 highlighted by a risk-reward drive to a fairway split by outcrops.  

To slightly differentiate it from its sister courses, Masters Resort has grass-faced bunkers, more colorful landscaping, and greens with greater undulation. Earmarked as the club's "tournament course," standout holes include the par-3 seventh and its green set into a natural low, the uphill par-5 10th playing toward a stone pinnacle backdrop, and the par-5 18th offering long views to the valley floor below.

Adds Curley: "With their otherworldly surrounds, dramatic elevation changes, and one of the best year-round climates to grow turf, the Stone Forest courses promise to soon be regarded among the world's best."

Schmidt-Curley is a full-service, international golf course architecture and master-planning firm with more than 100 layouts in 24 countries. The firm has offices in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Haikou, Hainan Island, China and Kunming, China.  The tandem is responsible for crafting 10 of the 12 courses at storied Mission Hills Shenzhen -- the "World's Largest Golf Club" -- and is currently designing and building all 10 golf courses at new Mission Hills Haikou Resort on Hainan Island.

Other high profile, award-winning projects from Schmidt-Curley include Bali Hai and Siena Golf Clubs (Las Vegas), Amata Spring Golf Club (Chonburi, Thailand, four-time host of the PGA European Tour's Royal Trophy), Terra Lago Golf Club (Indio, California, site of the Skins Game from 1999 - 2002), Twin Creeks Golf Club (Cedar Park, Texas) and Crosby National Golf Club (Rancho Santa Fe, California).

Schmidt-Curley has also worked extensively with golf's biggest names -- including Pete Dye, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus and Fred Couples on numerous high-profile projects -- and boasts four ASGCA members (Lee Schmidt, Brian Curley, Grant Haserot and Andy Raugust).

Resurgence of Palatka Golf Club Underway

(PALATKA, FL) -- Palatka Golf Club, a 1925 municipal layout attributed to Donald Ross, has begun a significant reversal of fortune. In March, Bobby Weed Golf Design partnered with Columbus, Ohio-based T2 Golf Solutions and assumed management of the course on the basis of an integrated strategic plan that addressed design, maintenance, marketing, capital improvements and operations.

To date, the team has reconfigured the staff to save the City nearly $40,000 a year, implemented a bunker reconstruction project that will eliminate acres of maintained turf, installed a new menu in the clubhouse, and initiated a fresh marketing campaign that leveraged the course's historic past and brighter future.

While it is unusual for a golf course designer to be involved in day-to-day operations, Weed was attracted by the opportunity to revive a municipal course that resonated with golf's core values,

"At Palatka, our management focus will be emphasizing the cornerstones of the game: good conditions at a reasonable price, interesting golf holes that are fun to play, and a pleasant staff that loves the game," Weed said.

The revitalization of the golf course is a key component to a broader effort by the City of Palatka to expand weekend tourism to its tranquil riverfront downtown. Besides a great round of golf, intrepid visitors will be able to paddle the St. Johns River on Florida's first official "blueway," visit Ravine State Gardens State Park, or hear a concert at the City's "Live at the Larimer" series.

With the US golf industry in a prolonged downturn and a clear oversupply of courses, Weed believes golf course designers need to take a more business-like approach to stay relevant.

"Good design is an essential component to a compelling round of golf and a positive bottom line, but it takes more than artistry to turn a profit," Weed said. "Understanding where to spend maintenance dollars so they synergize with the design intent, having the most efficient staffing plan, marketing effectively to the target customer - these efforts must all contribute to the facility's operation in an appropriate way. Golf course designers are in the best position to integrate all the disciplines involved in a profitable and sustainable golf facility. Contributing greater value through broader expertise is the best protection for worthy designers who want their creativity to endure."

Bobby Weed Golf Design is an internationally recognized leader in the development of golf courses and golf course communities. The company is based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

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