China golf academy will have flavour of St Andrews

The aim is to create a 'St Andrews feeling' for Chinese players taking up the game. Picture: Getty

The aim is to create a 'St Andrews feeling' for Chinese players taking up the game. Picture: Getty

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A GOLF academy attached to a new £30 million course in China designed by Tom Doak is to become the first overseas facility to have the St Andrews Links Trust logo hanging over its door.

The licence for the academy at The Island, which sits in the river off Hainen in the south of the country and is Doak’s first design in Asia, was signed yesterday and the facility is scheduled to open next April.

The aim is to create a “St Andrews feeling”, with the town’s rich golfing history set to be used to help educate the ever-increasing number of Chinese players taking up the game.

The Links Trust, which is responsible for the management of seven courses in and around the Fife town, including the Old Course, has spent the last decade looking at the possibility of spreading its wings in a growing golf market.

The decision to opt for this particular facility follows negotiations that started over a year ago and Euan Loudon, the Links Trust’s chief executive, believes it ticks all the boxes.

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“This is the first time the St Andrews Links Trust logo will be above someone else’s door and we believe it is a significant step, not just for us but also St Andrews and Scotland,” he said. “This new golf academy is being built on a jewel of a site, it is in Haikou, a capital city [of Hainan province], and China has a population of 1.3 billion people. It’s a win-win.”

The ground-breaking partnership is with White Horse Holdings, whose co-founder, Zi Ding Han, owns the China Golf Channel and is a widely respected figure in the sport in a country that now has 605 operating courses.

He said that the opportunity to be the first overseas facility to carry the St Andrews Links Trust logo was something he “treasures” and expressed confidence that the Chinese golfing public will embrace the opportunity to learn about the game, both historically and technically, through the model it is being based on.

“The Island project was already under way when I walked into the St Andrews Links Golf Academy last year and met [director of instruction] Steve North,” said Han. “I quickly realised that the Golf Academy’s reputation for excellence and innovation, combined with what St Andrews means around the world, were the perfect fit for our project.”

On the back of some legal disputes over use of the “St Andrews” name, Loudon said he expected some criticism over this project but pointed out that more than £250,000 has been contributed to a community trust in the town over the past three years from licence-related income.

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