Dale-designed Nine Bridges to host CJ Cup, U.S. Tour’s first Korean stop

By |  September 11, 2017 0 Comments

The U.S. PGA Tour will head to The Club at Nine Bridges Oct. 19-22 for the newly minted CJ Cup. The CJ Cup marks the first time the PGA Tour has visited South Korea for an officially sanctioned Tour event.

Nine Bridges opened in 2001, and architect David Dale — a partner with the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based design firm, Golfplan — has returned to The Club nearly every year to conduct some manner of renovation. Golf Magazine ranks Nine Bridges 43rd on its world top 100 list, while Golf Digest has it ranked at No. 59.

“It’s been a real treat to fine-tune Nine Bridges over the years, but I do think we’ve got the course exactly where it should be — from a design and competitive-test standpoint,” said Dale, a Montana native whose internationalist firm has laid out more than 217 original course designs in 32 different countries. “We were pleased that the Tour showed up and saw no need to touch the putting surfaces. That makes an architect feel really good. We have added several back tees, however, and renovated the bunkers to make those hazards more visible to competitors and television viewers alike.”

When the LPGA first played its first-ever event in Korea, Nine Bridges was the host (2002-05). The World Club Championship, an amateur event, has also been staged here multiple times.

 

The last time a worldwide television audience got a glimpse of Korean golf, it was the 2015 Presidents Cup, where the host course occupied dead-flat terrain reclaimed from Incheon harbor, surrounded by high-rise buildings.

“It was a striking tableau in many ways,” Dale says, “and the huge crowds showed just how much Koreans love and support their golf. But that setting didn’t have much Korean flavor, in my view. Jeju Island and Nine Bridges, on the other hand, both show off how beautiful the Peninsula can be.”

Dale knows a little something about golf’s global garden spots. If you count renovations, Golfplan has worked in 75 different countries since its founding in 1972. If one travels to Indonesia (Bali Handara GC, Jagorawi), Brunei (Royal Brunei GC), The Philippines (Anvaya Cove), Malaysia (Saujana CC), China (Weihai Point), Japan (Bonari Kogen), and Singapore (the Serapong course at Sentosa GC), these Golfplan designs are all recognized among the country’s most beautiful and elite tracks.

According to Dale, The Club at Nine Bridges takes a backseat to none of them.

“The climate on Jeju Island, which sits just off the south coast, is temperate and humid, almost sub-tropical, so it’s pretty darned perfect for golf,” Dale said, “and Nine Bridges itself occupies these gorgeous forested highlands that rise up from the beaches — right there in the shadow of Mt. Halla, the highest mountain in the country [some 6,000 feet/1,950 meters]. More generally, Korean golf courses just have a meticulously curated aesthetic all their own. There’s nothing quite like relaxing in the back-nine teahouse at Nine Bridges, watching folks play the driveable 14th.”

The  teahouse is a resting point where a cool towel, a beer and maybe a hard-boiled egg can be had.

“I prefer the teahouse on the back nine, which has a striking, ancient Mayan aesthetic to it,” Dale says. “It frankly makes the Butler Cabin feel like a truck stop. That’s where you’ll find me on Sunday afternoon during the CJ Cup. I can hardly wait.”

Photos: Nine Bridges

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