Justin Rose emerged victorious in his Match Play duel with Ian Poulter today but their new course at Mission Hills Dongguan in China was the real winner.
The Ryder Cup heroes, firm friends away from golf, became rivals for one day in a head-to-head encounter to officially open the course – the first anywhere in the world that either of them has designed.
The English duo sculpted the par-72 Rose-Poulter Course to be especially suited to match play golf and both were delighted after experiencing it for the first time.
“It’s designed to give you a lot of options,” said Rose, whose prize for winning was a luxury apartment overlooking the course. “You can run the ball into the greens, you can work the contours, but if you miss the contours and end up on the side, then you have a difficult recovery shot.
“We want players of all abilities to have a good time, to get off the tee and feel like they have a chance, but then the course gets a bit more tricky around the greens.
“A lot of the great courses, like Augusta National for example, are generous off the tee but then the skill is in the second shot, the chipping and the putting, and I feel that is what this golf course is about.”
Poulter added: “It’s all about risk and reward. There are five par-fives and five par-threes, you’re taking shots on, so it’s not easy but it’s great fun.
“Everyone who plays it is going to have a great time – they will make lots of birdies and they might make a few bogeys, but the course plays very well.”
The Rose-Poulter Course is one of 12 at the giant Mission Hills resort – officially the world’s biggest golf club – spread across Shenzhen and Dongguan in southern China.
The duo – who designed the layout in conjunction with renowned golf course architect Brian Curley – join a Who’s Who of golfing greats with course designs at the complex include Jack Nicklaus, Sir Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and José María Olazábal.
The Rose-Poulter Match Play saw the pair play the first nine holes with Mission Hills’ best junior players and members before going head-to-head on the back nine.
Rose – fresh from his victory on Sunday in the Mission Hills World Celebrity Pro-Am at Mission Hills Haikou on the Chinese tropical island of Hainan – showed he was the form player by winning the first three holes.
Poulter pulled a shot back on 15 but Rose immediately birdied the 16th for a 3-and-2 success. The pair still played the final two holes to get a complete overview of their handiwork.
“I would like to congratulate Justin and Ian on a fabulous match and to thank all our members and juniors who took part,” said Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Mr Tenniel Chu.
“Not only was it wonderful to watch two such great players in action, but to see them working with our juniors, encouraging them and sharing their experience, means so much to these promising young players and the people of China.”
Poulter, winner of the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills Dongguan, was impressed with the teenaged players who accompanied the star duo early in their round.
“It was a real privilege for us to play with them. I can remember being that age and playing with professionals can be very nerve-racking but it’s great experience for them and hopefully one day they can be in our shoes,” he said.
“I’ve been coming to play in China for 12 years and we’ve seen the growth in the game. We are seeing so many kids who are enjoying the game and have started to become extremely good golfers.
“In five years’ time we could be seeing one of them at Augusta National putting on the Green Jacket. It’s very impressive.”
Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, confirmed he would be returning to Mission Hills to stay in his new apartment and joked he would be requesting one overlooking the 16th green, scene of his victory.
“I can’t wait to see it! My experience of Mission Hills has always been first class and the five days I’ve spent in Mission Hills, first at Haikou and then here at Dongguan, have been so much fun,” he said.
“It’s been fantastic to get to know the Chu family even more and understand what they are doing for golf. What they’ve achieved at Mission Hills is so impressive. It’s been a wonderful trip, we really have enjoyed it and that makes us want to come back soon.”