China’s high-flying golf industry may currently be grounded, but the nation’s fourth-largest airline has golf ambitions that are ready for lift-off.
HNA Development Company, Ltd., an affiliate of Hainan Air Lines, already owns three golf properties near its home base on Hainan Island, and sometime this year it expects to open a fourth, an 18-hole layout at HNA Xingye Sport Resort Park. The track has been co-designed by Jim Cervone of Trafford, Pennsylvania and Brian Ault of Clarkesville, Maryland-based Ault Clark & Associates.
And there’s more where those came from. HNA plans to build at least three more courses on Hainan Island, which has been spared from China’s moratorium on golf construction, and it hopes to build others in Chengde and Tianjin, on the mainland.
HNA’s first course on Hainan Island, Kangle Garden International Golf Club, was designed by Robert MacFarland and opened in 1999. It was followed by Sun River Golf Club, an 18-hole track delivered by C. J. Tan, a Malaysian architect. The company then tapped Perry Dye’s Colorado-based company to produce West Coast Golf Club, which opened in 2004.
Wang Jian, the CEO of HNA Group, has built Hainan Airlines into the largest privately-owned air transport company in the People's Republic. The airline is based at Haikou Meilan International Airport and has hubs in Beijing, Xi’an, Shenzhen, Dalian, and other cities. It flies all over the People’s Republic and to other cities in Asia, as well as to destinations in Europe, Africa, and North America, including the United States.
What’s more, the airline’s parent, Grand China Air, owns a parade of subsidiaries that operate nearly 50 hotels and inns, more than a dozen financial-services providers, and a pair of retailers. To support the growth of golf in China, not to mention its own development prospects, the company sponsored the nation’s first LPGA tournament. The event was held in 2008, at West Coast Golf Club.
West Coast Golf Club is one of the attractions at the 2,100-acre HNA Beach & Spa Resort in Haikou City. Cynthia Dye-McGarey of Englewood, Colorado-based Dye Designs Group is currently overseeing a renovation of the course’s bunkers, and she hopes to win the commission for a nine-hole addition that HNA is considering.
In addition, Dye-McGarey and Wang have discussed some design concepts for one of HNA’s forthcoming courses on Hainan Island, a group that includes a 27-hole complex near the Kangle Garden resort.
HNA also plans to build an 18-hole course at East Port Club in Tianjin, the nation’s sixth-largest city, assuming it can settle on a designer. Both Dye-McGarey and Gil Hanse, the Malvern, Pennsylvania-based architect who’ll design the golf course for the 2016 Olympics, have been led to believe that they are the architects of record for East Port’s golf course. The course can’t be built until the moratorium is lifted, but clearly HNA has set itself up for a bumpy landing.
HNA is apparently happy with the work that Cervone did on Hainan Island, as it’s also ticketed him to fly solo, with an as-yet unnamed 18-hole course in Chengde, Hebei Province. Construction on the course, which will be part of a community that includes villas and a hotel, has likewise been delayed until HNA can secure government approval.
Finally, HNA is also spreading its wings outside China. Late last year, the company agreed to buy its first golf property in the United States, Somers Pointe Golf Club in Somers, New York.
This story originally appeared in the World Edition of the Golf Course Report, in a slightly different form. For a sample copy of the World Edition, call 301/680-9460 or write to WorldEdition@aol.com.