A Driving Force
by Ann Tsang / Images courtesy of the Hong Kong Golf Club
Special thanks to Ms. Ellen Cheng
Together with the Hong Kong Golf Association, the Hong Kong Golf Club continues to be the driving force behind golf development in the SAR. 2019 marked the 130th Anniversary of the esteemed Club, which from its relatively humble beginnings in Happy Valley to its famous home today in Fanling, has evolved into a sporting institution with an illustrious past and a dynamic future. HK Golfer talks to current HKGC Captain, William Doo Jnr. about the Club’s ongoing development, his passion to make the sport more appealing to the younger generation, and his favourite courses around the world.
William Doo tees off during Chinese New Year 2019
HK Golfer: When did you first pick up a golf club?
William Doo Jnr.: When I was about 10 years old, mainly due to the influence of my family. They encouraged me to take lessons and attend golf camp at the Club which I recall as being a very memorable experience. Back then, I actually was more interested in basketball and other sports, but I eventually picked up golf again just after 1997 when there was a proliferation of driving ranges in the city.
I am very passionate about encouraging youngsters to start playing from an early age. Over the past five years or so, we have ramped up our junior programmes substantially. The Club’s Junior Development Programme (JDP) runs from September to June, totalling 27 classes split across three terms. Throughout the programme, we not only cover all of the key fundamentals of golf skills; putting, short game and long game, but also rules, etiquette, sportsmanship and other key life skills. The classes run from Monday to Sunday at Deep Water Bay and on the weekend at Fanling. Our sign up numbers are increasing every year, and currently, we have 80 kids at Fanling and 32 at Deep Water Bay.
At a grassroots level, the Club has been especially active in the Sheung Shui and Fanling communities, and as part of an ongoing programme to introduce golf to children in the local area, the Club’s pros visit schools to provide complimentary instruction to students as part of their physical education curriculum.
HKG: What other initiatives is the HKGC implementing to further popularise the sport on a wider level, given the general lack of facilities for the general public?
WDJ: Even as a private club, we are still able to appeal to the wider community and encourage participation in the sport. On weekdays, we open the course to Hong Kong ID card holders at a price of HK$1,200 per round, which I believe is cheaper than any other private course in Asia. In 2018, a total of 116,744 rounds of golf were played on Fanling’s courses and 44.3% of those were played by non-members.
The Club also offers practice sessions to the general public at Fanling on the night range from Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) from 6:00pm until 10:00pm with unlimited use of range balls during these time periods for just HK$70 per hour, and also on weekends and public holidays for HK$100 per hour, which is extremely affordable. So we are very proactive in terms of encouraging more people to learn and play and are proud of our position in terms of opening up for public use.
HKG: How did you feel about the postponement of the (now) upcoming Hong Kong Open?
WDJ: After the disappointing postponement, we are delighted that the 61st Hong Kong Open will be played this month (January 2020). The early-year date has helped to ensure the participation of a number of leading international players, while the Composite Course remains in optimal condition.
Reaching its 60-year milestone in 2018, the Hong Kong Open is widely recognised not only as the jewel in the crown of tournament golf in Asia, but also one of the premier events on the European Tour’s international schedule. The event has been contested by many of the greats of the game and has been won on 14 occasions by a Major champion.
The first Hong Kong Open was played in 1959, and the HKGC and Augusta National Golf Club are the only two clubs in the world that have hosted the same professional tournament for more than 50 years. The Hong Kong Open celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2018 and achieved a record attendance of over 49,000 spectators. The tournament was also broadcast live to over 400 million households around the world, putting Hong Kong firmly on the map of global golf.
I personally would like to thank the Asian Tour, the Hong Kong Golf Association, the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the European Tour, and all the tournament sponsors and the many fans from Hong Kong and overseas for all of their continued support of this prestigious event.
HKG: What is your own personal vision for the ongoing stimulation of interest in golf in Hong Kong?
WDJ: I feel that the new generation has created something of a lull in the golf world in general, so we need to create more ways of stimulating interest and in a certain sense, to modernise the game for them and attract more people to play. In Vegas for example, they have driving ranges with music, lightshows, drinks, snacks and so on, so it actually makes it a more social activity, like bowling to a certain extent.
Also in some places they have 6-hole competitions, so that the world of golf doesn’t shrink due to lack of attention span. It’s not only a challenge for us, but also for the golf community globally.
HKG: What are your three favourite courses in the world to play?
WDJ: That’s a very difficult question, but if I must answer, I would say the following. Royal Melbourne – we had 50 members go and play there before the Presidents Cup. The greens are quick and in exceptionally good condition. Both the East and West courses are different, but they are equally exceptional.
My next choice would be Pebble Beach, particularly for its heritage and the fact that it has hosted so many tournaments. Although it is now pretty touristy, I still enjoy it very much.
Another course that I really like is North Berwick in Scotland. I have only played there once, but it is very interesting, yet underrated. Again, the attraction for me is its tradition and heritage. Much like Fanling really…
The EFG Hong Kong Ladies Open prize presentation ceremony
Since 1987 the HKGC has hosted its own charity golf event – the annual Cup of Kindness. Traditionally held in the latter months of the year and involving the participation of hundreds of the Club’s members, the event draws sponsorship from a broad spectrum of Hong Kong companies to help raise much-needed funds for worthy causes.
The Inter-Secondary Schools Golf Competition 2019
Albert Chiu, Executive Chairman, Asia Pacific, EFG Bank, Tiffany Chan and HKGC Captain William Doo Jnr. planting trees on the Old Course to replace some of those lost during Typhoon Mangkhut