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Sep 15, 2017
They Call It "The Rainy Season" For A Reason!
The night before I flew in for my photo shoot at Hong Kong Golf Club, a typhoon blew thru the area and shut the whole place down. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was an 8, and for a storm of that magnitude, the city closes. Locks down. They were back to normal, however, by the time I arrived. But were the Rain Gods thru with Hong Kong? Not so much. For the next 8 days, it rained. And rained. Rain totals of almost 20 inches. That’s rainy! I sincerely believe that humidity is a phenomenon carried to the extreme in Hong Kong and should always be written HUMIDITY! 95 degree (Fahrenheit) temps and 95% HUMIDITY demand a very large laundry budget. Thankfully, this was one of the areas in which the club took amazing care of me, since I was going thru two sets of clothes each day!
The days and days of rain, however, turned into a very good thing. Since I couldn’t shoot normal golf course images during those days, I spent my time looking for other ways to tell the club’s fascinating story. The result is the most varied… and interesting… collection I’ve done to date. I've never photographed burial sites on a golf course before. Or local villagers wandering the course at dawn with one club and one ball, walking every which way, hitting the ball, following it to it's place of rest and hitting it again. And again. Sort of a golf course alternative to morning Tai Chi. It's not unusual for me to photograph areas of a golf property that have nothing to do with golf, but I've never had a landscape this beautiful to work with. Even when the sun came out, I had a tough time focusing on the golf holes!
Since 1959, The Hong Kong Open has been held at The Hong Kong Golf Club, making it second only to Augusta National as the longest running tournament held at the same venue. For the tournament, they create a composite course including holes from The New Course and The Eden Course into a beauty of an 18 hole challenge. It’s the shortest course on The European Tour, but it holds up well to the best talent the European Tour can muster, with some great names in their list of champions over the decades
Hong Kong Golf Club was founded in 1889, initially sharing a piece of land on Deep Water Bay with several other sports. And while the Deep Water Bay location was successful, and is still thriving today, in 1911, the current, primary property at Fanling, in The New Territories was obtained. At Fanling today, there are 3 18-hole golf courses on a gorgeous property. Heavily forested, this stunning landscape is like a botanical garden with three golf courses on it. Which says a lot about the resiliency of the club, since the Japanese army, while occupying Hong Kong during World War II, made the Fanling property its HQ and cut down all the trees. So the amazingly lush property and the stately trees have, for the most part, grown up since 1945. I suppose that’s one of the pluses of the tropical climate!
Surrounding the club at Fanling are several indigenous villages that have existed since long before the Brits established British Hong Kong in 1841, and among the traditions they maintain is the way they bury their elders. They don’t appear to have actual cemeteries. Rather, when an important elder passes, a site is located for which the Feng Shui is right. Wherever that location is, they build some very impressive monuments. Then, twice a year the villagers return to these sites to celebrate the occupants of the site. Some of the burial sites date back to the Ming Dynasty, but the tradition continues today... even on the grounds of The Hong Kong Golf Club! As it happens there are 69 of these burial sites on the grounds of Hong Kong Golf Club, and the club continues to allow the villagers access to the property during these semi-annual celebrations.
Additionally, there is a list of, I believe, 800 villagers who have access to the property year ‘round to play golf. Along with the aforementioned morning patrol, some play seriously in the afternoons, when the club gives them access The Old Course The morning players are mostly older folks, but some young people play as well. Whatever their age or gender, they’ll hit the ball, go find it and hit it again.They don’t go on the greens, and they don’t necessarily even play in the direction of the course’s design. I enjoyed my early morning encounters with the morning golfers. Usually, the only people I see at dawn on a golf course are the maintenance team, but these folks seemed dedicated to their endeavors and appreciative of this wonderful time of day. Kindred spirits! More clubs should adopt this kind of community outreach!
During my stay at the club, Gary Player was in the area and stopped by to play golf with the club’s captain, Arnold Wong, and to give a clinic for some local elementary school kids. Ian Gardner, the club’s GM, asked if I would mind taking a few photos of Gary’s arrival and perhaps of the group teeing off, and it turned into a full day, from morning coffee to a fabulous meal at Pawn, a wonderful restaurant in Hong Kong owned by Arnold. I had some interesting conversations with Gary, and not just about golf. Gary is not shy about sharing his opinions about any topic. I was blown away by how energetic and fit the man is. And while most folks at 82 who play golf just manage to get around, this man can play. He drives the ball beautifully, and with his irons, he's tossing darts. The original fitness freak in golf, he still does 1300 crunches 4 days a week and 100 pushups, as well as running on a treadmill. All in all, he was really pleasant to be around, and a very impressive gentleman. It was an unexpected and enjoyable day!
I seldom go out at night when I'm on a photo shoot. Usually, it's an early dinner and off to sleepy land for ol' Dave. I'm always up by 4 or so to get out on the course before dawn, and I simply don't function well on less than 6 1/2 or 7 hours of sleep. But Ian and his wife, Karen, went out of their way to make me feel welcome in Hong Kong, taking me out to dinner once and having me over to their home another time for the best salmon I've ever experienced. Thank you, Karen! Another night, Ian and his friend Ian (go figure!) Valentine, took me out for dinner. The destination of choice was a curry place they both loved that was decidedly funky. It was closed, however, so we managed to find another spot that had excellent food and ample supplies of Carlsberg. Somehow, we managed to have a good time. And then, of course, there was the evening at Pawn, Arnold Wong's wonderful restaurant, which was a genuine pleasure. (That's Arnold with Gary Player on the left) I haven't been out that many times in a two week period in years! I'll have to try it again sometime, but I can't imagine finding a better group of people with whom to share those outings or a better city in which to do so than Hong Kong.
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