Hong Kong Open
In terms of history and heritage there are few national Open championships that come close to matching the Hong Kong Open. Inaugurated in 1959, this professional tournament has attracted the world’s best players for the last six decades – and the Club has been there every step of the way.
Inaugurated in 1959, the Hong Kong Open has been staged annually at Fanling, making the Club one of only two venues in the world to have hosted the same professional tournament for more than 50 consecutive years. The other, it is worth noting, is Augusta National, the famed home of the Masters Tournament, one of the game’s four Major championships. Fine company, indeed!
Today, the Hong Kong Open is one of the most celebrated golf events in Asia and is sanctioned by both the European and Asian Tours. Boasting winners of the calibre of Major Champions Peter Thomson (1960, 1965 and 1967), Kel Nagle (1961), Greg Norman (1979 and 1983), Ian Woosnam (1987), Bernhard Langer (1991), Tom Watson (1992), Jose Maria Olazabal (2001), Padraig Harrington (2003), Rory McIlroy (2011) and Justin Rose (2015), the Championship is these days played over a Composite Course of 10 holes taken from the Eden Course and eight holes from the New Course. Importantly, the championship also holds the distinction of being Hong Kong’s oldest professional sporting event.
As a golfing spectacle, the Hong Kong Open has become famous for producing – time and time again – a collection of the most thrilling finishes in European and Asian Tour history, which many put down to the drama-inducing qualities of the finishing hole – the stout par-4 18th of the Eden Course.
The 18th, with its fairway hemmed in by trees and bunkers and its green perched on the banks of a large pond, has been where so many championships have been decided – of that there is no doubt. Look at Olazabal and his beautifully sliced 5-iron approach around the trees to set up a birdie and victory in 2001. And what about McIlroy? A frequent contender at Fanling after losing out to Taiwan’s Lin Wen-tang in a monumental play-off on his debut in 2008, the youthful Ulsterman holed his shot from the front greenside bunker in 2011 to finally get the monkey off his back.
Describing his finish as “the most excited he’s ever been on a golf course”, McIlroy conquered the Composite Course not through his prodigious length but by his iron control and mental strength. Routinely ranked as one of the shortest layouts on both the European and Asian Tours, the course is a classic in terms traditional architecture; finesse and patience rather than power are the keys to success at Fanling.
The Open’s popularity is clear for all to see – and its significance has risen spectacularly in recent times. The 2017 edition saw a record 48,000 visitors to Fanling, while prize money is up from a thousand pounds in 1959 to two million US dollars today.
The event has been supported throughout the years by a number of notable brands and organisations but in recent years it has been Swiss global financial services company UBS who has helped make the event what it is today, since coming in as title sponsor in 2005. To celebrate the 60th edition in 2018, Honma Golf has joined forces with the event as the new title sponsor.
The Open’s success in attracting visitors from far and wide has been recognised by the Hong Kong Government, which has generously bestowed the championship with “M” Mark status, which identifies it as a major event, a considerable and welcome achievement which underlines how important the tournament has become.
The Hong Kong Open isn’t solely about golf, however. The championship is also a lively social event, with myriad activities and amenities away from the action available to all spectators, including children, their families, die-hard golf and sports fans and even those who have never picked up a golf club before. There really is something for everyone.
Charities and numerous worthy causes also benefit substantially during the Hong Kong Open, with considerable sums raised throughout the week.