My contribution to The New York Times‘ new “Sporting” column about my time chasing the bizarre story of golf in China:
It was a foggy day in Chongqing, a metropolis in southwest China, and the driving range was almost empty. Out beyond the 250-yard marker, a cluster of new high-rise apartment buildings was barely visible, blurred by the haze into a mountainous shadow that made this decidedly urban setting feel unusually secluded.
I was just fine with that. The fewer people to watch me swing a golf club, the better.
It was early 2008, and I was hitting balls at Haoyun Golf Club, a driving range in one of the many new development areas sprouting up around Chongqing, often called sprawling but really just enormous: roughly the size of South Carolina, with a population of around 30 million.
I sprayed balls to the left and to the right, where a large billboard advertised a Saab station wagon with a Chinese slogan that translated to something like “soar straight ahead.”
“What am I doing wrong?” I asked Zhou Xunshu, Haoyun’s top coach and the man whose remarkable life story became my obsession for the better part of a decade.