You’d think it’s just another in a long line of Chinese golf courses choosing to “borrow” the name of a well known course in the United States (see Pine Valley, Mission Hills, et al.), but according to the most recent issue of China International Business, you’d be wrong:
When the owners of California’s Pebble Beach Golf Club got wind that Golden Pebble Beach Golf Club had opened in China to rave reviews, the American club hastily sent off a letter demanding the Dalian upstart cease from using its “Pebble Beach” name. Honored the famed club had recognized its existence, the Liaoning newcomer wrote back that the area had been called “Pebble Beach” for about 5,000 years and suggested they change their name. The matter was quickly dropped.
It’s a nice little anecdote. But, is it completely accurate? Kind of. Sort of. I’m not so sure. It’s true the golf course exists inside a coastal tourism area near the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian known as 金石滩 (jīn shí tān), which directly translates into “golden stone beach.” Now, was choosing “pebble” instead of “stone” for the English translation an accident? Or was it perhaps influenced by the famous name of the 91-year-old Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of this week’s U.S. Open? I’ve never visited, so I can’t be sure. But I do know the Chinese name of the golf club is simply 金石 (jīn shí) or “golden stone” — no “beach.” And I also know the Chinese name for the Pebble Beach in California is 圆石滩 (yuán shí tān), literally “round stone beach.” The common Chinese word for “pebble,” by the way, is 卵石 (luǎn shí).
Quibbles over the course’s English name aside, the Peter L.H. Thompson-designed course, which opened in 1995, sure does occupy a beautiful piece of land. China International Business calls it one of “China’s hidden beauties,” although it’s been recognized before. CIB notes “a weekday round at the 36-hole Golden Pebble Beach can be enjoyed for about a fifth of the price of its more famous namesake.”
Another recent blog post by Chris Santella goes into a little more detail about the origins of the Chinese Pebble Beach course. Here’s an observation from golf photographer John R. Johnson, who was present during the course’s construction:
They had hundreds of people working on course, many husband and wife teams. These people had no concept of what a golf course was. They were shown pictures of what they were building and followed instructions. They had some heavy equipment but were not making much use of it. I remember the image of a backhoe sitting idle, with people working all around it, digging irrigation ditches by hand. The husband would swing a pickax, and his wife would scoop out the dirt in between swings.
After playing China’s spectacular Golden Pebble Beach Golf & Country Club, located on a rocky coastline outside Dalian, in northeastern China, I flew home to Washington, D.C., and described it this way to my regular foursome: “Guys, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that I’ve found a links course more beautiful than Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula. The green fees are only $80, you don’t need a tee time and the caddies are all women. The bad news is, it’s a 20-hour flight from here.”
Seriously, if the half-dozen holes at China’s Golden Pebble that weave along the Yellow Sea–including a dramatic downhill par 3 perched on a cliff, where losing your balance could cost you your life–were in America, the green fees would be $300.