Photos courtesy of Chris Mayson
Editor’s Note: Chris Mayson was recently named one of top Young Teachers in America by Golf Digest. Congratulations, Chris!
Whatever your associations with China – communism, the Great Wall, a billion people, etc. – Chris Mayson has one that might surprise you: Great golf.
Mayson, Maderas’ Director of Instruction, just returned from his second trip to China in as many years as coach of the USA Junior National Golf Team.
Mayson traveled with a team of six players to take part in the Aaron Baddeley International Junior Championships in November. The team competed four days during its nine-day stay.
The tournament took place at a 36-hole facility in the city of Yiang Jiang, China, in southern China, about two hours from Hong Kong. The courses were carved out of the side of the mountain and in the setting of a jungle terrain. Mayson describe the overall topography as “stunning.”
He says the grandeur of golf in China is a sight to behold.
“The golf there is superb,” Mayson says. “The courses are beautifully maintained and the clubhouses are all built as big and grand as possible. They are out of this world.”
Amidst that setting, Mayson’s team of four boys and two girls 18 and under competed against players from seven other countries. Carolyn Zhao turned in the outstanding individual performance, leading after 36 holes before finishing fifth. The team placed sixth.
The trip was just as much a cultural experience as a golf one, Mayson says, after a 15 ½-hour flight from LAX and a 2 ½-hour bus ride to get to the resort.
On one of his first nights there, a trip to the market gained Mayson a bit of his own paparazzi.
“We were in a small town where they rarely see westerners,” he says. “I was walking through the market and turned around. There were six people following me taking pictures. They’d never see anybody with a beard, or so tall.”
Mayson’s group was escorted at all times by two or three interpreters to help them navigate a country where it’d be impossible for a non-native to do on their own.
“I could drop you off in Rome and you could make your way to the Coliseum by talking to someone or looking at signs,” he says. “In China? No chance. A billion people and hardly anyone speaks English. And the signs are all Chinese symbols. You wouldn’t have the faintest clue.”
But with a little help, Mayson’s team was indeed able to enjoy its time in such a foreign place.
On one of their first nights, the team was taken to a hot springs, Mayson says.
“We were at a hot springs resort where the springs were like Jacuzzis,” he says. “The springs were different temperatures and even different flavors – like apple, jasmine, etc. It was pretty cool.”
And the golf? That proved to be a real test, Mayson says.
“The course we played was really demanding off the tee,” he says. “Even though they’re not very good at golf as a general population, the Chinese like to make their courses really difficult because they like to bet. They want a course where anything can happen on a given hole.”
They only thing tougher than finding a fairway, perhaps, Mayson says, was finding a good meal.
“I’ll eat anything but by the end of the trip, fries started sounding really good to me,” he says. “It’s really hard to get some quality meat. The Chinese eat chicken feet and pig’s feet and squid and octopus. When you ask what you’re eating, they just tell you it’s meat. It’s different.
“And then you try to go to McDonald’s and even that’s different.”
While the food may not be five-star, Mayson says the courses in China are.
“You have to have caddies,” he says. “The caddies stand on the back of your cart and then you walk to your ball, never drive. So there are no cart lines in the fairways.
“And labor is very cheap there so they have tons of people working on the golf course.”
The overall playing experience doesn’t match that of say Scotland, Australia and America, Mayson says, but the courses themselves are indeed world class.
“In terms of the beauty and how well maintained they are, they are definitely at the highest level.”