Hills & Forrest chairman Steve Forrest has opened the firm’s new course design headquarters, taking up permanent residence in Shenzhen, China’s southern hub, while Rolex International has marked the occasion by including more than a dozen Hills & Forrest designs in its new compendium of Top 1000 golf courses worldwide.
Since its founding in 1966, Hills & Forrest International Golf Course Architects has earned a place among the most active and decorated course architecture firms in world golf. Its portfolio includes more than 200 original designs, and 130 major course renovations, on four continents.
The chairman’s permanent move to China reflects the work Hills & Forrest currently has underway in the country — in Beijing, Chengdu, Daqing, Kunming, Tianjin — and the firm’s singular commitment to golf’s most active markets.
“There are, of course, many foreign course design firms working in China today, so we felt that Hills & Forrest needed to differentiate ourselves by taking the next step: Moving to China full-time, in order to serve our clientele here,” said Forrest, who served as president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects in 2007-2008. “This is the way that Hills & Forrest have done business since 1966. It’s difficult to do a proper job on design or client service without an in-person commitment to the market or region where we’re working. With this move, this shift in emphasis, Hills & Forrest has made that commitment.”
The new Shenzhen office is located at OCT Loft N.E. Building A5-301A, Shenzhen, China 518053. Chairman Forrest and the entire Hills & Forrest team can be reached on +86 0755-86148119, or by visiting the firm’s website at www.hills-forrest.com
The Rolex World’s Top 1000 Golf Courses — “The most useful ratings book or printed resource for travel outside the US and Great Britain,” according to Forbes.com — is powered by one of the world’s most potent and widely recognized luxury brand. Like its forebear, Europe’sTop 1000 Golf Courses by Rolex, published annually since 1995, The Rolex World 1000 is meant to mimic the famed Michelin Guide, which serves the restaurant sector.
First published in August 2010 by D’Algue Selection and Icon Books, and released for wide international distribution in Spring 2011, the 1336-page hardcover cites the finest golf course properties on Earth, cross-referenced by country and architect, rated on a scale of 1-100.
Hills & Forrest is exceedingly well represented, with a dozen entries from the United States and Sweden, including:
Also included on the list were several courses where Hills & Forrest has executed major renovations, including multiple U.S. Open host Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio, USA, and Oakland Hills Country Club in Detroit, Michigan, USA, another frequent U.S. Open venue and host to the 2004 Ryder Cup Matches.
“One conspicuous absentee from the Rolex list is Oitavos Dunes Golf Club in Cascais, Portugal, which was named to GOLF Magazine’s World Top 100 in 2009,” noted Hills & Forrest CEO John Strawn. “Golf course ratings are, of course, subjective. We look forward to future editions of Rolex Top 1000, where we expect that Oitavos and perhaps the firm’s Chinese designs to be included.
Rival rankings can differ: Three Hills & Forrest designs were recently ranked by Golf Digest U.S. among the Top 75 American resort courses for 2010 — The Links at Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, Bay Harbor Golf Club, and the Camelback Inn Resort & Spa outside Phoenix. Meanwhile, Golfweek and The Wall Street Journal’s collaborative ranking of America’s Best Resort Courses included Bay Harbor and two completely different Hills & Forrest designs: The Journey at Pechanga, and the Wolfdancer Golf Club at The Lost Pines Hyatt Resort near Austin, Texas.
Strawn added that ratings and rankings are also subjective by region. Hills & Forrest designs in United States are best known; the Rolex compendium reflects this, as do other rankings — Longaberger Golf Club recently made the most dramatic climb of any course in Golf Digest’s biennial “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” list, catapulting from no. 98th to no. 56.
The firm has also made a particularly resonant impression on the Swedish golf landscape. The Tournament Course at Vasatorps, Hills Golf Club in Gothenburg, and Sand Golfklubb in Jönköping have all opened for play since 2005 — all are ranked in the country’s Top 12, according to Golf Digest Sweden. For its part, Sand has been ranked among the Top 100 courses in the world outside the United States, according to Golf Digest U.S.