Six things about Nine Bridges
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Written by Staff @PGATOUR
Course aerials of The Club at Nine Bridges
Now in its second year, THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES is the first regular-season PGA TOUR event to be held in Korea. Here are six things you should know about this week’s tournament on Jeju Island.
1. TOP PICK. Based on critical reviews, Nine Bridges is the best course in Korea. Golf Digest has ranked it No. 1 in Korea for seven consecutive years and listed it at 23rd among the world’s greatest 100 courses (a year earlier, it was ranked 79th). The magazine noted that architects Ronald Fream and David Dale utilized a site with “natural streams edged with massive Japanese Maples and 20-foot-tall Korean Azaleas, but they also transplanted 300 mature evergreens like Kryptomeria and cedars for additional color.”
Golf magazine, citing Nine Bridges’ “tranquil setting, with holes etched into pine-clad, rolling topography,” listed it 41st among its biennial top 100 world list.
Chi Chi Rodriguez once called it the “Taj Mahal of golf” because every hole looked like a postcard.
2. FIRST-TIMER. Surprisingly, Korea’s most famous and successful golfer had never played Nine Bridges until last year’s inaugural event. K.J. Choi, an eight-time TOUR winner – including the 2011 PLAYERS Championship – grew up in Wando, an island that’s just 60 miles north of Jeju Island across the Yellow Sea.
When Choi earned his TOUR card in 1999, he moved to the United States; meanwhile, Nine Bridges did not open until 2001. Thus, while Choi has visited Jeju Island many times in his life, he never had a chance to play the course until a practice round on Sunday.
Any other reasons why he’s never played the course?
“Very exclusive membership,” Choi said with a smile. “Only members and guests.”
He is not among the 13 Korean players in the field this week, but one player who is actually grew up on Jeju Island – Sungjae Im, a PGA TOUR rookie whom this week was named the Web.com Tour Player of the Year. (For more on Im’s return home, click here.)
3. PRO EXPERIENCE. Nine Bridges now hosts an annual TOUR event, but it’s not the first professional event at the course. The CJ Nine Bridges Classic, Korea’s first LPGA tournament, was played there from 2002-05. Fittingly, legendary Korean golfer Se Ri Pak – who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007 – won the inaugural event, battling poor conditions for a six-stroke win. At 3 under, she was the only player under par.
The 2005 event, also played in tough weather (cold temperatures, wind and rain) was won by Jee Young Lee, who was then 19 years old and one of 12 players in the field from the Korean LPGA.
4. COOL TROPHY. The tournament trophy is engraved with the names of every player in the field, utilizing the Korean alphabet known as Hangeul. The names are showcased using Jikji, which was confirmed by UNESCO in 2001 as the world’s oldest metalloid type. Last year’s winner, Justin Thomas, had his name accentuated in gold.
The wooden bridge at the base of the trophy symbolizes the bridge to the 18th hole at Nine Bridges.
5. MOUNT HALLA. At 6,400 feet, the highest mountain in South Korea is Mount Halla, the massive shield volcano in the center of Jeju Island. According to ExtremeScience.com, shield volcanos are “the more quiescent, lumbering giants of the volcano world,” with gently, sloping sides formed by lava eruptions.
If you’ve ever seen the sunrise at the top of Haleakala in Maui, then you’re quite familiar with shield volcanos. It’s also why some have referred to Jeju Island as the “Maui of Korea.”
The course, which consists of two nines (the Highland Course and Creek Course) is near the base of the mountain.
6. EIGHT YOU CAN CROSS. If you happen to find yourself at Nine Bridges, you may notice there are just eight bridges on the course. Each of the actual bridges is made of stone and provides access over one of the course’s water features. As for the ninth bridge? It’s actually a metaphoric one -- the bridge between the club and its golf-playing members and guests.
Editor’s note: Portions of this story originally appeared last year in a story posted on PGATOUR.COM.