Beijing Olympics Pave the Way for Golf in China

The sacred flame arrived in the Chinese capitol this morning, and in just a couple of days fireworks will burst forth from "The Bird's Nest" (as China's Olympic National Stadium is affectionately known) signaling the start of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

For China...and for the entire world...the impact that this international sporting event will have will be nothing short of transformational. The years leading up to this Olympic summer have already transformed the city of Beijing physically, but it's the collective cultural and psychological transformation, that I'm thinking about. China will undoubtedly look at itself differently... and we, the rest of the world... will never again imagine China in the way we used to imagine it. China is going to be on display for the next couple of weeks as it never has in it's history.

Golf is not currently an Olympic Sport, and that's a whole nother story, but a couple of China's golf courses will featured during the games, in the equestrian events, which will be held in Hong Kong, not Beijing. The Cross-Country part of the competition will take place at the Hong Kong Golf Club and the adjacent Beas River Country Club in Sheung Shui. It's extremely hot and humid in Hong Kong, so huge misting tents have been brought in with large fans that blow icy sprinkles of water on the horses thus cooling them after a race. (I get the impression some of my TX golf buddies wouldn't mind that kind of post round cooling system at their courses right about now).

The fact is, many of China's courses will be discovered, visited and ultimately publicized, by Olympic spectators from all over the world who decide to incorporate a round of golf into their Olympic visit to China.

Mission Hills, is the worlds largest golf complex and comprises 12 signature courses designed by golf legends: Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Zhang Lian Wei, David Leadbetter, Greg Norman, Jumbo Ozaki, Vijay Singh, Annika Sorenstam and David Duval. The golf club recently introduced special golf packages in advance of the Beijing Olympics on the premise that many who come to China for he games "will take an extended vacation and stay to explore Beijing as well as other parts of China".

Like just about everything else in China golf seems ready to grow. In a major way - and very quickly. Not long after the excitement of the Olympics dies down, China will be setting up to host its first ever LPGA tournament. The new event will take place from Oct. 24-26 at the Hainan West Coast Golf Club in Haikou, the capital of the island dubbed "China's Hawaii". Sounds kind of ...nice...doesn't it?

I plan to write more about golf in China in coming months. Everything about it fascinates me: the sheer newness, the extraordinary potential and the unique Chinese style that combines traditional beauty and modern functionality.

So, Beijing here I come...hopefully soon.

© Olympic National Stadium during a rehearsal for opening day of the 2008 Olympic Games. (Andy Wong/AP)