Text by Joshua Weng

Before the millennium year, golfers in Northern and Southern Taiwan weren’t quite familiar with the Taihong Golf Club.  Some had heard of it and knew it was located inChanghua but had never visited the course.  Some hadn’t even heard of it.  In the past, Taihong was known as an average, unchallenging golf course with mediocre fairways and greens.  Thus, golfers from Northern and Southern Taiwan rarely came to Taihong.  Yet for golfers in Central Taiwan, this course has been their loyal friend for years.

 

Now fast forward to the 21st century.  Under the leadership of current chairman Por-shih Lin, the, the Taihong course has undergone major renovations and reconstructions.  As many international tournaments were held here, the results of renovation received much media coverage and were spread around through word of mouth among golfers.  The 18 holes, which went through years of renovations, have won enthusiastic comments from competing golfers, saying that the holes are as challenging as courses which host PGA tours in Japan and the U.S.  A local, not so well known golf course has been transformed into one of the most representative and well-known courses in Taiwan. 

 

Its transformation is the result of Chairman Lin’s insistence on making Taihong a world-class course.
“In the past 5 years, Taihong has held over 7 tournaments.  Another upcoming one in June, the Taihong Open, will be the 8th tournament held in this course.  In addition to promoting the golf sport, we hope these tournaments can help to showcase the renovation results of Taihong Golf Club” said Chairman Lin.  “Take the Taihong LPGA Open as an example, the level is equivalent to LPGA tours in Asia.  All the participating players are top golfers from countries around the world including Europe, U.S., Japan, Korea, South East Asia, and Taiwan.  Most of them said that Taihong is a world-class course comparable to LPGA courses in Japan and the U.S.  This is quite an encouragement for those who run Taihong Golf Club.”

“Golf clubs all over the world are working on improving their courses, especially those that host professional tournaments.  This is necessary.  The golf sport evolves with modern technological advancements.  Golf courses need to be constantly improved in order to stay competitive” added Chairman Lin.  “These years, a lot of time, efforts, and money have been devoted into renovating the Taihong Course.  The fact that the results of renovation have won recognition from professional golfers has helped to boost my confidence and determination in upgrading the Taihong course and making it a truly world-class course.

 

Which aspects of the Taihong Golf Course still need to be improved?  After all, the course has already undergone seven years of renovation.  Chairman Lin answered, “Each golf course is built on different landscapes.  It is of great importance to bring out the unique characteristics of each course according to its location and landscape.”  “The results of the 18 hole-renovation are already quite satisfactory.  Their characteristics are well-presented now.  For now, we need more improvements on details such as renovating golf car pathways for better mobility. 

 

Also, more landscaping and gardening needs to be done, such as planting more flowers to make the overall landscape even more pleasant.”

“To sum up, we want to make the course more beautiful, pay more attention to details, and improve its quality.”In preparation for the 2009 Taihong PGA Open, which successfully closed recently, Taihong has conducted quite a lot of renovation including the 1st hole, the green of the 12th hole, the teeing ground, the car path of the 3rd hole, the pond, expanding fairways within 150 yards, added bunkers, and expanded grass bunkers by greens.  Such efforts were made to ensure the best course condition for competing golfers and the audience.  Chairman Lin insists on optimal quality.  No matter how much time and money it takes, he wants nothing but the best for Taihong Golf Club.

Now that the 18 holes are renovated and in good shape, what’s next for Chairman Lin?  In his mind, in addition to having challenging holes with unique characteristics, a world class golf club needs an exceptional clubhouse.  What Taifong wants is a “landmark” building for its new clubhouse.

How do you define “landmark” buildings?  For example, Taipei 101 is the landmark building for Taipei and even for Taiwan.  Taichung Metropolitan Opera House, which is under construction, will become the landmark building of Taichung.  “In order to become a landmark, the building itself must be very special and it needs to be designed by a world-class architect” said Chairman Lin.  “Moreover, the building’s design must contain local characteristics, culture, history, and building material.”

Building a clubhouse which will become Taichung’s landmark building?  Doesn’t that sound a bit too ambitious?  “This is my dream. But I am not sure if it can be realized yet.  But I am working on it” said Chairman Lin.  “After all, Taihong’s new clubhouse will only be a 2 or 3 story building, unlike large-scale buildings such as Taipei 101 and Taichung Metropolitan Opera House.  I’m not sure if we can possibly get a world-class architect to do it.”  But with the help of Xue Xue Institute, and Prof. Liu Shuenn-Ren from Tunghai University’s Department of Architecture, Taihong is now in contact with several world-class architects who have won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, hoping to win their approval and willingness to help Taihong write a new chapter in Taiwan’s golf history.

 

Chairman Lin said, “Actually, not all famous landmark architectures are of large scale.  Some are smaller scales buildings such as churches or residences.  Take Tadao Ando, winner of the1995 Pritzker Architecture Prize, as an example, Ando’s representative works such as the "Row House in Sumiyoshi", and the Church of Light were both small-scale buildings that impressed all.”  “The key is how the architecture blends in with its surrounding environment.  How its size, exterior, and extension of its structure blends in seamlessly with the background. 

Also, it is important to incorporate elements of local culture into the design so that the building will have cultural, artistic, and aesthetic significance.”

Of course, persuading a world-class architect to come to central Taiwan to build a “small” clubhouse is no easy task.  “You need to get him to identify with your philosophy and your culture first to make it possible.  Also, a world-class architect might not know much about Taiwanese culture and history.  So a lot of communication back and forth is necessary for inspiration and realization of this project” said Lin.  “So, it takes time.”

Chairman Lin insists on not rushing the clubhouse in order to get the best result.  But a lot of members are eager to see the new clubhouse.  Lin said with a smile, “Some members keep asking me when the new clubhouse project will start?  All I could say was ‘Please be patient.’  It’s really easy to build a luxurious clubhouse with Spa facilities for them to enjoy material comfort.  But what I want is a clubhouse that can raise their cultural and spiritual level; a clubhouse that will be remembered in History of Architecture; one that Taiwanese students who major in Architecture will come for a ‘pilgrimage.’ ”

“I remember famous painter A-Sun WU once said to me, ‘“Fu-gui, Fu-gui.  “Fu” doesn’t mean the same thing as “gui.”  “Fu” is in how you earn money while “gui” is in how you use money.  One can earn “Fu” but one needs cultural cultivation to achieve “gui.”  Some people are only “Fu-you” (rich) but not “Fu-gui” (rich with taste). You need to invest money in the right places and cultivate your taste.  Devote yourself to arts and aesthetics.  Learn to appreciate beauty and enrich your spiritual and cultural life.  When you do that, you will become truly ‘Fu-gui’(rich with taste)”

Indeed, many Taiwanese entrepreneurs have neglected the importance of culture and aesthetics while they are busy making fortunes.  It’s time to learn more about how to enrich one’s life and cultivate one’s taste.

“Wealth may be accumulated rapidly.  But cultivation of culture definitely takes time” said Lin.  “Take myself for example; I used to buy paintings for buying’s sake.  I didn’t really understand the beauty of it at that time.  But as I gradually devoted more efforts into arts, I began to collect paintings selectively. “

“Not long ago, a few couples in charge of cultural-arts activities of our Rock Foundation went to Xue Xue Institute to see my wife, Lilin Hsu.  They hoped that Xue Xue Institute can arrange for some lectures in Taichung to and host some art and cultural activities there to enrich the cultural life of members” said Lin, “Likewise, the reason why I care so much about the new clubhouse is that I hope it can broaden the horizons of members, improve their quality of life, and to contribute to the richness of Taiwan’s architecture.  We don’t want to be so poor that all we have is money, right?”

So what will be the style of the new clubhouse in Chairman Lin’s mind?  Is it going to be simplistic, classical, European, or American country style?  Chairman Lin replied, “I have a few architects in mind.  But it is still unclear which of them will take up the project.  Each one of them has his own style and expertise.  So you can not ask an architect who is great at modern, simplistic style to build a classical European style clubhouse.  That just won’t work.”  Lin went on and emphasized, “Once the architect is chosen, I will fully respect his expertise.  After all, I am not an expert in architecture and design.  It is important to respect people’s professional expertise.”

What we know now is that the architect that Chairman Lin has in mind will not be from a large firm.  “It is because I hope that the world-class architect can design the clubhouse himself, instead of his employees.  Even though it will be costly, I hope to realize my dream.  I am willing to give it all my time and energy.”

Let’s wait and see. Perhaps in the future, Taihong Golf Club will offer wonders in architectural beauty and culture in addition to its remarkable 18 holes. 

“Most of the competing golfers said that Taihong is a world-class course comparable to LPGA courses in Japan and the U.S.  This is quite an encouragement for those who run the Taihong Golf Club.”