Text by 魏玉珍

The first Taifong Open was held at the Taifong Golf Club in 2005. That was the year I became officially acquainted with Taifong and with Por-shih Lin, chairman of Taifong and second-generation successor to Taiwan Glass Group. To be honest, I kept my hopes in check when it came to the possibilities of the golf club and its ambitious chairman, because back then the Taifong course still left much to be desired and was not exactly the best choice for a men’s open. But Chairman Lin had always been an enthusiastic supporter and promoter of golf in Taiwan, so I convinced myself that Taifong deserved another chance to fix things up.       

On New Year’s Day this year I returned to Taifong Golf Club to watch the Taifong Ladies Open, and the Taifong I saw had indeed changed, but it still wasn’t quite there yet. When I next returned 6 months later, the transformation was unbelievable. Chia-zong Lee, the general manager of Taifong informed me that what I saw was the   work of Chairman Lin, who personally oversaw all the design and renovation efforts. I was curious as to how all this was possible in such a short amount of time. How did Lin do it? How did he complete such a feat when his busy schedule as second-generation successor to Taiwan Glass Group required him to be a globe-trotting businessman, frequently flying to China and all over the world?
 

Y.C. Lin, Founder of Taifong

The renovation of a 30-year-old golf course with only 18 holes did not come easy. On the one hand, renovation work had to accommodate the playing rights of the 400 club members, and on the other, it had to follow the three principles of “sound, simple, and subtle” set forth by Yu-Chia Lin, the Group’s founder. The amount of effort put into renovations would be no less than that put into the making of one of Taiwan Glass’ exquisite products. For Lin, the task at hand was to remake Taifong according to the design plan he had in his mind. And like a sculptor, this could only be realized with patience, one chisel at a time. There was always the principle of economy to bear in mind as well.

“My father decided to build Taifong in 1981,” said Lin. “The initial idea was just to provide the Taiwan people and their families with a place to have fun outdoors and be close to nature. He invited Hiroshi Watanabe to design the course. I was the general manager of the course and helped manage club affairs for my father.”

 

 “Taifong was the fruit of my father’s efforts. It accomplished our initial mission. But times are changing. The economies of China and Taiwan are flourishing, new golf courses are being built one after another, people are realizing the importance of sports and leisure, and China is fast building an array of new golf courses. I realized that Taifong could no longer compete with these newcomers,” said Lin, who is both a businessman passionate about promoting Taiwan’s golf industry and an avid golfer who once boasted a single handicap in his youth.

“And I made up my mind that if I was going to host the Taifong Open, I was going to deliver a qualified golf course, a course where the players could showcase their real talents. Only by doing so could I fulfill the purpose of hosting the open and the responsibilities of promoting the sport of golf by providing quality courses. So after I became chairman of Taifong in 2002, I told myself that we had accomplished our initial mission and that now we must achieve our second-stage mission by giving new life to Taifong, so that it could host championships of international standards,” continued Lin.

Lin Breathes New Life into Golf Course

“I think we will be able to complete our second-stage mission by the end of the year. Our third-stage mission is to make Taifong a part of the Asian golf scene. We would like to host the Asian Tour and Ladies Asian Tour here at Taifong, so our athletes in Taiwan can become more internationally competitive. We are also working on plans for reconstruction work on our clubhouse. Not only do we want it to showcase a sense of lifestyle, we want the design to incorporate the cultural and artistic elements of its surroundings. I believe with the Xue Xue Institute’s input in design, people will be able see that Taifong is a place where leisure meets culture,” said Lin with confidence.
Taifong’s renovation work took a total of six years. The reconstruction plan and policy were decided by Lin, with detailed engineering carried out by turf specialists employed from abroad. On the weekends, Lin would always try to find time to come down south and play golf at Taifong, located in Chang Hua County. He would also make sure that the details of the project were properly adjusted according to the circumstances. His trips were made possible by the newly opened Taiwan High Speed Rail which he always takes when traveling to Taifong now. The duration of the ride from Taipei to Taifong is only 1 hour and 15 minutes.

 

Lin leaves no detail amiss: Does a tee need be higher or lower, moved toward the left or the right, or pushed back a few yards? Does the cart path near a certain hole need to be altered so that it does not interfere with the elegance of the fairway? Do bunkers need to be added around certain greens or fairways to make them more challenging? Does the landing area for the second or third shot of a certain hole need to be lowered so a player can see the green? Would that preserve the difficulty and still be fair? Lin even participated in the detailed shaping of the greens and fairways.

 “The first difficult task the renovation had to tackle was the two flooding pools located between the second and twelfth holes. Four months went by and I still could not figure out a way to solve the problem. The two pools collected 80% of the rainwater that fell on the course. They served as a crucial water source for the course, so it was important that we addressed this correctly.  Then an idea occurred to me in the middle of the night one day, when I was particularly bothered and couldn’t fall asleep. I jumped out of bed and started to draw out the design I had in mind. The next day I immediately held a meeting with our engineering crew and planned out the details.” Lin’s face beamed when he shared the details of his work with me.  
I increased the depths of the pools so sediment could settle below. Underneath the pools I also planted two large drainage pipes that were each two meters in diameter. This allowed us to channel the sediment-free water into the drainage creek outside the course. Then I added a damming device to prevent sediment from clogging up the pools like they used to.
“After these alterations the two pools would no longer serve as flooding pools. Since the water had been channeled out, I took the opportunity to change their layouts and made them into landscape pools. A bottom was added, the heights were increased, and then water was reintroduced into the two pools. Next I planted flowers around the pools and added some fish, so the two pools really complement the view around the two holes now.” In college Lin had majored in journalism, but since he has been leading the construction work of the buildings and plants of Taiwan Glass and Taifong since the age of 28, reconstruction work on the Taifong golf course was no problem for him at all.

 “I plan to make alterations to three more holes before the end of this year,” said Lin. “For par 5 of the third hole dogleg right, I plan to move the whole set of tees to the left and lower it five meters. The first half of the fairway will move toward the left, too, so that it can make way for a pool. For par 5 of the fifth hole dogleg left, the fairway will move toward the right and be lowered to increase the view for the player. A tree will be placed on the left side of the landing area, too, to increase the difficulty for a player to place the ball on the green in two strokes. I also plan to lower the ground for par 4 of the fourteenth hole on the uphill slope. This will improve the range of vision for the second stroke. The player will not only be able to see the green but also where the pin is. Later, we’ll also be changing the grass of the greens where hole seventeen and eighteen are to Tiff-Eagle grass before the end of the year. Now every green can have up to six pin locations and we can increase the difficulty of the hole by changing where the pins are placed,” continued Lin. So the 18 holes we now see have all been modified according to Lin’s meticulous and magnificent planning.

Meeting Asian and International Golfing Standards

Lin started playing golf at the age of 12, when he would accompany his father to the Tamsui Golf Club, then managed by the US military in Taiwan. “Back then Lung-Chi Tsai’s father was the general manager of the course, so Tsai and I have been good golfing buddies since childhood. When Tsai became the deputy president of TPGA in 2001, he proposed that Taifong host a men’s professional. I thought to myself, if Taifong is going to host a game it will be one that has a clear aim, a considerable scale, and a sustainable future. That’s when I became determined to make Taifong Golf Club meet professional standards.”

 “It took me the next six years to implement the renovations. Taifong hosted three consecutive men’s opens (2005-2007), two consecutive Chang-Chun vs. Ladies championships (2007-2008), and two consecutive ladies opens (2008-2009). These games laid the foundation for our professional athletes to compete on the international golfing stage. Yani Tseng once said to me, ‘If the greens on the other courses in Taiwan were more like the greens in Taifong, then we wouldn’t be seeing such disappointing results every time we went abroad to compete.’ To be honest, that was the best compliment ever,” said Lin, who had just become the general manager for Taiwan Glass Group this June. “We hope to complete all renovations to the fairways before the end of his year,” he said.

“I organized an engineering team consisting of people we hired ourselves. The only work we outsourced on a daily rate was work concerned with the collection, excavation, and transportation of dirt. This not only saved renovation costs, the work was also more efficiently executed, shortening the length of the project. The reconstruction of the clubhouse will also follow the principle of economy my father set forth.”

 “Taifong has hosted eight professional games in the last five years. My personal favorite was when we hosted the two Taifong Ladies Opens. These two Opens had more of an international scope since players consisted of both experienced players and newcomers from Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Europe, and the US. The Taifong Open will also try to extend its reach in Asia. I’d like to invite the top 20 Asian Tour players to participate in the Taifong Open. If needed, we can raise the total prize money to 200,000 USD. If we can indeed keep on attracting top level Asian Tour players to the Taifong Open, I will increase the total prize money on an annual basis,” said Lin, the golf course chairman also interested in promoting the sport. “If Taiwan can produce more internationally competitive athletes like Wen-Tang Lin, if more players from China, Japan, and Korea participate in our competitions, if the media in China and Taiwan extend their coverage on the sport, then the golf industry will surely boom on both ends of the Taiwan Strait.”

 “If the golf clubs in Taiwan really wanted to help our athletes become internationally competitive, they not only have to offer training programs but also greens that meet international standards. This will allow our players to familiarize themselves with the right kind of environment starting from an early age, not to mention that meeting international standards is something everyone is trying to do now. It’s not only beneficial for the players, it’s also beneficial for us,” remarked Lin. Currently, Lin, who is the chairman of Taifong Golf Club, has invited Julie Lu (Hsiao-chuan Lu) as a consultant at the club and Ya-huey Lu as the resident professional golfer. Both players train in Japan. Ge-huey Hsu, an amateur golfer who recently graduated from National Taiwan College of Physical Education, was also invited to work at Taifong, where she will also further train for a professional career. “Starting from this year, Li-hsiang Tsai, the president of LTPGA, has asked me to hold the junior ladies quarterly and annual competitions. Taifong will take care of all the fees and scholarships so that we can help train a new generation of women golf players for Taiwan.”