By Kelsey Lee
Namhae, South Korea – South Cape Owners Club is the innovation of business mogul JB Chung. Even when others said it was impossible, Chung remained optimistic – he had visionary Golf Course Architect Kyle Phillips in his square. “It seems other designers felt the land was too challenging to achieve a top quality golf experience,” says Kyle. “Mr. Chung believed the property was so stunningly beautiful, he was willing to take on this challenge.”
Kyle Phillips designs world-class golf courses maintaining the natural elements of the existing property, as if a golfer happened upon a piece of land that is perfectly fit for a round of golf. With South Cape Owner’s Club, “the original conception of the course involved considerable earth moving” Kyle recounts. “When I came in the picture, I was able to reduce the earth moving by roughly 40% from what the prior plans had called for—which not only saved a significant amount of money, but also allowed me to save more of the natural vegetation.” In areas where earthmoving occurred, thousands of trees were transplanted allowing this world-class course to fit naturally on its landscape.
When I asked Kyle how he felt so confident in this new direction for the land, he laughed and said, “It’s just what I do. It is hard to explain. I knew the course would turn out well and this would be a good golf course, but the challenge was always to make it great – the best. To get it there, I just worked with the topography and thought out of the box.”
With South Cape Owner’s Club already being recognized as Korea’s #1 course and ranking in the world’s Top 100 Courses, it is safe to say Kyle was successful.
Kyle humbly credits his success at South Cape Owner’s Club to playing to the land’s strengths, and maintaining the natural features of the landscape while turning down the volume. “Not only is the design of each hole important, but when you finish a hole you want it to have a nice connection to the next tee”, says Phillips. “We worked hard to create transitions throughout the course that would allow the players to get lost in the game and the beauty of their surroundings.” A feat Kyle Phillips makes sound all too easy.
Perhaps, Fergal O’Leary, a panelist for Golf Magazine and Golf digest (as well as the youngest person to play the World’s Top 100 Ranked courses), most elegantly remarked on South Cape when he said:
“I never thought I’d find a golf course more stunning that Cypress Point or Cape Kidnappers. I never thought I’d play a golf course more impressive than Oakmont or Royal Melbourne (West). I never thought I’d experience a feeling of privilege more than Muirfield or Shinnecock Hills. I never thought I’d play a piece of property more remarkable than Augusta National or St. Andrews. What Kyle Phillips created at South Cape makes a lot of old classics shiver in their boots. The world needs to brace itself as this whole experience takes you to unimaginable levels of euphoria.”
Quite remarkable words, for land once given up on for golf. However, after Kingsbarns in St. Andrews, Yas Links in Abu Dhabi, Cal Club in San Francisco and now South Cape in South Korea, it seems not much is impossible for Kyle Phillips.