Last week’s dramatic finish at The Presidents Cup at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea saw Team USA capture the Cup with a 15.5-14.5 triumph over the International Team during the event’s first-ever playing in Asia. This week, and just minutes down the road, LPGA Tour stars keep the focus on Nicklaus Design and Korea with the KEB Hana Bank Championship at award-winning Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course in Incheon.
The tournament, which tees off Thursday in Korea, airs on Golf Channel tonight from 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. ET, and Thursday through Saturday from 11:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. ET.
The Ocean Course at Sky 72 opened for play in 2007 and has hosted the KEB HanaBank Championship since 2008, the same year the layout began its streak of four consecutive years of being honored as the “Best Course in Korea” in the annual Asian Golf Monthly Awards.
LPGA Manager of Rules and Competition Bo Ream indicates the course puts a premium on strategy and accuracy.
“The optimum play on most holes is dictated by some sort of hazard, either bunker or water hazards, which often require laying up or playing to a safe side,” Ream said. “It generally features notable [Nicklaus Design] styles, which include large bunkers and undulating greens.”
Ream says there are a variety of bunkers throughout the course that will force players to assess how much risk they’re willing to take off the tee or sacrifice length to avoid the sand.
“Many of them have steep faces and are quite deep,” he added. “There are also a lot of fairway bunkers, which come into play on the tee shots. They require players to make a decision off the tee on whether to challenge them, or play it to a safe side, leaving a longer approach shot to the green.”
The LPGA’s 18-year-old star, Lydia Ko, who was born in Korea but raised in New Zealand, played in her first LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship last year, only breaking par one day and finishing in solo 29th. And even after two wins and a runner-up in her last three starts, Ko would be content with just improving over last year.
“This tournament last year was the first time where I played in front of the Korean fans in Korea,” she said. “I had a great experience and wish I could have finished a lot better. So that’s, I think, my goal for this week, to have a better result than last year.”
On the Ocean Course at Sky 72 Golf Club, where the wind blows in strong from the north down through the golf course, anything can happen, and Ko thinks she’s figured out the recipe for the rolling layout.
“It’s a tough course, and it can get really windy,” Ko said. “So I think somebody who is really creative and holes a lot of putts will definitely be the winner at the end of the week.”
The Ocean Course runs along the East China Sea, which creates yet another challenge for golfers who will have to take into account the winds coming in off the ocean.
“Winds are definitely stronger in this area,” Ream said. “Some areas of the course are also elevated and exposed, so wind will feel stronger and have more of an effect on golf balls.”
Players who have managed to successfully navigate the various bunkers and gusty conditions will still have to contend with the rough. At just 2½ inches in height, the Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial Ryegrass blend creates enough of a challenge that it doesn’t have to be long to have an impact. The Ocean Course will play to a par 72 at a total yardage of 6,364.
For more information on the golf course, visit sky72.com.