It was in December last year when Mines Resort City’s founder Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew announced his intent to develop Mines Golf City in Selangor. With an expected gross development value (GDV) of RM3 billion, the project will feature a 63-hole golf course with residential real estate. He also announced then that Swedish legendary lady golfer Annika Sorenstam was invited to design the first 18 holes of the course.
A few months down the road, Lee introduces another golfing icon, this time Asian female golfer Se Ri Pak from South Korea as the second designer for the next 18 holes of the golf course.
Mines Golf City sits on a 2,100-acre tract located 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur city centre, near Bukit Beruntung. It aims to be Southeast Asia’s version of the 216-hole Mission Hills Golf Club in China.
Lee, who is also deputy chairman of Country Heights Holdings, says the freehold development is being built on a 70:30 joint-venture basis between Lee’s privately owned company, Mines Golf City Sdn Bhd, and Country Heights Holdings Bhd, respectively. The acquisition of the site was completed in January last year.
When ready, vacant residential lots of 0.5 to 2 acres and priced at about RM50 to RM80 psf will be for sale. At present, Lee says he is waiting for some guidelines from the state government before sales can commence. Nevertheless, he is happy to note that there are over 300 buyers who have registered their interest in the lots so far.
Lee also says he is keen to manage the Selangor-owned Bukit Beruntung Golf & Country Club, which is located next to the Mines Golf City site. The plan is to combine the existing 36-hole golf course with the Mines Golf City’s 63-hole golf course into the largest golf course in the country. “We have not made any official request to the state government yet, but I am definitely interested to remodel the Bukit Beruntung golf course given the opportunity.”
“I am not just building a golf course here; I am building a (golf) destination,” he says.
Lee plans to have the Mines Golf City’s golf course designed entirely by female golfers. He claims this will be the first such golf course in the world, making it a unique selling point for the development.
“I think we are lucky to get Se Ri Pak to be one of our golf course designers. These two female golfers (Sorenstam and Pak) really stand out around the world. I am now one step closer to my dream,” he says. Pak is said to be the inspiration among Asian female golfers, especially among the Koreans. Having Pak design the course, he adds, will also attract more Koreans who are well known for their love of the game, to play golf in Malaysia.
Pak, 31, began playing at the age of 14 and turned pro five years later in 1996. She became the youngest living entrant into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007. According to its website (www.wgv.com), Pak will always be remembered as one of golf’s most important pioneers. She is a national hero in Korea, where children’s books are written about her.
Pak’s triumphs puts her on the same level with retired stars Mickey Wright and Sorenstam, as the third player in Ladies Professional Golf Association’s (LPGA) history to win the same tournaments five or more times.
Meanwhile, Sorenstam is perhaps one of the most successful golfers in history, having won 72 official LPGA tournaments. She has retired since end of 2008.
Pak, who is in Malaysia for site visits of Mines Golf City and also to grace the 26th Malaysian Ladies Amateur Open (Aug 4-6), says the timing is right for her to design a golf course. “I have always wanted to design a golf course. Of course, I am nervous, being a rookie in this. This will be my first venture [designing a golf course] and I want it to be the best. It will definitely take a lot of work, but I believe it will also be a lot of fun.”
The golf course is expected to be ready by 2011. Lee says the next female designer has not been chosen yet. On the status of Sorenstam’s 18-hole golf course, he says the first model hole is expected to be ready by year-end.
On the impact on development from the current global economic crisis, Lee says as a businessman, he must take calculated risks. “If we do not take risks, no progress will happen in the country.”
His past projects, namely, turning what was once the world’s biggest open cast tin mine into The Mines Resort City in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, and launching Country Heights Kajang during the recession in the 1980s, have earned him a reputation as a developer who transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary.
His other projects include Borneo Highlands Resort in Sarawak, Country Heights Damansara in Kuala Lumpur and Pecanwood Resort and Residential Estate in South Africa.
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 767, Aug 10-16, 2009.
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