After seeing the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club for the first time, it was hard for the Australian team to do anything but admire the stunning locale for the seventh Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
But the breathtaking views were almost lost on Victoria’s Lucas Herbert, who was more transfixed by the greens.
Specifically, the type of grass on the greens.
“It’s pretty impressive isn’t it?” said Herbert, giving a token mention to the scenery before bringing his attention back to the putting surface.
“It’s on bermuda grass which is going to make it interesting, as it’s not what I’m used to playing on. It’s an adaption thing mostly.”
Bermuda grass is commonly used on courses in hot and humid climates, making it extremely suitable for Hong Kong. The grass provides more grip between the ball and the surface, and reading the direction of the grain much more important when analysing a putt.
“It’s probably been a struggle of mine, to read Bermuda greens. Just with the grain and that kind of thing.” said Herbert on the 10th tee ahead of his round.
“I played a little bit on them in the US and have some experience under my belt now, so hopefully I can take than in, and keep working on it during the week and keep getting better.”
On the Victorian’s side is professional caddy, Paul Skinner, who is a part of the Golf Australia coaching team this week, and has worked with Peter Fowler and 2006 US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy.
Skinner and Herbert spent some time analysing the putting surface on the practice green, but Skinner will shadow all six of the Australians today to ensure they take in as much as they can, and familiarise themselves with the course.
“Skins has already been really useful to us here. He’s telling us where the holes are going, where to hit it and where the misses are.”
Herbert then took us through his plans for the next few hours on course.
“I just want to see how the rough plays and just get a bit of a different look at the course, like seeing how it’s going to play in the wind and I guess find some things that you wouldn’t necessarily see while playing a normal round.”
Formerly ranked in the world’s top 20, Herbert’s amateur ranking has slipped to 61 in the past couple of months. One reason behind that slip is Herbert not being able to defend his ranking points from an outstanding T2 finish at last year’s Eisenhower Trophy in Japan, an elite amateur event that runs bi-annually.
But the Commonwealth Golf Club member says there more behind his slide.
“I can’t just blame my ranking going backwards on the Eisenhower dropping out. I’ve probably had a poor year by my standards and it’s my goal to move it back in a positive direction to where it’s been.
Not everything is ranking driven obviously, but it would certainly be nice to be back in the top 50 or even the top 20. It means you’ve had some good results and it opens up a lot of opportunities through exemptions.”
One of these opportunities is this week in Hong Kong, where Herbert’s start comes from a world ranking that has him rated the sixth best in the field.
Herbert says he’s “considering his options” about going professional in the near future. But if he wins this week, the decision will be clear to stay an amateur for at least another six months, and remain eligible to receive that coveted U.S. Masters invite.