A smooth move
A former Southland resident enjoys the culture and golf options in Korea
Life was good for David Fisher in 2009. The Indiana native had been living in Palm Desert for seven years while working for Pinnacle Design on golf course projects in Southern California. Then the chance to work on a new 27-hole, Ted Robinson Jr.-designed course called Whistling Rock in Korea came to the firm.
It turned out to be a life-changing project.
“I had gone to Los Cabos in Mexico for jobs and traveled to Ireland once for a golf trip,” Fisher said. “But Korea was never on my radar. Not even as a place to go for pleasure.”
After making the trip across the Pacific Ocean countless times (Korean Airlines and Singapore Airlines have direct flights between LAX and Seoul’s Incheon Airport) to work on the project, Fisher quickly became a fan of the country.
“I slowly started falling in love with the culture and just the way the people live in Korea,” he said. “I enjoyed being there.”
Whistling Rock, located in the foothills of the Gangwon Provincial mountains an hour northeast of Seoul, is ranked No. 2 in the country by Golf Magazine Korea. The 425-acre site includes three challenging and scenic nines — Cloud, Cocoon and Temple — that move up and down the mountainous terrain. Each nine comes with an artfully designed teahouse, and the elegant clubhouse is more like an art museum because of various sculptures. (Nine large and colorful balls are also placed throughout the 27 holes).
Fisher continued to visit the course as a consultant after it opened in 2011. When the president of the company that owned Whistling Rock noticed Fisher’s enthusiasm for the club and country, he offered him a full-time job as vice president of International Business in 2014. Fisher accepted, married a South Korean native and is now fully immersed in the country’s lifestyle and golf industry.
“There’s a combination of a very old culture, as compared to the U.S., with a lot of sophistication and modern characteristics,” he said. “And then there’s the food. I just love the food and the way people eat. It’s a very important part of the day. They don’t eat fast. They take time to sit down and enjoy the conversation and food, no matter how busy they are.”
That’s just one of the many cultural distinctions visitors will find in South Korea. Seoul, the country’s capital city, highlights that fascinating mix of old and new. You can stay at the ultra-modern, high-rise Intercontinental COEX Hotel in the Gangnam District (made popular by the infectious Gangnam Style song from 2012), pound balls at its indoor hitting bays and then head across the street to walk the grounds of the Bongeunsa Temple, which dates to 794.
When Fisher hosts family and friends, he often takes them for Korean barbecue (the Maple Tree House in the Itaewon neighborhood is excellent, with meat cooked on a grill in the middle of your table), to see a historic palace (Gyeongbokgung on the northern side of the city is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces) or visit the downtown area to see the modern infrastructure. More adventurous types might like hiking a portion of the 12-mile path that makes up Seoul’s ancient city wall.