A long march to China’s best coursesSure Korea has it’s share of golf courses ― 245 to be exact. Many are designed by the greatest names in the sport. But let’s face it, a major part of golf is mental: it transports you from your day-to-day concerns so you’re soley focused on the game. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to forget your worries when your home and office are so close to the course.
That’s why golf tours are popular. And for golfers based in Korea, China is fast becoming a siren. As Lee Chun-woo, an avid golfer and the president of AWT, a Korean travel agency, explains: “It’s close and cheaper than some Korean fairways.”
But location and cost are just two of many reasons to go to China. The country has some of the best courses in Asia, some set on its expansive coastline and others on tropical islands. With its varied cuisine and active night life, China is perfect for carousing after a day of playing.
There’s the island of Hainan, sometimes called the “Hawaii of the East,” which boasts 10 courses and is fast becoming a golfing mecca. There are courses surrounding Beijing and Shanghai for executives who feel compelled to mix business with pleasure. And, there’s Spring City Golf and Lake Resort in Kunming, voted the No. 1 golf resort in China and Hong Kong by Golf Digest in 1999.
China has been building golf courses at an ever-increasing rate since the late 1980s. Today, world-renowned golfers and architectural firms ― including Jack Nicklaus, Robert Jones II, Nelson, Wright & Haworth, Peter Thompson and Nick Faldo ― have designed courses in China. With 150 courses operating, and 50 more slated to open this year, the options are many. And with the help of Korean travel agencies, access to some private courses is even possible.
Typically, golf vacation packages include round-trip airfare, accommodation, transportation to the club, two rounds of golf with a caddie and some meals. It’s the package deals that make golfing cheaper in China. In Korea, you have to pay for booking fees, green fees, caddies (usually two), a cart, meals and drinks ― and airfare and hotel if you’re flying to, say Jeju Island.
China bound? Just don’t forget to take pictures.
Mountain and lake vistas
Spring City Golf and Lake Resort
Kunming, Yunnan province
Tel: (86-871) 767-1188
Web site: www.springcitygolf.com
Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan province, is called “the City of Eternal Spring,” because flowers bloom there all year round. This handsome city, near China’s border with Vietnam, is high in the mountains, about 1,770 meters (5,851 feet) above sea level, surrounded by hot springs, beautiful lakes, hills and China’s famed Stone Forest.
The Spring City Golf and Lake Resort is 48 kilometers (30 miles) east of Kunming, and a 45-minute drive from Kunming International Airport. This resort’s calling card is its breathtaking lakes, particularly Yang Zhong Hai.
The Spring City Golf and Lake Resort has a 36-hole golf course. The first 18 holes, named the Mountain Course, were designed by Jack Nicklaus, and the latter 18 holes, the Lake Course, were designed by Robert Trent Jones II. This resort, its accommodations and courses, is spread over more than 500 hectares (2,500 acres).
Since opening in mid-1997, Spring City and Golf Resort has been recognized as one of the best golf clubs in Asia, due in part to its world-class facilities and breathtaking scenery. The editors of “U.S. Golf Digest” voted the resort the best golf course in China and Hong Kong in June 1999. Six months later, the 18th hole of the Mountain Course was included in a list of the 500 best holes in the world by Golf Magazine in collaboration with Asia Golf Monthly and 10 other international golf-related publications.
Hong Kong and Hollywood film glitterati, including the likes of the director Oliver Stone, are said to be regular visitors.
The most beautiful area might be the par five ninth hole of the Lake Course. Running 486 yards alongside of Lake Dianchi, No. 9 provides a stunning view of the lake and an exciting zigzag ride down the mountain.
Accommodations: On-site (86-871-767-1188). Bank Hotel (86-871-315-8888 or www.bankhotel.com), downtown Kunming. Kunming Hotel (86-871-316-2063 or www. kunminghotel.com), downtown Kunming. Harbour Plaza Hotel Kunming (86-871-538-6688 or www.plaza.com/hpkm), near the Green Lake Park.
When to go: The weather is mild year round; the annual average temperature is 16 degrees centigrade (61 degrees Fahrenheit). Temperatures are lowest in January and highest in June. It would be wise to avoid the rainy season, which starts in June, reaches its peak in August and ends in September.
Getting there: Korean Air (1588-2001) operates flights on Monday and Friday. Yunnan Airline (02-777-8666) operates flights on Thursday and Sunday.
Golf packages: Orange World Tour (02-736-4577 or yes-golf.net), Air Golf (02-736-0070 or www. airgolf.co.kr), and JWTour (02-743-3478 or www. jwtour.com). The price is about 1 million won ($820) for a five-day trip.
A golf island that isn’t simply a fantasy
YALONG BAY GOLF CLUB
Yalong Bay National Resort District, Sanya, Hainan province
Tel: (86-898) 8856-5312, 5039
Web site: www.yalongbaygolfclub.com
Located on Hainan island, off the southeast coast of mainland China, Yalong Bay is popular for its year-round tropical climate and bright white, sandy beach that extends about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) along the coast. There are several resorts, underwater sports facilities and golf clubs in the area, as well as a seashell museum and a butterfly park.
Yalong Bay Golf Club was designed and constructed by Robert Trent Jones II. It has 18 holes open and another 18 on the way. When completed, Yalong will be the only 36-hole (par 144) championship standard course in the area. Nine holes are currently equipped with floodlights for people to enjoy night golfing.
The course is near the sea and has a luxurious clubhouse and villas, so golfers can enjoy a spectacular view of the coastline.
The golf course was built using sand from the bay area, and the landscaping uses plants indigenous to this region. The 18 holes that are open lie on 68 hectares (170 acres) with over 120,000 square meters of lakes and ponds and 95 bunkers.
The second 18 holes are expected to feature animal reserves and diverse species of fish and marine life.
In addition to the golf course, facilities include locker rooms, a sauna and whirlpool, pro shop, 27 rooms for guests, a restaurant, conference rooms and massage rooms.
Yalong Bay is 24 kilometers from downtown Sanya and a 35-minute drive from Sanya Phoenix International Airport.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Resort Yalong Bay Sanya (86-898-8856-5666). Cactus Resort Sanya (86-898-8856-8866 or ), a 45-minute drive from Sanya Phoenix International Airport. Gloria Resort Sanya, (86-898-8856 8855 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Resort Golden Palm, (86-898-8856-9988 or www.resortgp.com.cn), 30 minutes from the airport. Resort Horizon (86-898-8856-7888), 500 meters from Yalong Bay Golf Club.
When to go: Located in southern China, Yalong Bay enjoys warm, tropical weather year round. Most people say the best time to golf there is December and January, when temperatures are at their lowest. But discounts are available in May through September, when the heat drives many golfers.
Getting there: Korean Air (1588-2001), flights daily. Hainan Airlines (02-779-0600), Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday flights.
Golf packages: Available at local travel agencies. Orange World Tour (02-736-4577 or www.yes-golf.net), Ruby Golf Tour (02-723-0544~3 or www.rubygolf.com), Air Golf (02-736-0070 or www.airgolf.co.kr), JWTour (02-743-3478 or www.jwtour.com), Resort Golf (02-776-6118 or www.resortgolf.co.kr) or AWT (02-737-4333 or www.awtour.com).
Great golf in Beijing? A capital idea
Huatang International Golf Club
Tel: (86-10) 6159-3930
Web site: www.huatang-golf.com
As the capital of the most populous and up-and-coming nation on the planet, there’s no city like Beijing. Beijing is China’s political, economic and cultural fulcrum.
And you can bet that with that much leverage, it has more than a few good golf courses around.
But for the golf getaway, the one place we highly recommend is Beijing’s Huatang International Golf Club.
Huatang is ideally located in the Yaojiao Economic Development Zone, just 30 minutes from Tiananmen Square, and only 15 miles from Beijing International Airport. It was designed by the Australian golf great Graham Marsh, and it’s one of the Beijing area’s newest, having open to the public in 1998.
But what sets Huatang apart from its competitors is its gorgeous 18 hole championship course and its accessibility to the public.
Famous for its beautiful bunkers, the course is one-of-a-kind, generally considered the best in northern China. Although some have complained about its plethora of trees, it is generally described as a very friendly course, good for golfers of all levels.
It also has an excellent driving range and practice green. Huatang features two clubhouses to satisfy the vacationer or business traveler. The prestigious golf clubhouse facility includes a main dining room, private function rooms, golfer’s lounge and terrace, bar and grill, card room, billiards room and pro-shop. The country club has several tennis courts, a swimming pool, nursery, health-and-fitness center (including a sauna and steam room), beauty center, dining room and medical center.
The best part about it all, is while weekends are reserved for members and their guests only, weekday golfing is open to anyone with a set of clubs who is willing to reserve at least one week in advance.
Cost: 770 yuan ($90) a person for 18 holes, or 385 yuan for nine holes (includes green fee, caddie fee and surcharge)
Where to stay: Trader’s Hotel (86-10-6505-3320) offers free shuttle service, China World Hotel (86-10- 6505-2266) or Kerry Centre Hotel (86-10-6561-8833).
When to go: The best times to go are in spring and fall, April and May (when the average temperature is 15 degrees centigrade, or 59 Fahrenheit) and September through mid-November (when the average temperature is 14 degrees centigrade). Summers are hot and rainy.
GETTING THERE: Asiana Airlines, Korea Airlines and Air China offer daily flights from Seoul to Beijing International Airport.
Paris of the East
Grand Shanghai International Golf
and Holiday Resort, Shanghai
Tel: (86-512) 5789-1998
Shanghai is famous for its rich colonial past, futuristic skyscrapers and crowded streets ― a variety of diversions for the curious traveler.
But for the golf enthusiast, a short trip outside the sprawling metropolis is a glimpse of what some would call golf heaven. A number of excellent golf clubs thrive in the vicinity of this massive international city.
But one course in particular, the Grand Shanghai International Golf and Holiday Resort ― not to be confused with the nearby Grand Shanghai Golf Club, or the Shanghai International Golf and Country Club ― stands high above the rest.
The undulating terrain of Kunshan City, Jiangsu province, provides the picturesque backdrop to the Grand Shanghai International Golf and Holiday Resort. Its naturally rolling hills, nestled between the Yangcheng and East Yangcheng lakes, makes this place seem like it was created for golf.
And with the 18-hole course completed by the Roald Fream GolfPlan Design Group in 1996, it certainly won’t disappoint. Fream, one of golf’s foremost technical designers, takes pride in the challenging nature of his courses, and the truly championship nature of the Grand Shanghai Resort is what sets it apart. “You see these tournaments where they’re winning seven, eight, nine under par for one round,” explains Fream. “That is not because of the golfer’s brilliance, but because it’s a poor course. A good golf course is one where a pro wins by a couple of shots under par. Par means you are playing the course correctly ... perfectly.”
While its 18-hole course, practice course, and driving range ― one of the biggest in Asia ― should satisfy even the most severe golf addict, the Grand Shanghai Resort is home to a lot more than just tees and greens.
Its recently completed clubhouse features plenty of restaurants, member- and VIP lounges, a pool terrace and bar, pro shop, karaoke rooms, video hal and dance hall. It also has locker rooms, a sauna and spa. The resort has lakeside villas, with a five-star hotel, homes, marina and a theme park currently in development.
Entry is exclusive, however, so you’ll need to know a member to get in. If you’re a member of a club elsewhere, there’s a possibility your golf club has a reciprocal agreement. Some Korean travel agencies also have special agreements with the Grand Shanghai Resort.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Villas on the grounds start at 4,000 yuan ($500) a night.
When to go: The weather is suitable from February to November, but the best time to go is from September to November when Kunshan’s famous “hairy crab” delicacy is in season. Expect weather around 16 degrees centigrade (60 Fahrenheit) in March.
GETTING THERE: Asiana Airlines (1588-8000) has direct flights at 9:50 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily, with an extra 10:50 a.m. flight on Monday, Thursday and Sunday.
Golf packages: G&T (032-267-5487 or 011-233-1732) and AWT (02-737-4333 or www.awtour.com) offer trips including airfare, accommodations and golf starting at 680,000 won ($560).
by Joe Yong-hee