10 must-plays

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2007, 12:00am

An up-and-down affair

Black Mountain Golf Club

Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin's first new course in a decade is a serious up-and-down affair, with many of its greens and tee boxes built into the base of a mountain. Opened in April, Black Mountain is a luxurious resort-style course built with Swedish money on an old pineapple plantation about 10km northwest of the popular seaside resort. Unlike the many parkland courses in the Hua Hin/Cha-Am area, this 18-hole layout feels almost desert-like, with several standout holes set against an impressive mountainous backdrop. www.bmghuahin.com

Unique Gary Player creation

Suzhou Jinji Lake International Golf Club

Suzhou, Jiangsu province, China

This 27-hole Gary Player creation is unique in that each of its three nine-hole layouts incorporates a different design in forest, wetlands and links styles. The Sino-Singaporean joint venture opened in June last year. The forest layout is relatively immature, with the young trees yet to factor in the play. Both the forest and wetlands layouts boast broad user-friendly greens. The links layout is a standout: nine-time Major winner Gary Player has applied his extensive knowledge of Britain's seaside courses to create a memorable golfing experience, complete with knee-high rough, deep riveted pot bunkers, and an overall barren Scottish feel. www.sipgolf.com

Long mountain views

Cypress Golf and Resort

Jeju Island, South Korea

South Korea is easily Asia's most golf-mad country (the world success of players like K.J. Choi and Pak Se-ri only reinforces the country's craze for the sport). The Cypress Golf and Resort (right), on Jeju Island, is the country's newest club, with two very different 18-hole offerings. The West Course, which opened in June last year, commands long, dramatic views, with Mount Halla in the background and the land rolling towards the sea. In sharp contrast is the recently opened East Course, which winds through a forest, with patches of cedar trees providing natural shelter from the winds blowing across the volcanic island. Both courses are Dye Designs. www.cypress.co.kr/

Smooth and contoured

Van Tri Golf Club

Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam's newest club is also the country's most exclusive: the Van Tri club is capping its membership at 400. The Peter Rousseau-designed 18-hole course, which opened in April, lies within a gated community 40km from the capital and 4km from the Hanoi-Noi Bai Highway. The course is beautifully shaped, with sand traps featuring smooth, contoured bunker faces and a design philosophy that observes the four principles - strategic, penal, heroic and freeway (all the hazards are on the sidelines). The floating driving range with its island holes is an inspiring setting for a warm-up. A resident PGA golf professional is on hand. www.vantrigolf.com.vn

Shanghai special

Enhance Anting Golf Club

Shanghai, China

In flat, alluvial Shanghai, Robert Trent Jones II has created something special. The US$75million project - 7km from the country's Formula One racetrack - features a rolling layout where water comes into play on 13 of the 18 holes. The course is largely free of trees but compensates with a good use of shrubs and tall grasses. The 614-yard, par-five 18th, with its split fairway and elevated green, is one of China's finest finishing holes. www.enhancegolf.com

Dramatic elevations

Loch Palm Golf Club

(New Course)

Phuket, Thailand

It's golf on steroids, they say of the newest 18 holes on the popular Thai resort island. The elevation changes dramatically up to 40 metres as the course winds through an old tin mining area. The layout, unveiled earlier this year, is Loch Palm's second 18 and it offers a greater challenge than the more user-friendly Old Course. New Course features include fairways lined by towering palms, steep drop-offs to water and a rugged, jagged landscape scarred by the site's mining past. www.lochpalm.com

Visually spectacular

Chiang Mai Highlands Golf & Spa Resort

Chiang Mai, Thailand

This 18-hole layout, which opened in late 2005 in Thailand's northern capital, was created by Schmidt-Curley, the United States design team behind most of the signature courses at Mission Hills, outside of Shenzhen. With a mountainous backdrop and elevations that go as high as 27 metres, this is a visually spectacular course. It can also be extremely punishing, with bunkers over two metres deep. The 166-yard, par-three 17th and the 558-yard, par-five 18th located high up in the mountain promise a dramatic finish to your game. www.chiangmaihighlands.com

Extremely hilly

Nine Dragons Admirals

Golf and Yacht Club

Penghu Town, Zhejiang province, China

At US$300million, Nine Dragons Admirals is easily one of the most ambitious golf projects to hit Asia in recent years. Several mountains were blasted to create the impressive site and some 4,600 farmers brought in to work on the project. The result is an extremely hilly layout that combines two magnificent quarries. The 27-hole Ron Garl-designed club, which opened this year, will eventually offer polo, a marina, a luxury hotel, housing, a boat lock and a cruise-ship terminal. With its dramatic elevation changes and sea views, this is a club to watch. The owners hope to stage a world-class tournament by 2009. www.ninedragon.com.cn

Floating hole an Asian first

Amata Spring Country Club

Bangkok, Thailand

From par sixes to greens with sand traps in the middle of the putting surface to courses that are 'tributes' to famous layouts - all these can be found in Asia. One of the latest attractions is Asia's first floating hole at Amata Spring, just south of Bangkok. The 145-yard, par-three 17th is the star attraction and, after a course in Idaho, only the second floating hole in the world. Because of the ever-present wind, you are permitted a second shot if you are unsuccessful the first time around. The boat ride to the green takes one minute. The club hosted the inaugural Royal Cup last year, pitting Europe against Asia in a Ryder Cup-style format. www.amataspring.co.th

Island style

Marcello Golf Resort

Shanghai, China

The latest Nelson & Haworth design in Shanghai's southern Jingshan district is very much a composite of the design pair's previous efforts in the area, such as Sheshan, Suzhou Sun Island and Lake Hill. Dug out of the flat earth, the 27-hole layout features an island green, blind holes and some admirable elevation changes. The 165-yard, par-three eighth on the C course is a particularly fine downhill island hole with a tricky two-tier green that is as good as you will find anywhere. www.marcello-golf.com