China has had an on-off relationship with golf. It can lay claim to having played a similar sport as early as AD1000, but the modern game has a much shorter and chequered history in the Middle Kingdom. Unlike Japan and Korea, the sport is strictly for the elite. From 1949 to the early 80s, it was banned. What followed was a frenzy of course building, providing some of the best in Asia.
These are five of the top golf courses in China:
1. Sheshan International Golf Club
Built in one of hilliest parts of Shanghai, the course makes use of natural contours, along with placed hazards such as bunkers and water features. These work to create a challenging course; little wonder that it plays host to the annual World Golf Championship HSBC Champions competition. Located in the less urbanised Songjiang district, the 18-hole course is still close enough to have a huge potential number of players. Consistently, it has collected accolades as one of the best courses in China.
2. The 27 Club
Winner of the 2017 World Golf Awards for best course in China, the Tianjin club is quite unusual. Firstly, it has 27 holes after Beau Welling and Thomas McBroom redesigned the formerly 36-hole course. The name itself, though, comes from the 27 Major winners, including Greg Norman, Y.E. Yang and Vijay Singh, who all incorporated their favourite elements into the holes. As a result, each has a unique feel, yet has been unified into each of the three courses.
3. Shanqin Bay
Numerous courses make Hainan Island a mecca for golfers in China. The best, however, is the remote Shanqin Bay. Designed by Bill Core, it is the only cliff sea view course in Asia. Former Citic chairman Wang Jun scoured the coastline by helicopter before spotting the location. Many believed it impossible to site such a course here and it took Core about a week to create a workable plan for the site. Being so close to the sea, winds along with the topography can make the course challenging to play. Unfortunately, interference has taken its toll on the course, with measures such as the 2017 planting of saplings along the 17th fairway to create a wind break.
4. Spring City Golf & Lake Resort (lake course)
The resort’s name comes from the nickname of Kunming – the centre of which lies 40 minutes away. Consisting of two 18-hole courses, the lake one designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. pips the Jack Nicklaus mountain course. Located on the shores of Yang Zonghai, the site is not only spectacular – it is reminiscent of a Scottish loch – but the landscape has also been skilfully crafted into the course. Thanks to being 2,100 metres above sea level, this is an Asian course easily played during the summer and breezes coming off the lake go further, to keep things comfortable.
5. Nanjing Zhongshan International
Originally dating back to 1934, when Nanjing was the nation’s capital, this is one of China’s oldest clubs. The current 18-hole and nine-hole courses were designed by Gary Player and are divided into mountain, lake and valley areas. Located in the Purple Mountain scenic area, the course has attracted top-level competitions such as the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games.