Established in 1982, the course at Clearwater Bay occupies a fantastic cliff top setting on a craggy peninsula that juts out into the South China Sea. Some of the more spectacular seaside holes have drawn comparison with those at Nefyn & District in Wales, Old Head in Ireland and even Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand.
A round on the Ocean nine begins with four stunning holes – described as “the most thrilling opening stretch in Chinese golf” – and the pick of these openers is the par four 3rd, demanding a 180-yard tee shot carry over the ocean. The Highland nine is routed over hillier terrain, featuring another couple of do-or-die carries across ravines at the par four 13th and the par five 18th.
The original layout was not without its flaws so to celebrate the club’s silver anniversary the design team at Thomson-Perrett was called in to remodel the layout – reversing the nines and replacing green side bunkers in the process – and it’s now a much more interesting course to play.
In the summer of 2021, it was announced that Harley Kruse had been appointed to oversee a major bunker renovation at the club, incorporating Capillary Bunker and Ecobunker technologies to provide adequate levels of performance in a tropical climate which can see twenty inches of rain fall in a single day during the monsoon season. The project also involved shifting some bunkers for strategic reasons and removing others that were no longer needed.
This course can be very challenging depending on the wind, which can easily add 2-3 strokes or more to your score. The views, especially on the front 9, are spectacular. The 1st hole pretty much sets up what your round is going to be like - a 225 yard par 3 from an elevated tee, a view of the ocean behind a large diagonally set green. Again, the wind is really going to determine what club is necessary for this difficult starting hole. The 3rd, the course's signature hole, is a dogleg right par 4 with the green at the tip of the property's peninsula. This hole plays much harder in the winter headwind and is difficult to reach safely in two, while in the summer it certainly does not play to its number one index position. The back nine consists of 3 par fours over 450 yards that also can play longer depending on the wind and these each have their own unique difficulties.
Overall, this is one of my favorite courses in Asia. It is kept in excellent shape and, again, because of the wind, can play differently depending on the time of year. There are many excellent holes such as number 3, 5, 7,10-14, 17 and a great finishing hole. The only real weakness is the course lacks a fun short par 3 - the par 3's come in two sets of distances for the most part: (1, 6 and 11 are 200~ yards, 4, 14 and 16 are 160 yards).
Played this a long time ago but vivid memories of dramatic cliff top layout with fabulous clubhouse and stunning holes and views.
Followed the two aussies I got paired with whilst waiting on a tee and drove a ball into the South China Sea just so I could say I had !!
The par 4 402-yard 3rd is the signature hole, which is a spectacular sharp dogleg to the right over the ocean. The tee shot is downhill and must carry over a cliff to hit a protruding small peninsula with 3 bunkers on both sides of the narrow fairway from 220 to yards off the tee. Moreover, the fairway is very tight and if your ball is right to left, even a little, the ball will disappear into the rocks and the ocean or bushes. You need a clear plan of where to land the ball by calculating the effect of strong costal winds on your ball line. The club selection on the approach is crucial as the wind plays a big part with a large bunker short that will take any miss-hit and the ocean surrounds the green. The sharp dogleg to the left Par 5 543-yard 18th is another great hole. The more you cut off the dogleg, the longer carry is needed. The landing area on the downhill tee shot is narrow. If you choose a shortcut and aim too much to the left side of the fairway, you may find your ball in the valley. If you take too much to be safe to the right side, the ball has a high chance of going into a grove and being lost. The landing area of the second is also narrow as there is a ravine on the left, trees on the right and a large bunker 60 yards short of the green. The third shot will test your club selection and accuracy as the green is severely elevated with steep slopes and features three-tiered sections. Putting will become very difficult when your ball is away from the pin or on a different tier. To read more about Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, click here to visit my website.