Perhaps because of its 115 year history, the Hong Kong Golf Club is one of a minority of golfing institutions in Asia that still very much feels more like a club than a commercial enterprise. The club's first course in Hong Kong was located in Happy Valley (now more famous for the horse-racing track) and its second was the nine hole course in Deepwater Bay on the South side of Hong Kong Island - a course that was only reachable by ferry before a regular road ran to the South Side. The 3,200 yard Deepwater Bay course is still very much in play and is somewhat of a secret pleasure for those who have the time or inclination to resist the siren call of lucre coming over the hill from Central and Causeway Bay.
The club's history at Fanling, where it maintains three courses, began with the completion of the Old Course in 1911. The location is now incongruous, being situated at the Northern end of Route 3, the Expressway that links a China border post at Lok Ma Chau with the world's busiest port at Kwai Chung. Despite being a short distance from a Hong Kong new town (Fanling) and the crazy Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen across the border, Hong Kong Golf Club has been able to maintain a certain atmosphere in its valley, an atmosphere which is more South England than South China. Indeed there is something reminiscent of Sunningdale, Walton Heath or St George's Hill about the traditional elements of the club which extends to the layout of its courses and the nature of many of its holes.
Essentially the Composite Course tacks together ten holes from the 6,060 yard Eden Course and eight from the 6,531 yard New Course. The `New' Course predates the Eden by almost 40 years - having been finished in 1931 versus 1970 for the Eden. Despite its composite nature and the fact that it combines two courses that were built 40 years apart, the holes meld together well. There are no long walks between the holes - explained by the fact that the first nine holes are derived from the Eden and the next seven from the New.
The eight-hole sequence from the New layout begins with five fantastic driving holes where the golfer with command of his biggest stick will do well. The 11th is a superlative driving hole – one of those holes that invites the driver. Likewise the 12th and the 14th. The par five 12th needs a sliding shot – something that begins on the hard left and moves a little back to the middle but still ends up on the left side of the fairway. This then opens up an approach to an angled green on this long dog-leg.
The above passage is an extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
Hong Kong Golf Club (HKGC) is 10 miles north of the city center in an area called Fanling. The club is near the border of China with the skyline of Shenzhen almost adjacent to part of one of the courses here.
The New Course opened in 1931 with a L.S. Greenhill design. John Harris, and Peter Thomson did revisions in 1968. The Eden was created in 1970 with John Harris, Peter Thomson and Michael Wolveridge as designers. The New is 6,520 yards par 70; the Eden is 6,106 yards par 70. The New is rated slightly higher than the Eden. The Composite Course involves 10 holes from the Eden and eight from the New. The composite is 6,700 yards par 70. Even though the two courses were built 39 years apart, there was a nice flow to the holes as you shifted between the two courses.
There is walking only on the New so we are off with caddies… The course is laid out in a valley with mountain peaks visible in the distance. The terrain is moderately hilly with a few steep fairway slopes and greenside falloffs. Other holes are flat. Most of the holes are lined with tall, mature trees.
There are 67 bunkers, and water comes into play on five holes. The first and fourteenth greens make up a double green. The course was in excellent condition. The zoysia fairways were firm with good lies and roll. The TifEagle greens were smooth and healthy.
The first 13 holes are isolated by trees on the periphery of the course. Then some tall buildings become visible. Just off the 17th tee is a 20-story condominium under construction. Here I was given a quick introduction into the Hong Kong residential real estate market. In this building, $2 million will get you 800 square feet, but only 600 is usable. To accommodate this structure, the club had to move the entire par 3 17th hole. Actually, the club has been dealing with a much bigger land issue. The Hong Kong government is under pressure to find more land for residential development and they have their eye on Fanling, particularly where the Old Course is located. The outcome is uncertain.
The par 3 197-yard 8th is charming and a precise shot is required as the left side of the green has a sharp slope and a bunker and another bunker on the right is in play, too. Moreover, the green isn’t wide but deep, severely sloping from back to front. At the long & difficult par 4 466-yard 12th, a tight fairway is lined with mature trees and OB on both sides.
My favorite is the relatively short par 4 395-yard 15th which is a slight dogleg to the left, and you tend to choose the most direct route off the tee to the green. But if you flight the ball a little bit to the left, it will land in a deep bunker or in trees on the left side of the fairway, both of which are no-go zones. Then, if your tee shot is too far right, the distance to the green becomes much longer and sometimes trees block the way to the green. The green is highly elevated, 10 yards in height, and a bunker in the front of the green is in play. Furthermore, the green isn’t big, so the approach shot becomes very nerve-wracking. To read more about the New course at Hong Kong Golf Club, click here to visit my website.