The three public courses on the uninhabited island of Kau Sai Chau were created with funds from the Hong Kong Jockey Club and they were developed with the intention of meeting the ever-growing demand for golf in the area.
The Gary Player-designed North and South layouts were first to open in 1995 and, for over a decade, these two courses more or less satisfied the golfing needs of pay-and-play golfers in Hong Kong.
Eventually, with demand outstripping supply, a new East layout was unveiled in 2008. Within three years, this 54-hole facility had welcomed its two millionth customer, as the three tracks operate at an astonishing 80% of capacity, catering for 160,000 rounds annually.
The following article has been reproduced with kind permission from the Nelson & Haworth firm of architects:
“The East Course at Kau Sai Chau is one of the very few public courses in the world that enjoys ocean views off every hole. Situated on an island off the popular Hong Kong village hangout of Sai Kung, the course is the most recent addition to the public golf facility of Kau Sai Chau, a facility owned and operated by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The site for the golf course occupies a very dramatic, steep and rocky site that overlooks - and at times juts into - the waters of the South China Sea. The design and construction of this golf course was one of the most technically demanding projects that Nelson & Haworth has been involved with.
Key challenges beyond the island location included construction in rock, severe terrain, limited water supply, stringent environmental constraints and conditions, retention of an existing and operating golf course.
The many challenges were addressed and solved as they arose, and sometimes involved some unconventional solutions including a drainage system designed by the consulting engineer Ove Arup that prevents water discharge into the ocean and returns all storm water to irrigation lakes for re-use.
Despite its somewhat severe location, construction of the course involved moving only about 800,000 cubic metres although most of this was rock and had to be moved without damaging retained native areas.The length of the golf course was limited due to the site constraints and although relatively short by modern standards the course difficulty varies widely depending upon the ocean breezes – and it is often very windy!”
There are some absolutely spectacular holes on this island golf course that takes some getting to. You have to get to the far reaches of the New Territories and then catch a ferry to the island. But once arrived there is spectacular golf and with three courses on the island there is no shortage of golf. There are supposedly handicap limits, but even so the round I played on the East course was very slow.
The design of the course is indeed quite amazing and there are views everywhere. However, there was a big problem with the heavily pitch-marked greens - clearly no one knows what a divot repair tool is for! It made putting a little like crazy golf at times. Also, the slightly shorter length of the course offered up birdie opportunities on the par 5's, but this was countered by the severe penalties for mis-accuracy on many of the holes.
I liked this course a lot and it's nearly as good as the very similar styled Hamilton Island course in Australia.
The short Par 4 366-yard 4th, a slight dogleg to the right, has its fairway and green protruding into the ocean. You hit onto the extreme downhill slopes on the tee and second shots and require high accuracy as the fairway is only 50 yards wide. Furthermore the hazards and the ocean on both the left and right side are things to look out for. The relatively long Par 3 211-yard 5th hovers over the ocean. You must choose the right club to hit onto the green. If your ball is short of the front green edge, it will disappear over the cliff guarding the front of the wide green. Another short Par 4 366-yard 14th (coincidentally the same distance as the 4th), a dogleg to the left, is considered as a signature hole. The peninsula shaped fairway is protruding into the ocean like the 4th hole. Make sure you pay attention to the cliff that is placed close to the left side of the green. To read more about the East course at Kai Sai Chau Golf Club, click here to visit my website.