The course at Sunrise Golf & Country Club circulates around one of the higher hills in Northern Taiwan, providing the architect with natural elevation changes which have been worked into many of the holes. The elevation also exposes the fairways to some persistent breezes. Golf is often played into a one or two club breeze here, sometimes even more. In addition to these natural elements, Trent Jones Jr. has deployed the full panoply of man-made hazards. The course has a fair claim to be the toughest in Taiwan.
The 10th is a good example of the kind of test that Trent Jones has set. From an elevated tee the golfer can see every aspect of the hole below as the fairway sweeps round in a crescent. A lake lies between the golfer and any shot he or she cares to make so that the safest possible shot will entail playing left of water followed by a carry whereas the heroic shot is going to entail carry all the way. Bunkers lie on the far side of the fairway to punish the over cautious or the player who hooks to a hole that clearly calls for a fade. Water features on all but two of the last nine holes. On the front side it only really is brought into play from the pro tees on the 6th. Even a strong hitter can be embarrassed here as the 516 yard 6th is a stiff carry into the breeze from the back plates and then the fairway articulates upward. The haphazard array of bunkers short of the green introduces some chance elements to the golfer who tries to get close in two. Playing for three-on and taking the bunkers out of the equation will require at least an 8 or 7 iron from the safe lay-up point.
The 15th is another strong hole. The tee shot involves a carry over a gully from which there is no escape. The fairway beyond moves left sharply and narrows considerably. Out of bounds lurks just beyond the right side of the fairway as it does on many holes. Indeed it is extremely easy to let shots go on the breeze from elevated tees and see them carried out of bounds. A golfer with all the shots will find themselves playing the ball back in the stance on many occasions both with and against the wind – a rare requirement in continental Asia where the courses tend to be so soft and airless. Even relatively innocuous holes like the 3rd pack their punch. The fairway is pretty tight as you drive uphill – and there's certainly no room on the left. As the fairway arches upward, the second shot has to be long enough to make the surface and toward the right side to avoid the cluster of bunkers that intrude on the left.
The golf course at Sunrise is part of a residential complex that is only just getting into full swing. The surrounds are dominated by some pretty monumental architecture. The clubhouse-hotel is a huge, imposing and modern edifice. Despite this, it is the course that dominates the experience. There is a case for saying if you are going to play a Trent Jones Jr. course with its blend of heroic, penal and strategic characteristics you might as well play a course as tough as Sunrise.
Re-produced with kind permission from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia & Australasia by James Spence.