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Asian Golf Course Rankings 2012

14 January, 2012

Asian Golf Course Rankings 2012

Top 100 Golf Courses extends its Asian rankings

14th January 2012

We must confess that we have done a disservice to Asian golf courses. Rather embarrassingly we neglected the world’s largest and most populous continent while focusing elsewhere. However, we have now reviewed every Asian country and feel quietly confident that the very best Asian golf courses are now featured on the Top 100 website. If you feel we have missed any then please let us know.

Let’s be honest, defining the best golf courses in every Asian country has been exceptionally difficult, so we must thank dozens of people who have provided us with invaluable information. Special thanks go to Masa Nishijima, our International Consultant, who brought numerous top Asian courses to our attention. With Masa’s help, we soon hope to produce the first ever rankings of the Top 100 Golf Courses of Asia.

India holds an honourable place in golfing history. Older than any club in the world beyond Britain – older, indeed, than most of those in Britain itself – the Royal Calcutta Golf Club has antecedents stretching back to the days when the power of the British Raj was gaining strength, beyond the beginnings of Victoria’s reign. Today, there are around 200 golf courses in India and the number is growing but the engine room of Asian golf is Japan.

There are more golf courses in Japan than the rest of Asia put together – nearly 2,500 in fact. The Japanese are serious golf lovers but you may wonder therefore why we only feature 10 Japanese golf courses. The reason is that our International Consultant believes that there are only a few world-class courses in his homeland. Nevertheless, Japan has more World Top 100 ranked golf courses currently than any other Asian country. But watch out… China is getting deadly serious about golf.

Golf in Hong Kong dates back more than 100 years and the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling can trace its roots way back to 1889, which places it amongst an elite group of the 100 oldest golf clubs in the world. Even though Hong Kong is no longer a British colony, we feature Hong Kong as a separate destination to China. If you find yourself in Hong Kong with your golf clubs in tow, you should head to the island of Kau Sai Chau where there are two excellent courses at the Jockey Club. The third and latest layout at the Kau Sai Chau public facility is the East course. It’s one of the few public courses in the world with ocean views from every hole.

According to the Guinness Book of records, Mission Hills at Shenzhen (25 miles north of Hong Kong) is the world's largest golf facility. With twelve courses, each headline-designed by a golfing legend, it’s undeniably an impressive golf resort, but Mission Hills Group decided to shift their attention to Haikou on the tropical island of Hainan. Here they built ten more golf courses and two of them have already jumped ahead of their mainland elder siblings in the national rankings. The Schmidt-Curley Design firm laid out all ten courses at Haikou (they are also the design firm behind ten of the twelve Mission Hills mainland layouts) and two quickly emerged from the pack. Lava Fields is our highest new entry from their burgeoning stable, despite the fact that Mission Hills reckon their crown jewel is the Blackstone course – venue for the 2011 Omega Mission Hills World Cup. The Blackstone debuts at 5th position in our new Chinese rankings.

After all this talk about Mission Hills, we should say that both the Lake and Mountain courses at the Spring City Resort should not be overlooked. However, if you can find a way to access the Stone Forest International Country Club, you’re in for a real treat. The Leaders Peak layout is our new Chinese No.1 and it really is a future World Top 100 course that Schmidt-Curley routed around some truly breathtaking rock formations. With more than 400 golf courses in China and around 150 more are at various stages of development, China is the No.1 country in the world at the moment in terms of new course developments.

South Korea is now a very strong golfing destination. With more than 200 courses there are a few that are world class – including Nine Bridges on the volcanic Jeju Island. The Golfplan-designed Pine Beach Golf Links is an interesting development, which opened in 2008. Pine Beach has been described as Asia’s version of Pebble Beach and the club’s par three 15th even bears a striking resemblance to Cypress Point’s iconic 16th.

Indonesia, especially Bali, remains a popular destination for travelling golfers. Greg Norman’s Nirwana Bali is our new No.1 which edged out Gary Player’s Ocean course at Ria Bintan. Singapore punches way above its weight for a tiny city-state and despite its close proximity to Changi Airport, The Garden course at Tanah Merah Country Club remains in Singaporean pole position.

The Japanese brought golf to Taiwan and the country’s oldest club, Taiwan Golf & Country Club, dates back to 1918. There are now around 70 golf courses on the appropriately named “Beautiful Island” and the Sunrise Golf and Country Club remains our No.1.

Ever popular, Thailand can boast a number of interesting new additions to a portfolio of golf courses that now exceed 200. Designed in 2007 by Phil Ryan of Pacific Coast Design, Black Mountain Golf Club has quickly established itself as one of the best 18-hole layouts in the country. Our new Thai number two is Amata Spring Country Club, venue for the Royal Trophy between 2006 and 2010 and our number one is the exclusive but brilliant Ayodhya Links.

We’re not sure exactly how many golf courses are in play in the Philippines, however we do know that there are many more than the 25 facilities registered with the National Golf Association of the Philippines. The Makiling course at Sta. Elena Golf Club is James Spence’s favourite Robert Trent Jones Jnr course in Asia. The author of The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia reckons Sta. Elena is one of the best driving courses in Asia with a good balance of safety and danger from the tee.

Kota Permai Golf & Country Club was created by Australian Ross Watson in the late 1990s. The course has hosted a number of top professional competitions, including the Volvo Masters of Malaysia and the 2008 Malaysian Open, and it’s our new Malaysian No.1. With more than 200 courses in Malaysia we felt it appropriate to feature a Top 20 for the first time.

It is evident that Colt & Alison had a hand in the design of Dalat Palace in the late 1920s or early 1930s, though it is not clear exactly what that consisted of. However, Dalat Palace remains our Vietnamese No.1 despite strong competition. The Dunes course at Danang Golf Club opened to critical acclaim in 2010 and it’s our highest new Vietnamese entry. Course designer, Greg Norman, said, “You’d be doing a very poor job to make a boring course out of a site like this”. Straight in at No.3 is Colin Montgomerie’s Links layout, which has hosted the Vietnam Matchplay Championship every year since 2009. With only 25 courses in the country, Vietnam can be proud of quality rather than quantity.

David McLay Kidd has left an interesting legacy in Nepal at Gokana Forest Resort which one reviewer recently described as “the ultimate chillax resort”. If Cambodia is on your itinerary then take a look at the 18-hole championship course at Phokeethra Country Club, which opened in 2007, the same year it hosted the Cambodian Open. Should Sri Lanka be your destination of choice then head to Victoria Golf & Country Club where the setting for the Donald Steel layout is “one of the finest in the world” according to architect Martin Ebert.

Naturally golf is not the most popular sport in North Korea, but the country does have one notable course. Pyongyang Golf Course is where the first North Korean Open was held a few years ago and it was a decade or so ago that the nation's late dictator Kim Jong-il is said to have shot a 38-under par round of 34 in his one and only round of golf which included more holes in one than most avid golfers will achieve in a lifetime.

Every Asian country is featured on the Top 100 website, although not every Asian country is lucky enough to have a course listed. In 2005, Golf World magazine rated the Kabul Golf Club in their first ever World Top 100 rankings. We’re not entirely sure why, but for those who are interested in playing golf in Afghanistan we suggest reading this article (click here) and we strongly recommend advanced booking!

Feedback is genuinely welcome… in fact it’s actively encouraged. So please tell us what you think about the latest list of Asian golf courses. We won’t ever claim to be “definitive” but we are the most “informed” golf course rankings in the business. If you’ve played any of our featured Asian courses, we’d be delighted to know what you think, so why not contribute and post a course review or two?

Click here to visit Asia on the Top 100 website, or simply click on Asia on the left hand navigation to journey through the continent.

Keith Baxter


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