Top 100 Golf Courses of Asia 2018

07 February 2018 Respond to this article

Top 100 Golf Courses of Asia 2018

Welcome to our inaugural rankings of the Top 100 Golf Courses of Asia.

Since the new millennium, the development of new courses in Asia has reached a remarkable number. Among these new courses are layouts aimed at holding events on the Asian and European Tours, along with resort courses attracting tourists from abroad.

However, in South Korea, most new courses are owned by private golf clubs whose focus is on satisfying Seoul’s celebrities. In some cases, these private clubs also offer nine public access holes so non-members can also pay-and-play at these private 27-hole facilities.

Pine Beach Golf LinksWoo Jeong Hills (#26), Pinx (#91) and Nine Bridges (#9) were the first Korean golf clubs to be actively promoted via the Korean media to the world at large. Regulations were strict at that time, development of the coastline was not permitted, and the course had to include water across more than 3% of the site’s overall area. However, since 2008 the development regulations have been relaxed and new courses are appearing in wonderful locations overlooking the sea, such as South Cape (#3) and Pine Beach (#39).

South Cape genuinely deserves to be higher rated than Nine Bridges, despite Nine Bridges being much more highly acclaimed in GOLF Magazine’s latest World Top 100. Whistling Rock (ranked #10) is an original Ted Robinson Jr. design, but since 2016, Tom Doak's Renaissance Design team has reinstated the strategic and aesthetic qualities of classic architecture, reviving this delightful mountain course.

The start of Chinese golf course history began in 1985, but recently issued regulations by the Chinese government for golf courses were shocking. 100 courses were destroyed and many lost their operational rights. Some golfers will remember the former World Top 100 ranked Stone Forest Leaders Peak course, laid out by Schmidt-Curley Design within a spectacular UNESCO world heritage site. Unfortunately the course no longer exists.

Shanqin Bay

Various Chinese clubs that were cleared by the government to operate were instructed by the state to relinquish some holes for environmental policy reasons, such as developing windbreaks. Even Shanqin Bay, #4 in the new Asian Top 100 and the only Chinese course ranked in the World Top 100, has also lost a fairway to the planting of a windbreak forest. Despite the elimination of much of the corruption surrounding the illegal building of golf courses, it’s hard to understand what these central government policies actually mean and whether or not there will be an end.

Bluffs Ho Tram Strip

Vietnam is now attracting attention instead of China for all the right reasons. The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip (ranked #7) is a course laid out in a sand dune area with elevation changes of 150 feet. However, as Fergal O'Leary has also commented, the layout and routing of holes 4 and 15 are peculiar. In order for the club to become a true World Top 100 contender, improvements to these two holes are essential.

The FLC Quy Nhon Mountain course (#12), designed by Brian Curley, also received high praise. Additionally, Brian has laid out a course at Halong Bay from where there are views of the World Heritage site’s towering limestone pillars, topped with woodland rising up from the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. This new FLC Halong Bay development will celebrate the grand opening later this year.

Vietnam is blessed with a wonderful coastal sand dune area that stretches for more than 600 miles. In the future, world-class golf courses will be born in these sand dunes. But, unfortunately, in Vietnam’s ongoing development, residential and resort hotel building is the main focus rather than golf courses. Therefore building developers are commandeering sites facing the coastline. The oversupply of housing developments is deeply concerning for the future of golf tourism.

Ayodhya Links

Courses around Bangkok in Thailand have many courses that feature water hazards as strategies due to the area’s wetlands. The premier course in Thailand, Ayodhya Links (#11), has been designed with water in play across all eighteen holes. It’s not an easy course to objectively rate.

The Lodhi course at Delhi Golf Club in India (#93) has been renovated and improved down the years, but generally the number of Indian golfers is small by comparison to the country’s long golfing history.

Wonderful courses have been developed in Southeast Asia, but many are design concepts that are more conscious of PGA tournaments rather than creating a club atmosphere, which to my mind is a prerequisite for fathering genuine golf club culture for future generations.

More than 1,000 golf courses were built in Japan during the bubble economy of the 1980s, leaving no spare acreage to develop new courses. Consequently over the last twenty years or so Japan has missed out on the new millennium’s architectural “Golden Age”. Tokyo Classic (#31) is one of Japan’s first new courses to be introduced for decades and it was sympathetically fashioned by Nicklaus Design. However, just as much attention was paid to creating a genuine club that combines golf with horse riding and polo.

Yokohama West course

Coore & Crenshaw’s redesign work at Yokohama Country Club West Course (#5) received high praise from many raters. Before being redesigned, Yokohama was not even on the nomination list for inclusion in the Top 50 golf courses in Japan. However, the unique topography and elevation of the terrain was such an asset that we felt it could be a top-class course if someone completed a great renovation – and so it came to pass. Gil Hanse is now renovating the traditional Japanese dual greens at Tokyo Golf Club (#8) and he’s also performing the remodelling at Karuizawa Golf Club (#36).

Logan Fazio’s renovation of the Kasumigaseki East course (#13) disappointed some Japanese raters. The essence of the East course centres on the classical dual greens and bunkering. However, post renovation, raters felt that the East had been transformed into a modern Florida-styled course, in fact, respected course commentator, Darius Oliver, formerly rated Kasumigaseki East above Tokyo GC and Kawana (Fuji) (#2). You can judge for yourself when the world’s spotlight shines on the East course at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Masa Nishijima

Rank/ Course Country
1 Hirono Japan
2 Kawana (Fuji) Japan
3 South Cape Owners Club South Korea
4 Shanqin Bay China
5 Yokohama (West) Japan
6 Naruo Japan
7 Bluffs Ho Tram Strip Vietnam
8 Tokyo Japan
9 Nine Bridges South Korea
10 Whistling Rock (Temple & Cocoon) South Korea
11 Ayodhya Links Thailand
12 FLC Quy Nhon (Mountain) Vietnam
13 Kasumigaseki (East) Japan
14 Sentosa (Serapong) Singapore
15 Ono Japan
16 Abiko Japan
17 TPC Kuala Lumpur (West) Malaysia
18 Spring City (Lake) China
19 Mission Hills (Blackstone) China
20 FLC Quy Nhon (Ocean) Vietnam
21 Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula (East) China
22 Koga Japan
23 Oarai Japan
24 Ba Na Hills Vietnam
25 Sheshan International China
26 Woo Jeong Hills South Korea
27 Spring City (Mountain) China
28 Nikko Japan
29 Jade Palace (West & East) South Korea
30 Laguna Lang Co Vietnam
31 Tokyo Classic Japan
32 Danang Dunes Vietnam
33 Jack Nicklaus South Korea
34 Sky Lake (Lake) Vietnam
35 Ryugasaki Japan
36 Karuizawa Japan
37 Shanghai Links China
38 Nasu Japan
39 Pine Beach (Pine & Beach) South Korea
40 Sapporo (Wattsu) Japan
41 Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau (North) Hong Kong
42 Kasumigaseki (West) Japan
43 Sentosa (New Tanjong) Singapore
44 Hokkaido Classic Japan
45 Taman Dayu Indonesia
46 Ria Bintan (Ocean) Indonesia
47 Ise Japan
48 Phoenix (Takachiho & Sumiyoshi) Japan
49 Sta. Elena (Makiling & Banahaw) Phillipines
50 Jian Lake Blue Bay China
51 The Mines Malaysia
52 Ibaraki (West) Japan
53 Takanodai Japan
54 Nanjing Zhongshan International (Mountain & Lake) China
55 Anyang South Korea
56 Damai Indah (Bumi Serpong Damai) Indonesia
57 Country Club - Philippines Phillipines
58 Alpine GC Thailand
59 Hakone Japan
60 Els Club - Desaru Coast (Ocean) Malaysia
61 Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula (West) China
62 Trinity GC Seoul South Korea
63 Shimonoseki Japan
64 Saujana (Palm) Malaysia
65 Royale Jakarta (West & South) Indonesia
66 Gokarna Forest Nepal
67 Singapore Island (New) Singapore
68 Tiger Beach China
69 Nagoya (Wago) Japan
70 Wellington (Griffin & Wyvern) South Korea
71 Siam (Old) Thailand
72 Els Club - Teluk Datai Malaysia
73 Empire Brunei
74 Wakamatsu Japan
75 Sherwood Hills Phillipines
76 Ta Shee (Kingfisher & Egret) Taiwan
77 Lion Lake - Qing Yuan (Moon) China
78 La Vie est Belle (Old) South Korea
79 Mission Hills (Lava Fields) China
80 Clearwater Bay Hong Kong
81 Sagami Japan
82 Angkor Cambodia
83 Hong Kong (New) Hong Kong
84 Shan-Shui Malaysia
85 Yeosu Gyungdo (Geumodo & Dolsando) South Korea
86 Mission Hills (Norman) China
87 Victoria Sri Lanka
88 Amata Spring Thailand
89 Haesley Nine Bridges South Korea
90 DLF (Gary Player) India
91 Pinx (East & West) South Korea
92 Taiwan G&CC Taiwan
93 Delhi (Lodhi) India
94 Blackstone Icheon (North & West) South Korea
95 Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau (East) Hong Kong
96 Thai Thailand
97 Blackstone Jeju (East & South) South Korea
98 Shek O Hong Kong
99 Katayamazu (Hakusan) Japan
100 Tanah Merah (Tampines) Singapore

Producing this inaugural Asian Top 100 was extremely challenging. Selecting just one hundred courses from forty or so Asian countries not only required breadth of knowledge but also many lengthy debates. If you'd like to share an opinion, then let us know by using the “Respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of this page.

To view further details of the Top 100 Golf Courses of Asia click the link.