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Top 100 Golf Courses of Asia 2018

07 February, 2018

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.

Woo 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.

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.

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.

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.

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


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.


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