Top 100 Golf Courses updates its East Asia rankings
In recent years we’ve published quite a number of individual reports when revising the rankings for Asian countries. This time, we plan to rationalise things by grouping nations into regional releases. This is the first of three such news items, looking at China, Japan and South Korea under the banner of East Asia. We’ll produce further articles for Southeast Asia and South Asia but for now we’re concentrating on the three major golf markets in the eastern part of the continent.
We’ve extended our coverage in China to a Top 60, even though the overall golf provision in the country has contracted in the last few years. In our new listings, only four courses remain in the same position with fourteen others moving up, thirty-one dropping down, one falling out altogether (Tiger Beach, due to closure), and eleven layouts entering for the first time. With those numbers in mind, you might well be entitled to think there’s been something of a golfing shake-up in the People’s Republic.
Our new national #1 is Yangtze Dunes at Lanhai International Country Club on Chongming Island, at the mouth of the mighty Yangtze River. It rises an incredible sixteen spots from its previous chart position following a fantastic renovation of the former Jack Nicklaus-designed layout by the Australian design company Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Mead. This course upgrade also propelled it into our World 100 at #92 a few months ago.
Yangtze Dunes at Lanhai International Country Club
Our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary posted this after visiting last year: “The introduction of mouth-watering sand dunes, waste areas, sprawling rugged bunkers using Bermuda fairways and Bent greens makes this place rise above its peers across the continent. It’s completely different to anything you’ll find in Asia; especially given how firm the course is kept… this course has a more impressive mix of holes and topography than many of the courses that sadly linger on ranking lists”
The highest new entry appears at an impressive #12 and it’s the Linksland course at Dongzhuang Beach Golf Club next to Shanghai Pudong International Airport which was designed by Mark Hollinger of the JMP Golf Design Group. The club presents its members with two contrasting 18-hole layouts; the Parkland course features tree-lined fairways and a variety of water features while the Linksland course offers a links-like experience with firm and fast playing conditions.
Dongzhuang Beach Golf Club - Linksland course
Our China and Southern Asia correspondent Kimi Hoshiyama was here just over a year ago and reported as follows: “Dongzhuang Beach Golf Club has thirty-six holes built on tidal flats and marshes on the coastline… The Linksland course is a classic links-style seaside course with artificially created dunes, long rough to knee height and pot bunkers… Some ponds come into play and many bunkers are strategically placed. When the sea winds are strong, the course becomes really tough.”
A couple of courses make double digit advances in the new chart for China.
Lakeview Golf Club Kunming, on the northern shores of Dianchi Lake in Yunnan Province, is an early new millennium project from Nick Faldo that now climbs ten spots to #29. The club is a member of the IMG Prestige network of high-end golf facilities (one of only six in China) and the course is a typical Faldo track; strategic but fun to play, with well-positioned bunkers, rolling fairways and beautifully contoured greens.
Lakeview Golf Club Kunming
Soaring an incredible seventeen slots to #32, the 18-hole layout at Beijing CBD International is a Brit Stenson design situated less than 15 kilometres east of downtown Beijing. Occupying a rather flat 135-acre property where a number of little lakes were built to provide fill for contouring, the course hosted two consecutive editions of the Volvo China Open (in 2008 and 2009) soon after it first opened for play.
|1||Lanhai International (Yangtze Dunes)||Up 16|
|2||Shanqin Bay||Down 1|
|3||Mission Hills (Blackstone)||No change|
|4||Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula (East)||No change|
|5||Spring City (Lake)||Down 3|
|6||Sheshan International||Down 1|
|7||Spring City (Mountain)||Down 1|
|8||Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula (West)||Up 2|
|9||Jian Lake Blue Bay||Down 1|
|10||Shanghai Links||Down 3|
|11||Weihai Point||Up 4|
|12||Dongzhuang Beach (Linksland)||New entry|
|13||Reignwood Pine Valley (Golden Bear)||Up 3|
|14||Shanghai Qizhong Garden||New entry|
|15||Mission Hills (Lava Fields)||Down 2|
|16||Genzon (A)||Up 3|
|17||Mission Hills (Norman)||Down 3|
|18||Nanjing Zhongshan International (Mountain & Lake)||Down 9|
|19||Yalong Bay||Up 6|
|20||Lake Malaren (Masters)||No change|
|21||Shadow Creek - Beijing||Down 3|
|22||Reignwood Pine Valley (Nicklaus)||Up 5|
|23||Lion Lake (Moon)||Down 11|
|24||Lanhai International (Forest)||New entry|
|25||Sunshine - Kunming||Down 3|
|26||Mission Hills (Olazabal)||Down 2|
|27||Yulongwan - Kunming||Up 3|
|28||Mission Hills (Shadow Dunes)||New entry|
|29||Lakeview Kunming||Up 10|
|30||Nicklaus Club-Beijing||New entry|
|31||Chengdu Wolong Valley||Up 1|
|32||Beijing CBD International||Up 17|
|33||Mission Hills (Sandbelt Trails)||New entry|
|34||Peach Garden (East & West)||No change|
|35||Wind Valley (Member)||Up 7|
|36||Genzon GC (B)||New entry|
|37||Chongqing Riverview||Up 4|
|38||Beijing Qinghe Bay (West)||New entry|
|39||Jade Dragon Snow Mountain||New entry|
|40||27 Club - Tianjin||Down 14|
|41||Blue Bay International (Lakes) - Zhangzhou||Down 4|
|42||Topwin Beijing||Down 2|
|43||Mission Hills (Pete Dye)||Up 2|
|44||Lake Hill (Dragon)||Down 8|
|45||Beijing GC||New entry|
|46||Anji King Valley||Down 25|
|47||Suzhou Taihu||Down 24|
|48||Jian Lake Shaoxing||Down 17|
|49||Enhance Anting||Down 21|
|50||Sand River (A & B)||Down 17|
|51||Shenzhen (A & B)||Down 22|
|52||Mission Hills (Vintage)||New entry|
|54||Binhai Lake (Pete Dye)||Down 16|
|55||Beijing Honghua International||Down 5|
|56||Dongguan Hillview (Master)||Down 13|
|57||Agile (A)||Down 11|
|58||Mission Hills (Faldo)||Down 11|
|59||Mission Hills (World Cup)||Down 11|
|60||Trans Strait||Down 16|
To view the complete detailed list of the Top 60 Golf Courses of China click the link.
Thanks to the efforts of Kimi Hoshiyama and our extended team of raters, we’re expanding our rankings quite dramatically for Japan from a Top 50 to a Top 80. The new listings can be broken down numerically as follows: just four courses retain the same position as last time, fifteen move up, thirty-one drop down and thirty newcomers make their debut. As with the new Chinese table above, you might be forgiven if you think we’ve given the golf tree a good shake in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Having stated that, there’s no change at the top of the standings, with the world-class course at Hirono Golf Club still commanding the #1 berth in our Japanese chart. Laid out by Harry Colt’s design partner Hugh Alison back in 1932, it’s been altered by a number of architects down the years but the very recent modifications by Martin Ebert have elevated it to another level altogether.
Hirono Golf Club
Our well-travelled correspondent Fergal O’Leary visited six months ago and had this to say: “Every bunker has a handsome new look with aggressive edging and sharp-looking lines… Large dramatic waste areas between tees and the start of fairways have been introduced… All the greens have been resurfaced and mirror previous undulations… It’s absolutely the top dog in Japan and Asia.”
Fergal, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, then ended the review with his own little snippet of ancient Taoist philosophy: “Faces get older, swings get shorter, but as time goes by at Hirono, smiles get wider and horizons stronger”.
The accolade of “highest-placed newcomer” in our chart belongs to the course at Fujizakura Country Club as it enters at #14. Lying in the shadow of Mount Fuji, which peaks ten kilometres to the south, it’s a mid-1970s design from Noriyuki Miyoshi that has hosted the Fujisankei Classic event on the Japan Golf Tour since the 33rd edition of the annual professional tournament was moved to the club in 2005.
Fujizakura Country Club
Three courses make impressive positional gains in the new listings.
One of the first Japanese courses not to employ the dual green system, the course at Golden Valley Golf Club (up sixteen to #27) is a late 1980s Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout located deep in the hills to the north of Kobe. Here, the architect carved narrow playing corridors through three thickly forested valleys, with fairways laid out alongside a series of rock-lined creeks, making this one of the toughest tracks in the country.
Golden Valley Golf Club
Unveiled in 1992, the 18-hole layout at Passage Kinkai Island Golf Club (up thirteen to #35) isn’t actually set out set on an island at all as it’s situated on a peninsula on the west side of Omura Bay, directly opposite Nagasaki airport, with tree-lined fairways routed close to the water’s edge. Interestingly, visiting golfers can take a 20-minute ferry ride from the club’s marina across the bay to catch a plane home, as our man Kimi Hoshiyama did when he played here a while back.
Passage Kinkai Island Golf Club
The Royal Golf Club’s course (up twelve to #37) lies a 1.5-hour drive northeast of downtown Tokyo. Opened in 2016, it was designed by Nagato Yoichi, former Advisor to the Japan Tour Golf Association, who was brutally frank when describing this monster 8,143-yard layout: “There’s no course in the world that is tough on pro golfers and kind to amateurs. The Royal Golf Club course is equally difficult for both pro golfers and amateurs... I call holes that force players to swing with all their strength as ‘Yin holes’ and holes that let them think ‘Yang holes.’ When designing this course, I spent lots of time to strike a balance between Yin and Yang.”
|2||Kawana Hotel (Fuji)||No change|
|5||Yokohama (West)||Down 2|
|7||Kasumigaseki (East)||Down 1|
|13||Hokkaido Classic||Up 5|
|16||Tokyo Classic||Down 4|
|18||Kasumigaseki (West)||Down 1|
|23||Phoenix (Takachiho & Sumiyoshi)||Down 3|
|24||Taiheiyo (Gotemba)||Up 8|
|25||Ibaraki (West)||Down 4|
|26||Higashi Hirono||New entry|
|27||Golden Valley||Up 16|
|28||Rokko Kokusai (East)||New entry|
|29||Chiba (Umesato)||Up 8|
|31||Taiheiyo (Mashiko PGA)||New entry|
|34||Nagoya (Wago)||Down 9|
|35||Passage Kinkai Island||Up 13|
|36||Katayamazu (Hakusan)||Down 8|
|37||The Royal Golf Club||Up 12|
|39||Fukuoka (Wajiro)||New entry|
|42||Eniwa (Mashu & Akan)||New entry|
|43||Bonari Kogen||Down 12|
|44||Grandee Nasu Shirakawa (South & West)||New entry|
|45||Onotoyo GC||New entry|
|47||Pine Lake||Down 6|
|49||Sapporo (Wattsu)||Down 33|
|50||Ibusuki (Kaimon)||New entry|
|51||The Cypress G.C.||New entry|
|53||Tsu CC||New entry|
|54||Musashi (Toyooka)||Down 20|
|55||Sapporo (Yuni)||New entry|
|57||Murasaki (Sumire)||New entry|
|59||PGM Golf Resort Okinawa (Hibiscus & Bougainvillea)||New entry|
|60||Kawaguchiko (East & South)||New entry|
|62||New St Andrews (New)||New entry|
|63||Sagamihara (East)||Down 33|
|64||Shishido Hills (West)||New entry|
|66||Kawana Hotel (Oshima)||Down 16|
|67||Katsuragi (Yamana)||Down 29|
|68||Hokkaido Brooks||New entry|
|69||Ocean Palace||New entry|
|71||Musashi (Sasai)||Down 27|
|72||Keya (Daimon & Kofuji)||Down 39|
|73||Hiroshima (Hachihonmatsu)||Down 26|
|74||Ibaraki (East)||Down 29|
|76||Miyoshi (West)||Down 30|
|77||Ishioka G.C.||New entry|
|78||Gifu Seki (East)||New entry|
|79||Eagle Point||New entry|
|80||Nihonkai CC (West & Middle)||New entry|
To view the complete detailed list of the Top 80 Golf Courses of Japan click the link.
Our leading Korean correspondent Hwa-Young Nam has been of invaluable assistance with enlarging our table to a Top 50 and we’re grateful for the input he’s provided for this revision. With 798 courses in play at 440 facilities (according to a recent R&A report), the Republic of Korea is the eighth largest golfing nation in the world by number of courses so it’s only right that we give it due prominence.
Statistically, in this latest chart edition, six courses stay as they were, twelve make upward moves, twenty-two slide downwards and ten make their first appearance. One of the non-movers is our national #1, South Cape Owners Club, which took over from Nine Bridges as the best course in Korea when we re-ranked the country in 2016.
South Cape Owners Club
Set out on a spectacular site along the coastline of Namhae Island, just off the Korean mainland, this modern design lies at the heart of a luxury resort which was developed by businessman Jae Bong Chung, opening for business in 2013. Since 2016, the club has hosted the Descente Korea Munsingwear Matchplay tournament on the men’s Korean Tour.
Fergal O’Leary thinks that “what Kyle Phillips created at South Cape makes a lot of old classics shiver in the boots” while David Davis wonders “if, in the long run, it’s recognized as Kyle Phillips’ best gift to the golf world”. There’s no doubt this is one of the best pay and play golf facilities in the world, with off course amenities matching the fabulous playing experience out on the fairways.
A significant 5-place climb to #3 is made by Anyang Country Club, whose course was established by the founder of the Samsung Group back in the late 1960s to compete against any of the top golfing layouts located elsewhere in the world. It’s been renovated a couple of times since then, most notably by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in the late 1990s, to keep the “Korean Home of Golf” as playable and up to date with new trends, especially with regard to its putting surfaces.
Anyang Country Club
The biggest leap up the ladder is made by the Dream and Vision nines at Sagewood Country Club (up seven to #18) which form the leading 18-hole layout at a well-regarded 27-hole golf complex from Nicklaus Design in the mountainous district of Hongcheon in Gangwon Province. Opening its doors to golfers as Blue Mountain Country Club in 2013, this renamed golf club lies 765 metres above sea level, with golf played out in a harmonious environment where ‘the blue sky meets the mountains’ according to the club’s publicity material.
Sagewood Country Club
The highest of ten newcomers shows up at #31 and it’s the course at NamChon Golf Club, which was renovated by Kyle Phillips in 2016, the year after it had hosted two editions of the KB Financial Star Championship on the LPGA of Korea Tour. With Zoysia fairways and Creeping Bent greens, the playing surfaces of the East and West nines at Namchon are second to none on a layout that can now be stretched to just over 7,000 yards for tournament play.
NamChon Golf Club
|1||South Cape Owners Club||No change|
|2||Nine Bridges||No change|
|4||Jack Nicklaus||Up 2|
|5||Woo Jeong Hills||Down 1|
|6||Wellington (Griffin & Wyvern)||Up 4|
|7||Whistling Rock (Temple & Cocoon)||Down 4|
|8||Jade Palace (West & East)||Down 3|
|9||Haesley Nine Bridges||Up 4|
|10||Pine Beach (Pine & Beach)||Down 3|
|11||Trinity Club||Down 2|
|12||La Vie est Belle (Old)||Down 1|
|13||Pinx (East & West)||Up 1|
|14||Blackstone Icheon (North & West)||Up 1|
|15||Sagewood Yeosu Gyungdo (Geumo & Dolsan)||Down 3|
|16||Blackstone Jeju (East & South)||No change|
|17||Sky 72 (Ocean)||No change|
|18||Sagewood (Dream & Vision)||Up 7|
|19||Skyhill Jeju (Ocean & Sky)||Down 1|
|20||South Springs (Lake & Mountain)||Up 1|
|21||The Star Hue||Down 2|
|23||Seowon Valley (East & West)||No change|
|24||Gapyeong Benest (Maple & Pine)||Down 2|
|25||Seolhaewon (Salmon & Seaview)||Up 2|
|27||Montvert (Printemps & Ete)||Up 2|
|28||Rainbow Hills (South & East)||Down 8|
|30||Blue One Sangju (East & West)||Down 4|
|32||Phoenix - Pyeongchang||Down 1|
|33||Hill de Loci||No change|
|34||Saint Four (Cielo & Bosco)||Up 4|
|35||Ferrum Club||New entry|
|37||East Valley (South & East)||New entry|
|38||Blue Heron||Down 4|
|39||Bear Creek (Creek)||Down 4|
|40||Pine Ridge (Pine & Ridge)||Down 4|
|41||Sky 72 (Hanul)||New entry|
|42||Ildong Lakes||Down 5|
|43||Sono Felice||Down 4|
|44||Cheongpyeong Midas||New entry|
|45||Skyhill Jeju (Hill & Forest)||Down 5|
|46||Welli Hilli (South)||New entry|
|47||Bear's Best CheongNa (Australasia & USA)||New entry|
|48||Yongpyong (Birch Hill)||New entry|
To view the complete detailed list of the Top 50 Golf Courses of South Korea click the link.
Top 100 Golf Courses