Top 100 Golf Courses updates its East Asia rankings

23 March 2020 Respond to this article

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.


China

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

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.

Linksland course at Dongzhuan Beach Golf Club

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

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.

Rank/ Course Move
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
53 Luxehills Down 18
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.


Japan

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

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

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

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

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.”

Rank/ Course Move
1 Hirono No change
2 Kawana Hotel (Fuji) No change
3 Naruo Up 1
4 Tokyo Up 1
5 Yokohama (West) Down 2
6 Ono Up 1
7 Kasumigaseki (East) Down 1
8 Abiko No change
9 Oarai Up 1
10 Koga Down 1
11 Nikko No change
12 Ryugasaki Up 1
13 Hokkaido Classic Up 5
14 Fujizakura New entry
15 Shimonoseki Up 9
16 Tokyo Classic Down 4
17 Takanodai Up 5
18 Kasumigaseki (West) Down 1
19 Katsura New entry
20 Karuizawa Down 6
21 Nasu Down 6
22 Hakone Up 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
30 Ise Down 11
31 Taiheiyo (Mashiko PGA) New entry
32 Horai New entry
33 Osaka Up 9
34 Nagoya (Wago) Down 9
35 Passage Kinkai Island Up 13
36 Katayamazu (Hakusan) Down 8
37 The Royal Golf Club Up 12
38 Caledonian New entry
39 Fukuoka (Wajiro) New entry
40 Narusawa New entry
41 Otaru Down 12
42 Eniwa (Mashu & Akan) New entry
43 Bonari Kogen Down 12
44 Grandee Nasu Shirakawa (South & West) New entry
45 Onotoyo GC New entry
46 Sagami Down 19
47 Pine Lake Down 6
48 Nishi-Nasuno Down 8
49 Sapporo (Wattsu) Down 33
50 Ibusuki (Kaimon) New entry
51 The Cypress G.C. New entry
52 Narita New entry
53 Tsu CC New entry
54 Musashi (Toyooka) Down 20
55 Sapporo (Yuni) New entry
56 Natsudomari Down 21
57 Murasaki (Sumire) New entry
58 Kinojo New entry
59 PGM Golf Resort Okinawa (Hibiscus & Bougainvillea) New entry
60 Kawaguchiko (East & South) New entry
61 Wakamatsu Down 35
62 New St Andrews (New) New entry
63 Sagamihara (East) Down 33
64 Shishido Hills (West) New entry
65 Aichi Down 29
66 Kawana Hotel (Oshima) Down 16
67 Katsuragi (Yamana) Down 29
68 Hokkaido Brooks New entry
69 Ocean Palace New entry
70 Miyazaki New entry
71 Musashi (Sasai) Down 27
72 Keya (Daimon & Kofuji) Down 39
73 Hiroshima (Hachihonmatsu) Down 26
74 Ibaraki (East) Down 29
75 Daisen Down 36
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.


South Korea

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

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

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

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

NamChon Golf Club


Rank/ Course Move
1 South Cape Owners Club No change
2 Nine Bridges No change
3 Anyang Up 5
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
22 Hwasan Up 2
23 Seowon Valley (East & West) No change
24 Gapyeong Benest (Maple & Pine) Down 2
25 Seolhaewon (Salmon & Seaview) Up 2
26 DeBeach Up 2
27 Montvert (Printemps & Ete) Up 2
28 Rainbow Hills (South & East) Down 8
29 Sandpine Up 1
30 Blue One Sangju (East & West) Down 4
31 NamChon New entry
32 Phoenix - Pyeongchang Down 1
33 Hill de Loci No change
34 Saint Four (Cielo & Bosco) Up 4
35 Ferrum Club New entry
36 Konjiam Down 4
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
49 Maestro New entry
50 NamSeoul New entry


To view the complete detailed list of the Top 50 Golf Courses of South Korea click the link.

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses