Top 20 Golf Courses of South Korea 2016
We extend our coverage of courses in South Korea with the introduction of a new Top 20 chart
We’re always grateful for input from local correspondents in countries around the world who can help define our golf course rankings. We’re constantly researching, trying to keep abreast of the changing golf landscape, but there’s really nothing to beat having an experienced person on the ground with their finger on the pulse keeping a regional watch on new golfing developments.
We connected with one such contributor last year, Hwa Young Nam, our Korea Correspondent, who’s a member of the International Golf Travel Writers Association and a rating panellist for one of the leading golf magazines. He’s played well over a hundred courses in his native country and his insight has been instrumental in shaping our latest edition of the South Korean chart.
Without Young’s local knowledge, we’d never have been able to contemplate extending our coverage for South Korea so we’re grateful for his assistance during the re-ranking process. His input not only verified and endorsed the relative positions of the top courses in relation to one another, it also identified six truly worthwhile additions, making the expansion to a Top 20 a more meaningful exercise – Seowan Valley unfortunately had to step aside for the new entrants.
Without further ado, we’ll now take a look at the major points concerning our new South Korean chart. First of all, there’s a new number 1, with South Cape Owners Club climbing three places from number 4 to reach the top of the chart. Located on Namhae Island, off the southeast coast of the mainland, this course also entered our recent World Top 100 at number 91 so there’s no denying the new-found status of this place as one of the best new golfing layouts on the planet.
Opened at the end of 2013, the course is the focal point of a luxury resort developed by successful Korean businessman Jae Bong Chung which includes a 40-suite boutique hotel and 130 private sea view villas. As a recent reviewer said of the course; “What Kyle Phillips created at South Cape makes a lot of old classics shiver in their boots. The golf world needs to brace itself, as this whole experience takes you to unimaginable levels of euphoria.”
The Golfplan design firm –where globe-trotting architect Ron Fream was once a senior partner – is headed these days by David Dale and Kevin Ramsey and the company has worked on around twenty South Korean projects over the last twenty-five years. Their Nine Bridges course on Jeju Island had been our top ranked Korean course since 2009 but it now drops down to the runner-up position.
It’s not all bad though for the California-based company because another course in its portfolio, Haesley Nine Bridges, rises three places to number 5 in our revised listings. This 18-hole layout was constructed for the same developer that commissioned the offshore Nine Bridges course and it has been built to top spec, with sub-air and hydronics systems installed in all eighteen greens under the direction of the director of agronomy at Augusta National.
The only other course to make an upward move in our Korean standings is the spectacular layout at the 27-hole Whistling Rock Country Club complex (up five to number 8) where the Temple and Cloud nines form the principal 18-hole course. Ted Robinson Jnr fashioned the three 9-hole circuits here, a decade after his father Ted Snr laid out Pinx on Jeju Island in 1999, with his team having to dynamite thousands of tons of rock to clear a route for many of the playing corridors.
The highest of our new entries is Blackstone Icheon at number 10, with the North and West circuits forming the best 18-hole combination at this 27-hole club. Brian Costello of the JMP Golf Design Group laid out the course in 2010 (four years after he constructed the Blackstone course on Jeju Island) and it announced its arrival in dramatic style by hosting three editions of the short-lived Ballantine’s Championship on the European Tour, starting in 2011.
We always welcome opinions when we publish updated national rankings so feel free to let us know what you think of our new South Korean Top 20 chart. Have we omitted a course which should be listed or do we include a layout that really shouldn’t be there? Please click the “Respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of the page if you’d like to make us aware of your thoughts.
To view further details of the South Korean Top 20 click the link
22 February 2016 Respond to this article