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Teeing Off After Chairman Mao

27th June 2016

It’s hard to believe golf was illegal in China 30 years ago. Now there’s over 400 golf courses in China – some of which are amongst the very best on the planet.

While the Government moves between moratoriums on new courses and encouraging developers to build more courses (and a ban on its party members playing the sport), it’s all too clear to see China deserves a place as one of Asia’s best golfing locations.

Let's take a look at China’s five best golf course clubs.

1. Spring City Golf & Lake Resort, Kunming

Kunming – in south-western China – is quickly establishing a reputation as the golf capital of Asia. It’s easy to see why on Spring City Golf & Lake Resort’s intricate and visually spectacular lay-out (there’s two 18 hole championship courses here) – considered by many as the best two courses in China.

At 1,600 metres above sea level, mist drifts across rolling green hills and Lake Yang Zong Hai which lines the course. With such altitude, your golf ball goes at least 10 metres further – so be warned. Opened in 1998, this is the region’s most established course and was one of China’s first internationally recognised courses.

Hole 10 on the Lake Course. Image: Spring City Golf & Lake Resort

2. Mission Hills Golf Club, Haikou

Guess what? Mission Hills also have the world’s second biggest golf complex – on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. Ten of Asia’s best courses and a five-star hotel and mineral spa were built here in just 18 months. It took 25 000 workers working around the clock to complete.

There are courses here to suit everyone from novices to experts – the Blackstone course on the site is arguably Asia’s most challenging course and has hosted Tiger Woods and co at international PGA events. It’s lined with volcanic rock which causes errant drives to bounce off in every direction. For those wanting more than golf, it’s also close to China’s best beaches.

3. Mission Hills Golf Club, Shenzen

This is the world’s largest golf club – there’s 12 of Asia’s top golf courses (or 216 holes) all on the one site.  To put it in perspective, it’s worth considering that Australia’s largest course boasts 45 holes (two and a half courses). Three thousand golfers will play across a dozen courses in a single Saturday.

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But it’s not just about quantity at Mission Hills. These courses run between mountain streams, and across valleys lined with forest and are designed by the likes of Greg Norman and Pete Dye – and Mission Hills is just a one and a half hour drive from Hong Kong.

4. Stone Forest International Golf Club

There’s no more striking golf courses on Earth, it’s as simple as that. The three championship courses here are built across 24,500 hectares beside a World-Heritage listed area with 270 million year-old karst rock pinnacle landforms lining almost every fairway.

Playing here makes you feel more Indiana Jones than Jason Day, on one hole you even tee across a natural rock amphitheatre to a huge green that’s only reachable after a walk through a cave. Fairways twist and turn between rock platforms and there’s drives that require 100 metre carries across gaping chasms.

One rough you'll really want to avoid. Stone Forest International Country Club

5. Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club

Just an hour’s flight from Hong Kong, the island of Hainan is increasingly being seen as China’s golfing hot-spot. This course – along with Mission Hills’ 10 courses – has put Hainan on the world golf map. Think St Andrews in Scotland, but in a tropical sea surrounded by white sandy beaches and tiny offshore islands.

Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club overlooks the South China Sea and some holes require a carry over salt water, with a green built in amongst sand dunes and white sandy beaches. If that’s not hard enough, there’s volcanic rock on every hole to deflect wayward shots. This is China’s version of resort golf and it’s every bit as dramatic as Hawaii’s or Vegas’ offerings.