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GOLF TRAVEL A Player’s Guide

Mission Hills marvel: the daunting parthree eleventh on the Norman Course 74

HK Golfer・MAY 2011


The Best of Guangdong Looking for a quality golf break across the border? These five clubs will fit the bill, writes Alex Jenkins MISSION HILLS

The world's biggest golf club probably warrants a weighty hardback tome to give its plethora of courses (there are 12), hotels (three) and additional amenities (it has more tennis courts – 51 – than any other resort in Asia) complete justice. But anyway. Remarkably, not all Hong Kong golfers have actually ventured to this astonishing facility, one which actually comprises three separate sites – named Shenzhen, Dongguan and Mid-Valley – that combined occupy great swathes of the Guangdong countryside. Our tip: head for Dongguan. A newly-built luxury hotel puts you in the midst of the best courses at the complex. Our favourite is the Greg Norman-designed Norman Course, which thunders through gorgeous, undulating terrain and features uncompromising bunkering and devilish green complexes. It's undoubtedly the most penal track here (and maybe the toughest course in China), but low handicappers will relish the challenge. The bunkerstrewn (and very scenic) Olazabal Course, which hosted the World Cup in 2008 and 2009, is justifiably popular and should be the choice for those looking for a slightly easier – and arguably more enjoyable – ride, while the Faldo Course (a 15-minute shuttle bus journey away at Mid Valley), with its imaginative use of sand, generous fairways and famous sixteenth hole, which features an island green, is reckoned to be the members' favourite. CONTACT:; (852) 2122 0888 GETTING THERE: Regular shuttle bus from Kam Tin to Dongguan Clubhouse (one hour) ACCOMMODATION: Brand-new five-star hotel on site


HK Golfer・MAY 2011



Comprising two first-rate championship courses and a wonderfully-appointed clubhouse and hotel, Agile Golf & Country Club is ideally suited for a one night/two day stay. It also has the advantage of being accessible by ferry – which in our opinion is far more comfortable and less hectic than passing through the land border at Huanggang (unless you're taking a car with crossborder plates). The JMP-designed A Course here features constant elevation change and appealing palm-fringed fairways. Water is prominent too, and although not all of it is in play, wayward drivers should take heed. The B Course gallops across more gentle land but is a more challenging proposition for recreational golfers due to its length: from the monster tees, only one parfour measures less than 400 yards. If you leave your ego at the gate (this is part of an upmarket gated community) and play from the blue (or even white) tees, it becomes vastly more playable. While there are very few true private courses in the province, Agile (pronounced Agil-a) has a healthy membership – one that seems particularly well-versed when it comes to speed of play issues. In numerous visits, we've never had to endure anything longer than four hours for 18 holes. CONTACT: (Chinese only); (86) 760 8332 868 GETTING THERE: Ferry to Zhongshan (80 minutes); 20-minute shuttle bus to club ACCOMMODATION: Five-star hotel on site


HK Golfer・MAY 2011


Such is the quality of the two courses at Dongguan Hillview Golf Club that this correspondent seriously contemplated taking up membership a few years' ago. It wasn't to be however – its location, a good 70-minute drive north of the border, makes getting there and back in a day rather more arduous than is preferable. But for those willing to stay the night or longer – at either the boutique Sofitel hotel attached to the club, or the equally comfortable but larger Sofitel resort just five minutes' away – the club warrants definite consideration. Of the two Jim Engh-designed layouts at Hillview, the Master Course takes most of the plaudits thanks largely to its muscular bunkering and lychee-framed landing areas. Although some extravagant real estate does catch the eye on a number of holes, the course manages to retain the feeling of seclusion and finishes in glorious fashion with a mid-length par-four that clings to the side of a lake. Hillview was one of Engh's first solo projects and he has since gone on to become one of the most sought-after architects in America. Play just one round at the Master and you'll understand why. CONTACT:; (86) 769 2220 9998 GETTING THERE: No shuttle bus; 70-minute drive from border ACCOMMODATION: Sofitel resort on site


Provincial pleasures (clockwise from top): the eighteenth on the Masters Course at Hillview; swining at surreal Shenzhen GC; the fourth on the Norman Course is another splendid par three; elevation change is a factor on the A Course at Agile


One of the oldest courses on the mainland and situated amid Shenzhen's wacky skyscrapers, Shenzhen Golf Club is by far and away the quickest course to get to from Hong Kong – after just ten minutes in a cab from Huanggang you'll be enjoying a coffee in this exclusive course's fashionably minimalist clubhouse. Originally designed by Japanese legend Isao Aoki in the mid-1980s, the club received a needed renovation by Nelson & Haworth (designers of the East Course at the Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau) a decade ago. All three nines here are well worth playing – the views of the encroaching city make it a somewhat surreal experience – and are characterised by pleasingly wide fairways and rather less welcoming greenside bunkers. But it's the putting surfaces that do the most damage to the scorecard; heavily contoured and normally lightning-fast, the greens at Shenzhen GC, home course of China's favourite golfing son, Zhang Lian-wei, are some of the most fearsome in the land. But time would seem to be running out for the club. It's lease, according to recent newspaper reports, expires in 2015 and city officials have already indicated that a change of land use is desired. Enjoy it while it lasts. CONTACT: (86) 755 3308 888 GETTING THERE: Taxi from Huanggang (10 minutes) NOTES: Visitors permitted on weekdays only ACCOMMODATION: None on site, but literally dozens of options within 20 minutes' drive HKGOLFER.COM

HK Golfer・MAY 2011


The eighteenth on the Nicklaus Course at Chung Shan


The Grand Dame of Chinese Golf, the Arnold Palmer-designed Palmer Course at Chung Shan is the country's oldest, opening its doors for the first time in 1984. The Nicklaus Course arrived a few years later – and together these two layouts cement the club's status as one of Guangdong's premier clubs. The Palmer and Nicklaus couldn't be more different. The tree-lined Palmer, which wouldn't look out of place in the English Home counties, might be deemed rather diminutive by today's standards but manages to hold its own in part to narrow fairways and tiny, well-protected greens. Any demerits? Unfortunately a row of seriously hideous villas have been erected (not by the club) adjacent the fourteenth hole, which rather detracts from the Olde Worlde nature of the place, and the once-bijou seventeenth, a gorgeous par-three, has been altered for reasons unknown. But in the grand scheme of things these are really quite minor gripes – at least for the visiting golfer. The Nicklaus, meanwhile, winds its way through ancient woodland and features much more in the way of elevation change. Heroic driving is required; high-flighted iron shots are an advantage to the course's pushed-up (and exceptionally well-bunkered) greens, while water comes into play on a number of holes, including the thrilling eighteenth, a downhill par-four with a green perched on the banks of a lake. Chung Shan is the home course of former Asian Tour number one Liang Wenchong, and the great man can often be seen honing his game on the practice range. CONTACT:; (852) 2521 0377 GETTING THERE: Ferry to Zhuhai (70 minutes); 30-minute taxi to club ACCOMMODATION: The three-star Chung Shan Hot Spring Resort is within three-wood distance of the clubhouse


The pretty third hole at Chung Shan's Palmer Course


HK Golfer・MAY 2011

Palm Island (, an hour's drive from the border, is a beautiful Thai-style resort with 27 holes from Nicklaus Design, which although flat, manage to hold interest. Recommended for families. Pine Valley Sports & Country Club (, a 40-minute shuttle bus ride from the Zhuhai Ferry Terminal, is one of the most enjoyable and picturesque courses in the region – its refreshingly free from the urban and residential sprawl that tends to hove into view at most courses in Guangdong. The food, too, is excellent – fish are plucked from the club's lake and vegetables are grown organically on site. Somewhat unusually for a golf club in this part of the world, pheasant hunting is also available. HKGOLFER.COM


A Player’s Guide HKGOLFER.COM 7 HK GOLFER・MAY 2011 Mission Hills marvel: the daunting par- three eleventh on the Norman Course HKGOLFER.COM...

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