Golf Courses in Kunming & Lijiang, China
Course-by-Course Introduction to Golf in-&-around
the ever-spring cities of Yunnan Province, China
Spring City Golf Resort of Kunming, Yunnan – There’s a saying in China, the best conference is always a conference held in Kunming. Why? Because Kunming’s always neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter: an almost perfect climate for contemplation. Don’t believe us, simply because we have not done a survey in a vast country like China; the saying actually came from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The conclusion was the culmination of having travelled to all parts of the country to attend seemingly endless rounds of conferences by a public servant there. So if Kunming is a representation of fine weather in China, Spring City is that for Kunming…well, at least for golf and decadent pleasure living.
Located about an hour’s drive from the city center in Yiliang county, this resort has two 18-hole courses seperately designed by famous names. Regarded by many as the better of the two; depending on your level of appreciation really; the Lake Course was designed by R. T. Jones Jr. Described by some as ‘..the natural topography containing all the requisite drama…’ and for what is ostensibly a resort course, this Par-72 7,200-yard course is indeed a tough one. Nearly all tee-off shots require a generally higher level of accuracy and the 40-meter elevational difference between the clubhouse and the edge of the scenic Yang Zong Hai Lake only adds to the woes even when it fails to deceive the more experienced in its openness. Perhaps because of this and together with the cool temperate climate, exacting design of the course, the scenic surrounding and the well-maintained bent grass, the US Golf Digest magazine ranked this course The Number One Course of China.
Measuring longer at 7,453 yards, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Mountain Course is another kettle of fish. Situated behind the clubhouse, this 18-hole Par-72 is built, in the designer’s own words, ‘..to compliment the area’s climate..’ and is thus ‘..framed by native pines and rock out-croppings highlighted by picturesque views of the mountain and the lake.’. Sounds like golfing in a scroll of poetic Chinese landscape brush painting isn’t it? The main features are therefore elevated tee boxes and greens; generous fairways for a ‘great run down’ for bonus distances. Others, including a liberal sprinkling of bunkers and grassy hollows, demand a more than usual accuracy. Well contoured Bentgrass-covered greens will test your concentration to the fullest. But otherwise, the five sets of tees will ensure anyone of any level will enjoy playing here.
Dianchi Lake View Golf Club of Kunming – Hardly 10 kilometers from Kunming city center, Lake View is yet another of Nick Faldo’s stable of fine golf courses and carved out of the natural land formation in a region renowned for its natural beauty. The course hugs alongside the shores of Dianchi Lake, the 6th. largest in China and has the majestic beauty of the ‘West Mountain’, Xishan, as the backdrop. The lake is, incidentally, the migratory sanctuary of the Siberian Red-beaked Gull and the region is also famous for many varieties of native flora and fauna peculiar only to the region. Due credit to the designer, the beautiful and ever-spring climatic surrounding only so easily makes the course one of the best places to play in.
Not surprisingly, this finely turfed Par-72 7,260-yard course plays to rolling hills and trespassing waterways, some connected to the big lake, while strategically placed sand bunkers compliment to make this course a testy one and yet a pleasure to play on. Take the Par-5 651-yard Hole#6 for instance, the fairway is fairly open and generally lies straight to the green. But do not be deceived. Two well placed bunkers (in terms of their respecitve distances from the tee-box and positions) serve to make the entire passage a ‘double-dogleg’, right first and then left. And if you must rip it because of the distance and openness (incidentally this is the longest hole on the course), be very accurate as well.
The Par-4 423-yard Hole#16 has a somewhat similar vein with a slight dog-leg to the right but the reachable Bent Grass-green slopes to the left often leaving the player hesitant on choice of landing on an otherwise easy Par-4. The short Par-4 336-yard Hole#17 is ‘The Hole of Redemption’ for the ‘do-or-die’-hards. Its sharp dogleg left to a well-bunkered green with water skirting the left side allows a one-on if you are brave and strong-hitting enough and also not jittery having to do a strong and high carry-over a wide expense of water.
Kunming Country Club – This is one of the oldest golf courses in the city. This Les Watts-designed course is located hardly 30 minutes from the airport on the way to the must-go tourist attraction of Stone Forest in the Jiuxiang County region. Reputedly built making full use of the landform in perfect harmony with the surrounding scenery, this Par-72 6,918-yard course covers an enormous 90 hactares of land. It is an open course with many sharp dogleg-right holes. With ten Par-4 holes of fair distances and only 4 Par-5s, there is little room for easy birdies. Strategic play and clever course management are essential here for good scores. The most memorable hole however is the Par-5 580-yard Hole#11. The resilience of the Burmuda turf used both for the greens and fairways provides an all year round well preserved green.
Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain Golf Club of Lijiang, Yunnan – Golfing in Shangri-la?
Nestling at the southern foot of the Heng Duan mountain range which straddles the border intersections of the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Club is the epitome of a golf course in heavenly peace. At nearly 5,600 meters above sea-level, you would literally be teeing off in thin air, and that, seriously, means an estimated 20% longer in distance gained from the reduction of atmospheric resistance. But don’t jump for joy as yet as this Nelson & Haworth-designed 18-hole Par-72 course is also one of the longest golf courses in the world at 8,548 yards!
Built on gently rolling hills and pine covered hillocks with sparkling stream waters from the mountains traversing the fairways, Jade Dragon has been voted several times as one of the most beautiful courses in the world. Numerous elevated tee areas overlook the generous fairways. And the generous fairways below appear rushing remorselessly towards the majestic screen of snow-capped mountain range in the distance. Typical of these is the Par-4 497-yard ‘All The Way Down’ Hole#15 which even has its green sloping backward to suit should you have by now got used to the one-way terrain. The Par-5 741-yard Hole#5 is another downhill hole with a wide sand pit sitting strategically in-between and offering not much consolation. A strong carry-over is necessary here. The Par-3s of 207-yard Hole#8 and 260-yard Hole#12 add variety to the course. The former is a confidence trickster with a big lake all the way to the front of the green and the latter a wide sand area on the left to the green. Watch for the right-sloping tee-box! All these stand testimony to an exhilarating golfing experience here for any visitor.
According to the records, of all the aspects of the mountain range, the one in view from the Par-5 634-yard Hole#1 has so far been used only as a reference for tee-off and never, never has it been climbed or conquered by golfers, or mountaineers. Do not miss the opportunity! You could be the first if you would take the first step for a great leap upward by first conquering this course! Contact Us? (Well, we’ll get you the General Office of Mountaineering Activities of the People’s Republic of China, at the least!)
Dali Stone Mountain Golf Club Tucked somewhere between Kunming and Lijiang, this is quite a rare and certainly very challenging 18-hole course built on the slope of the steep pine tree-clad Chang Shan Mountain that squeezes the narrow strip of lowland where Dali town lies and the vast Er Hai Lake with another mountain range beyond.
A bit unusual perhaps for a lone and way out course, the front 9 was a Faldo-designed and the back by Ian Woosnam. The entire course experiences an elevational difference of nearly 200 meters with almost all the fairways aligned along the mountain slope, and so it’s either a steep up or down most of the time.
While the resultant gains and losses from gravity more or less even out, the key to a good score here seems to be the ability to adjust well to making good judgement on the steep angular line of the shot; getting the correct line in the first place is another matter.
Unless one’s used to such terrain, club selection for effective distance is as much difficult.
Course maintenance and grass condition though (at time of visit) is of a high standard, if it’s a consolation.
On a typically tough one like the uphill Par-4 359-Yard Hole-16 with a small green on a plateau, bunkers surrounding the green only make it so much more challenging. But the real let off is the quality of the sand. Strong mountain winds regularly sweep away the replenishment of finer grains leaving only the course ones behind making it quite an experience sliding the club head through the ‘sand’.
With the quaint historic town, the vast sparkling lake and the full-length mountain range in panoramic view from any of the fairways, one could perhaps be reasonably excused for a less than satisfactory 2-inch putt, all for a distraction too many, no?