Keen to play golf in Asia? Pack your passport and your clubs (or just hire them when you’re there!) and head in search of birdies at our pick of 10 great holes on some of the best courses in the region.
Par 3, 145 yards
There are over 200 golf courses in Thailand so it takes something special to be on experienced golfers’ must-play list. Amata Spring Country Club has hosted many high-profile events since opening in 2005, including the Thailand Golf Championship. This flagship event of the Asian Tour was won twice by England’s Lee Westwood and also by the likes of Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel. Amata also boasts the only “floating green” in Asia. You might want to pack you swimmers for the par-three 17th hole because you’ll be in the water if your 8-iron isn’t perfect. In fact, the green is on its own little island, so you’ll need to be on in one before you can board the boat to finish the hole.
Green fees: You’ll need to buddy up with a club member before you can play here!
Par 3, 212 yards
Take a deep breath and close your eyes before you tee off at the 13th because its scenery could be a ruinous distraction. Located in Hanoi, Vietnam, the Sky Lake Resort & Golf Club is surrounded by magnificent mountains and a large natural lake called Van Son. The course often has quite an ethereal feel so many golfers play a round there wondering if the gods are watching. The resort also has pool villas to stay in and a spa with lots of other activities so it’s one weekend the whole family might enjoy.
Green fees: From around US$120, including cart
Par 4, 402 yards
Voted as one of the “500 Best Holes in the World”, the par-4 third at Clearwater Bay looks daunting, with water and rocks lining the right side of the narrow fairway, and ocean surrounding the green. To make things just a touch harder, there are large fairway bunkers that you’ll need to clear before playing your second shot in to the green. Oh, and think pretty hard about club selection for your second. It can be windy here, and if you get the judgement wrong, you’re in the South China Sea. The Clearwater Bay course plays host to a PGA Tour Series China event each year.
Green fees: From HK$2,000
Par 3, 161 yards
The brainchild of renowned golf course designer Andy Dye, the World Classic Course was inspired by the historic courses in Scotland, Ireland and the US, so Laguna is his shot at creating “the world’s best holes in one course”. Consequently the course has been rated one of the most difficult in Singapore. The 17th has an island green that’s three times bigger than the 17th at Sawgrass in Florida – one of the most photographed holes in golf in Asia. Once you make it on to the green there’s large movement for testing putts, and a mistake will almost certainly cost you your ball along with your pride. It’s risk-reward golf at its finest.
Green fees: From around S$400 for international visitors. A one-year golfing membership costs S$25,000, with no further green fees payable
Par 4, 487 yards
One of the toughest finishing holes in the region, the 18th here is a long dogleg with water to the left and dense forest to the right. A well-struck drive from the championship tees should find a generous landing area but you’ll need at least a 5-wood or a hybrid for the approach shot – and you’ll need to mind the lake that extends right up to the green. It’s a good hole to challenge a low handicap.
Green fees: From S$139 (weekdays)
Par 3, 180 yards
The Nicklaus-designed course at Mission Hills offers its first ocean view at the 4th. The green is flanked by sand, sea and a stunning back drop – golf in Asia doesn’t get much better than this. The long bunkers mean that golfers who push the ball out to the right will find it a very tricky pitch back to the green from an uneven lie.
Green fees: S$200, with discounts for in-house guests
Par 3, 122 yards
A tee area next to a large waterfall in front of the Malay kampung-style halfway house marks the beginning of this challenging par 3 on the East Course. The left side of the island green is a little more open and forgiving with a small section of fairway before the carpet. But a precise short iron is necessary to avoid the deep water all around. A ridge splits the green in two so long putts over the uphill and downhill sections are difficult to judge.
Green fees: From S$140, weekdays.
Par 4, 388 yards
Overlooking Yangzong Lake in Southwest China, Spring City’s Lake Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, is widely regarded as one of China’s best courses. The dramatic 7th hole has a spectacular panorama of the lake and rolling green fields being buffeted by the wind. You have to play straight into a headwind and drive well left to the open fairway.
Green fees: From S$490 for two players
Par 5, 470 yards
“This paradise… lies among the hills beyond the hot springs of Ito on a pine-covered plateau bordered by red cliffs which descend down to the blue sea,” wrote Charles H. Alison, designer of Kawana Hotel Golf Course. And he didn’t even mention that most of the holes offer Mount Fuji as a backdrop. It’s also one of the world’s few golf courses with an outdoor escalator that helps you up steep terrain to the 5th tee. The par-five 15th is played on a high cliff with dramatic views and you can hear the waves crashing below you. You won’t want to play long onto the green as there’s a very steep drop off behind.
Green fees: Only hotel guests can play. Weekdays from JPY25, 000.
Club Intramuros, Manila, The Philippines
Par 4, 259 yard
This may be a left-field choice as far as great golf in Asia goes, as Club Intramuros (golfingphilippines.com) doesn’t boast fantastic scenery or fresh air. But being built within the walled city of Intramuros in the early 1900s, the course unusually serves as a walk through the country’s history. The 2nd hole runs along the Postigo del Palacio; a gate that was used as a secret entrance and exit for the Governor General and the Archbishop of Manila when they wanted to leave the walls unnoticed. The hole is a slight dogleg to the right and plays to a very difficult green that slopes away from the golfer. Play at night after your last meeting and enjoy the novelty of a round in the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities.
Green fees: PHP1,800
Find out more about golf in Asia, plus other sporting holidays in our Travel section.