Golfing around... Nanjing

10 Oct 2006 by intern11

Zhang Lie Bing & Catherine Lee check out places to tee off in the area where golf in China was born

Nanjing, located along the Yangtze River, has been the imperial seat of many of China’s imperial dynasties. Today, it is the capital city of Jiangsu Province. 

Thus, it’s not surprising to hear local golfers make jokes about how their “stately” styles parallel kings. Few people, however, know that Nanjing was the site of the country’s maiden golf course. In 1929, a nine-hole course was built where the Zhongshan International Golf Club now stands. (This is not to be confused with Zhongshan Hot Spring Golf Club in Guangdong Province which opened in 1984, the first facility of its kind to be built in modern China.) 

Back then, the precursor of China golf courses was used by the then ruling Kuomintang government as the perfect venue to socialise with western businessmen, officials and politicians. At Madam Soong Mei Ling’s (Mrs Chiang Kai-shek) suggestion, the nine-hole course was enlarged and named the “Nanking Suburb Club” and the then Chinese foreign minister was appointed the club’s committee chairman. Sadly, decades of civil war followed and this historic facility was destroyed, abandoned and forgotten.

Today, the green lawns of the Zhongshan International Golf Club beckon to a new generation of golfers. Some things never change, and thankfully, the passion for the sport is one of them.

Gingkolake International Golf Club

Where is it? The Gingkolake International Golf Club (above) is conveniently located in the southern suburbs of Nanjing, next to the economic development zone. It’s an easy 20-minute ride from the city centre and 16km from Lukou Airport. 

What’s it like? As the name suggests, this 27-hole course designed by David Jonsa is built on an old forest of gingko, camelia and osmanthus.

Many who have played here speak fondly of the stately character of the course and we believe the surroundings should get credit for it. The scented foliage, together with the rolling hills and mirror-like lakes, make a game here a rejuvenating experience.

Zone A hole 6 is an unusually long par-5 – 570 metres in total. The good visibility of the downward-sloping fairway would lure many long hitters into wanting to beat par, but we have seen many hopelessly lost balls in the seemingly-endless slope to the right, not to mention those trapped by the water hazard and the bunker.

So, do be sure not only to hit hard, but also hit right if you were to do a long one. Otherwise, staying with par does seem to us the better strategy.

Zone C hole 5 is a 198-metre par-3 with a small and protruding green. The hard work that you have put into perfecting your putting will be rewarded here, for the simple task of hitting the ball up the green and making sure that it stays there is already a challenge.

Zone C hole 9 is the last one of the game. With the attractive clubhouse already in view, there is a tendency for many to lose sight of the water hazard that hides on the left of this 365-metre par-4 dog-leg. Stay focused and try not to give out in the end.

Handicap Requirement: 36 or better.

Can I hire clubs? Yes, US$18 for a set of clubs and US$6.30 for shoes.

After the golf? The restaurant in the clubhouse offers a good opportunity to taste the Huaiyang cuisine, featuring dishes from the imperial court. The fish patê is an example of the elaborate cooking – where fish juices are mixed with fish flesh and spices to form a chilled refreshing appetiser. 

Other facilities: The course consists of three zones: Zone A (3.38km), Zone B (3.29km) and Zone C (3.36km) are all par-36 nine-hole courses. The club is also equipped with a double-deck driving range with 80 lanes, greens and even a bunker. This facility attracts beginners eager to practise their skills. Apart from the clubhouse, there’s also a golf shop, restaurants and an alfresco bar.

Prices: For 18 holes, it’s US$73 on weekdays and US$111 on weekends and holidays. For nine holes, it’s US$53 on weekdays and US$82 on weekends and holidays. Prices include green and caddy fees and golfing cart. Special discounts are available for groups of 30 or more. 

Club hours: From 0600 to 1830 daily.

Contact: 1 Donggulu Road, Guli Town, Jiangning District, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China 210001, tel 86 25 8613 9988, email [email protected]

Zhongshan International Golf Club

Where is it? The club lies at the heart of Nanjing, perched on the eastern slopes of the famous Zhijin Mountain, which is part of the Zhongshan Scenic Park. It’s only a short drive from the city centre. As a new 27-hole course opened only last year, Zhongshan International Golf Club is designed and endorsed by renowned sportsman and golf course designer Gary Player.

What’s it like? The first nine holes are built on hilly slopes, while the last nine holes are built along interlocking lakes with both mass water surfaces and hidden winding creeks. The par-4 hole 1 is a dog-leg leaning against the slopes of the mountain ridge. While they are insurmountable, the slanting gradient does offer very clear directions as to where the ball should be hit.

The 498-metre par-5 hole 2 features a dual fairway with options as to how to negotiate the little brook on the right and the 137-metre-wide lake surface by the green.

Then comes the par-3 hole 3. Even from the women’s tee, one has to hit at least 183m in order for the ball to pass over the massive water surface and land on solid ground. The par-5 hole 7 offers some breathtaking views. From the tee, look parallel into the peaks of the Zhijin Mountain which commands a top view of the sprawling green beneath.

The favourite of the course’s designer is par-3 hole 17, with its green perching on a 200-square-metre peninsula surrounded by water on three sides. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, Player added a continuous stretch of three big bunkers to guard the green. As for the strategy to lay siege to the green, we leave that to you to figure out.

Handicap requirement: None, except during tournaments.

Can I hire clubs? Yes, US$18 for a set of clubs and US$7 for shoes.

After the golf? Sauna followed by a good message session and a little nap is a sure way to unwind. Leisure walks around the Zhongshan Scenic Park is a good way to get to know the green side of Nanjing, which is especially attractive during autumn.

Other facilities: The course consists of three zones: Zone A (3.36km), Zone B (3.2km) and Zone C (3.13km), all par-36 nine-hole courses. The club is also equipped with a 64-lane driving range.

There’s also the Sofitel Zhongshan Golf Resort Nanjing, a five-star, European-style property with 140 suites. All guestrooms are equipped with high-speed broadband internet access, large-screen LCD TVs and large-size beds. In addition, there is Zhongshan International Conference Centre with a grand ballroom and meeting rooms of various sizes. Other facilities include an indoor swimming pool, spa and sauna, massage, fitness centre, tennis courts and karaoke rooms. From the grand lobby, one can enjoy a panoramic view of the 18 holes.

Prices: For 18 holes, it’s US$91 on weekdays and US$129 during weekends and holidays. Prices are inclusive of green and caddy fees. Golf carts are available at US$28 for each 18-hole game. 

Club hours: From 0600 to 1900 daily (night playing is scheduled to start this month).

Contact: 1 Huanling Road, Xuanwu District, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China 210042, tel 86 25 8320 3288, www.zs-golf.com

Nanjing Harvard International Golf club

Where is it? The club lies within the Zhenzhuquan (Pearl Spring) Scenic Area in the northwest suburbs of Nanjing, and is about 20 minutes away from the city by car.

What’s it like? This senior in the golfing scene is now undergoing renovation. Opened in 1996, it claims to be Nanjing’s first 18-hole course built to international championship standards and features a Japanese-style course with comfortable length and broad fairways.

Although built by rolling terrain, the course in fact is not very hilly and offers good opportunities for long hitters to rise to the challenge. Most of the fairways are easily negotiable and encouraging for beginners too.

However, several holes do present problems. The fairway of the 347-metre par-4 hole 3 is lined by sharp sloping vegetation, and should your ball get trapped there, it will take a while to get to the green.

The key is to keep your putting straight. The 165-metre par-3 hole 12 starts on an elevation. The trick is to hit the ball away from the swaying reed marshes right beneath the tee and beyond the beautiful lily pond to the left to reach the green. It shouldn’t be too hard a job, but as the soothing breeze blows, many will find their little white balls lost in the marshes before they realise what has happened.

Handicap requirement: None, except during tournaments.

Can I hire clubs? Yes, US$12.70 for a set of clubs and US$6.30 for shoes. 

After the golf? One should consider heading back to the city.

Other facilities: A par-72 18-hole course at 6.3km. Right now, there are only basic rooms and group meals.

Prices: Playing 18 holes costs US$54.40 on weekdays, and US$80 on weekends and holidays. Prices are inclusive of green and grade A caddy fees. Each cart is US$25.30 per game. Special discounts are offered on Mondays (dubbed “Lady’s Day”) and Wednesdays (“Club’s Day”) when an 18-hole game costs US$38 to play.

Club hours: From 0800 to 1730 daily.

Contact: 176 Zhenzhujie Street, Pukou District, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China 210032, tel 86 25 5885 3333, www.harvardgolf.com

Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Golf Club

Where is it? On an island in lower Yangtze River called Shuangshan near Zhangjiagang, 150km away from Nanjing. Take Huning Expressway to Wuxi and then change to Xicheng Highway to Jiangyin, exiting here towards Zhangjiakou direction to reach the ferry pier to Shuangshan.

What’s it like? Unlike anywhere else, there’s no sign of heavy industry but instead sheep and chickens. A refreshing change indeed.The 539-metre par-5 hole 2 is a test of one’s accuracy and control. A winding brook intersects with the fairway before it flows parallel towards the green. With the bridges that span across the brook and the lush vegetation, this winding stream creates some very idyllic country views.

Bear in mind that this brook has already sucked in too many a golf ball. The 498-metre par-5 hole 7 is another scenic but tricky long hole. Avoid the right on the S-shape fairway for there lies either big stretches of water hazard or hidden slopes that lead to water. The long hit is especially challenging because it must reach over 228 metres against strong wind. 

The 183-metre par-3 hole 8 is short but tough in the sense that there’s only a very narrow angle, where your first strike must land in order for you to be able to get to the green on par. At the 436-metre par-4 hole, risk loosing the ball to the waters if you want good results – playing safe will cost just too many strikes. Hole 15 is the special signature hole with Suzhou-style gardens, arch doors and garden miniatures. Disregard them for they are just some new forms of hazards. Focus on the green and the huge bunker that sits behind it waiting.

Handicap requirement: None, unless during tournaments.

Can I hire clubs? Yes. Rental fee for a set ranges from US$21 to US$34, while shoes are US$6.30 a pair.

After the golf? Since you are on one of the few islands of the great Yangtze River, do try the seafood. Fresh water fish is usually more bony than the saltwater variety, but they are tasty and worth sampling.

Other facilities: A par-72 18-hole course at 6.65km designed by Nelson & Haworth. Other facilities include a driving range, a clubhouse with coffeeshop, restaurants, a business centre, conference rooms and a golf shop. By the ferry pier, there are also good spots for fishing.

Prices: For visitors playing 18 holes, the fee is US$73 on weekdays and US$124 on weekends and holidays. For nine holes, it’s US$58 on weekdays and US$96 on weekends and holidays. Prices are inclusive of green and caddy fees and the golf cart.

Club hours: From 0600 to 1800 on weekends and 0630 to 1800 on weekdays. 

CONTACT: Shuangshan Island, Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu Province, China 215633, tel 86 512 5830 1888, email [email protected], www.ss-golf.com

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