Golfing around... Sanya

31 Mar 2006 by intern11

The resort island's year-round amiable climate and ace sporting facilities are drawing avid golfers from the Mainland and beyond, report Zhang Lie Bing & Catherine Lee

While golf courses in most cities north of the Yellow River in China struggle to keep their grass green – that is if they aren’t closed down for the winter season – Hainan Island’s bevy of sporting options remain lush and manicured all year round.

The southernmost territory of China, once the dumping ground for political miscreants, has recently become a desirable leisure destination. And it’s easy to see why: its swaying coconut trees, sugar fine beaches and balmy breezes all spell getaway with a capital G. Not only holiday makers and honeymooners are enjoying these attractions but also golfing die hards eager for quality play, which many of the island’s 14 golf clubs provide.

So expect this pastime to figure more importantly in Hainan’s development blueprint in the coming decade, a result of the Chinese government’s aim to expand the industry from the present business-oriented coastal regions to areas with heavy tourism focus. Sanya, Hainan’s capital, which boasts some excellent golf products, will certainly attract its share of the investor-visitor pie.

Yalong Bay Golf Club

Where is it? Along the exclusive Yalong Bay resort enclave, the club is 25km from the Sanya city centre. A cab ride from the Sanya Phoenix International Airport takes about 40 minutes. Inquire about club shuttles.  

What’s it like? Occupying a slope slanting gradually towards the sea, this par-72 championship course is the perfect place for a leisure holiday game. It may look easy, but is really far from that if you are serious about getting good results.

The course is studded with 95 bunkers designed intentionally to trap long hitters. The presence of numerous water hazards doesn’t make things easier at all. The seemingly flat, but which in reality is a sloping gradient, is wickedly deceptive. Typical of links facing the sea, the wind presents the biggest challenge. We once played over a span of three days, but no two games felt the same. With the slightest change in wind direction, we needed to devise another game plan despite having played these same 18 holes the day before.  

This is perhaps why the course has been named one of China’s top 10 as well as one of the world’s top 100 by international golf magazines. Robert Trent Jones was responsible for designing this attraction.   

Address: Yalong Bay National Tourism and Holiday Resort, Sanya, Hainan, 572000, China.

Contact:  tel 86 898 88565039, fax 86 898 88565055; email [email protected], www.yalongbaygolfclub.com

Price: For visitors playing the 18-hole course, the charge is CNY1,000 (US$120) on weekdays and CNY1,150 (US$138) for weekends and holidays, including green and caddy fees. And don’t forget the lighting fee of CNY100 (USD12) per person per 9 holes

Can I hire clubs? CNY130 (US$15) for clubs and CNY80 (US$5) for shoes.

Club hours: Start from sunrise with the last game at 1900.

Handicap requirement: Under 40.

Facilities: A par-72 18 holes at length 7,116 yards built to the standards of the US PGA. Opened in 2000, the facilities are relatively well kept and include a clubhouse, guestrooms, western and Chinese restaurants, driving and putting range, well stocked golf shop, tennis courts, massage rooms, swimming pool, meeting rooms and a huge changing room.

The driving and putting range is built to the style of a thatched hut lending some native flavour.    

After the golf? There is no lack of options: restaurants serving the famous local delicacy – Hainan chicken rice, a game of tennis played on real turf, swims in a man-made pool “dressed up” with real sand and a soft pool bottom (the club claims this to be the only one of its kind in the whole of Sanya). Still haven’t gotten enough of the water? The white sandy beach of Yalong Bay is a mere 200m away.

Sun Valley Sanya Golf Resort

Where is it? Located in Hongxia Mountain in the Sanya Yalong Bay National Resort, the club is a 15-minute drive from downtown Sanya. A cab ride from Sanya Phoenix International Airport will take approximately 25 minutes.

What’s it like? This majestic course is set against desert landscape comparable to those in the natural desert courses in Las Vegas. Look further and be rewarded with views of lush green valleys and, on fine days, even the beautiful Yalong Bay itself. This presents an experience unlike any other in China. Wasteland forms the topography of five of its fairways. The pebbles, sand flats, cacti and tropical flower species are wonderful to look at, but create difficulty for your shots.

The club is a record-holder in many ways. It has the only par-6 hole in the country, an enjoyable challenge to any golfer. Special awards will be given to players who get a birdie on those 828 yards.

The biggest (150sq m) and the longest (160m) tees in China are found on this course, too. The greens are, by the way, wide, undulating, and deceptive. We played there for two days and found the number 5 hole challenging, with a water hazard 300 yards from the blue tee and frustrating head wind blowing in from the sea.

But the most unforgettable hole is, of course, the par-6 no 18. Viewed from the tees, the green of that hole is simply unreachable, with a desert-zone meandering along the fairway on the left and a treed, grassed slope on the right. Moreover, the green, guarded by bunkers, rises and falls rapidly. Both strength and precision are required to get a birdie. For our part, we were just happy to finish the game according to the rules.

Address: Bohou Village, Yalong Bay National Resort, Sanya, Hainan province, China.

Contact:  tel 86 898 88564488, fax 86 898 88566699, email [email protected], www.sunvalleysanya.com

Price: For guests, the 18-hole course costs CNY930 (US$112) on weekdays, weekends and holidays. Prices include green and caddy fees.

Can I hire clubs? CNY150 (US$18 ) for clubs and CNY60 (US$7) for shoes.

Club hours: Sunrise till sunset, with the last tee off at 1352.   

Handicap requirement: Under 40.

Facilities: This is a relatively new course, having opened late 2004. It features a par-73 18-hole course at length 7,875 yards designed by JMP.  Other facilities include the driving range, restaurants, spa centre and golf shop.

At press time, many of the club house facilities were still being completed. However, many star-rated hotels, located near the course, can fill the service gap for now.

After the golf? If time permits, it would be good to visit well-known spots such as Nanshan Temple, Tianyahaijiao (a stretch of beach at the southern tip of the country known as the “End of the World” and “Corner of the Sea”), Butterfly Park and Shell House, all of which are easily accessible from Sun Valley.

Kangle Garden Hot Spring Golf Club

Where is it? Located at the Xinglong hot spring resort area in Wanning, approximately one hour’s car ride from the Sanya Phoenix International Airport. Take the East Expressway after exiting the airport, get off at Wanning and follow the signs to Xinglong.

What’s it like? This course was built to fit in with the natural habitat that it nests on. A game through the 18 holes involves a winding journey on hilly terrain through quiet lakes, dense rubber plantations and sub-tropical vegetation.  

Golfers who like to strategise their games will enjoy playing here. There are a number of holes with dual fairways that offer the room for varying strategies to golfers of different tastes, techniques and strength. Take the 600 yard hole 11 par-5 as an example, the fairway is split into two by the dense vegetation right down the middle.  

The conservative players can take the left fairway and target the green after three shots. The more aggressive players can take to the right to target the green 525 yards away with only two shots, risking penalties at the bunkers and water hazards though.  Different characters will render a different game – the ultimate charm of playing golf.

Address: Xinglong Town, Wanning, Hainan Province, 571522, China.

Contact:  tel 86 898 6257 6992, fax 86 898 6257 6789, email [email protected], website www.kangleresort.com

Price: For visitors, the 18-hole course costs CNY945 (USD113) to play on weekdays, weekends and holidays. Price includes green and caddy fees.

Can I hire clubs? CNY100 (USD 12) for clubs,  CNY50 (USD6) for shoes.

Club hours: Sunrise till sunset with the last game at 1400.   

Handicap requirement: Not required unless during tournaments.

Facilities: A par-72 18 holes course at length 7,201 yards designed by Robert McFarland. Facilities include putting range, guest rooms, restaurants, bar, golf shop, table tennis, tennis courts, swimming pool, snooker room, bowling lanes, meeting rooms, Jacuzzi and massage and sauna rooms.

After the golf? Xinglong has some excellent tourist attractions and it would have been a great pity to miss them. At the Shimeiwan Beach, 10km from the club, you can snorkel, dive, swim as well as pick the day’s catch fresh from fishermen’s boats. In the nearby massive span of land called the Xinglong Farm, you can pick coconuts, mangoes, rambutans and other exotic tropical fruits ripe from the trees; or watch rubber workers work on the sap before sunrise. Coffee served here is probably the best in Hainan.

Some prefer to watch night shows put on by “ladyboy” dancers from Thailand in the nearby clubs. We would much rather soak in Xinglong’s famous hot springs in our private bungalow in the Farm and let the night slip away.

Ocean Bay Golf Club

Where is it? On the shore of majestic Nanyan Bay in Wanning.  From the Sanya International Airport, take the Eastern Expressway and exit at the Shimei Xinglonglu Exit, then take a right towards Shimeiwan. The drive should take approximately one hour.

What’s it like? The winds pose a tremendous challenge! While other golf courses may claim that they have sea view, theirs is certainly not like what Ocean Bay offers. Here, the ocean is not only seen, but also experienced by all the other senses.

Actually, this club may be the only real seaside golf course in Hainan. The first 9 holes take players through tropical flora and woods, with beautiful (if not distracting) scenery.

Then comes close encounters with the sea. Holes 9 to 13 are all built along the seashore within the almost panoramic embrace of the blue ocean. The gusty winds and the dashing waves present the utmost challenge. And eagles circling the sky literally watch you play. Do not expect to be able to hit at your usual distance because the wind will consume most of your strength.

We focused on keeping short hits accurate, and tried to stay away from long hits. But hole 10 was the moment of truth - there was a steep and wide gully to span and no way around. If golf balls had been fishing baits, I would have had a hearty catch at my fingertips.

Address: Nanyanwan Bay, Xinglong, Hainan Province 571529, China.  

Contact: tel 86 898 6252-5999, fax 86 898 6252-5666, email [email protected]

Price: For visitors, the fee for 18 holes is CNY745 (USD90) on weekdays and CNY945 (USD113) on weekends and holidays.

Can I hire clubs? CNY100 (USD12) for clubs and CNY(US$6) for shoes.

Club hours: Sunrise until sunset with the last game starts at 1400.  

Handicap requirements: None required unless during tournaments, but the club reserves the right to ask slow players to adjourn their game if their pace inconveniences other players on busy days!

Facilities: A par-72 18 holes championship course at length 6,803 yards. Other facilities include a club house, guest rooms, driving range, golf shop, restaurants, café, sauna rooms and waterfront barbecue section.

After the golf? No one would miss the beach once in Nanyan Bay. A casual stroll along the white sand is a good way to unwind, and viewing the gorgeous sunsets is another way to de-stress as is enjoying a barbecue session with grilled chops and cold beer, while toasting panorama in front of you.


Summer in Hainan Island can get to as hot as 40ºC, and it can be extremely humid and unpleasant out there on the fairways. Do plan ahead and time your visits to coincide with the winter season when the temperature becomes an agreeable 20ºC. You’ll also have the extra benefit of a constant breeze and brillant blue skies.

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