As the world’s professional golf tours expand into new territories through co-sanctioned tournaments and commercial partnerships, some of the world’s more exotic and luxurious golf destinations are becoming better known with worldwide TV audiences and golf fans.
The President’s Cup has been played in South Korea and countries like Vietnam are attracting some of the biggest names in golf course design, including Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, to design signature golf courses.
Golf has long been established in Japan and China’s rapid development of golf courses has attracted the European Tour, WGC events and most recently The PGA Tour China circuit. What about the best golf courses and resorts in lesser known but aspiring Asian nations that you may not have heard of?
Global Golfer Magazine has selected five of the best luxury Asian golf resorts you should add to your must-play list.
Alpine Golf Resort Chiang Mai – Thailand
Situated in the idyllic San Kamphaeng forests in Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand, this award-winning resort is ideal for golfers who want to combine great courses with an action packed family holiday.
Surrounded by stunning mountain and woodland scenery and blessed by a cool and temperate climate, Alpine is an ideal destination for playing golf and exploring nature. Play there from February to October and you’ll encounter cool early morning fog as the resorts sits around 1,500 meters above sea level.
Traditional Thai paddy fields were transformed into an award-winning golf course by American designer Ron. M. Garl and the resort has twice been named Asia’s best golf resort by The Asian Tour.
There are three loops of nine holes winding through lush green terrain with outstanding green complexes that run to a minimum speed of 10 on the stimp. The resort is also home to a world-class spa, swimming pool, football camp and a selection of high-class restaurants in the resort and golf clubhouse.
Podo Hotel – Korea
If ever there was a golf destination straight from the storyline of a James Bond film, it’s Podo Hotel on Jeju Island, some 60 miles off the coast of South Korea.
Jeju Island, known to Koreans as ‘Island of the Gods,’ has a mild tropical climate and wonderful scenery and is popular with the jet-set of Japanese and Korean society.
The award-winning Podo Hotel complex was designed by Jun Itami and combines Korean and Western design influences. The lavish boutique hotel has twenty-six single-floor guestrooms linked together like grapes on a vine.
The island itself is originally volcanic and tonnes of sand had to be laid over the volcanic rock in order to build golf courses. Super exclusive ‘The Club at Nine Bridges,’ is the best known of the Jeju Island courses, built with $100 million of Samsung money and venue for the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup.
Pinx Golf Club is attached to Podo Hotel. There are 27 holes at Pinx Golf Club, the East and West nines are member only but the North nine is open to the public. There are several other courses on the island, most are exclusive member-only clubs but pay-and-play golf is available at Jungmun Country Club, Lotte Sky Hills Golf Club and Raon Golf Club.
In the spirit of James Bond, you might even look into hiring a private jet to travel to the ‘Island of the Gods’ to play its super-exclusive golf courses.
Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort – Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an unusual choice for a golf holiday but thanks to Colonial British influences, golf has been played on this Indian Ocean island nation since the 19th century. The British Army’s Gordon Highlanders carved out a golf course in Nuwara Eliya in the heart of Ceylon tea country.
You can read our travel feature Tee-Time in Sri Lanka to learn more about playing golf in the capital Colombo, tea producing country and the mountains of Kandy. The newest golf course in Sri Lanka opened in 2017 at the Shangri-La Hambantota resort in Ambalantota on the island’s South East coast.
Designed by American Rodney Wright, every hole on this 18 hole layout has been named to represent the area’s local heritage and identity including sapphire mines, snakes, extreme weather, elephants and monkeys.
The course borders the Indian Ocean and is laid out over a former coconut plantation. There are lots of water hazards making it a challenging and exhilarating test of golf.
The resort is also located along the ancient Spice Route which also means there’s plenty of history and sightseeing to enjoy between rounds.
Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia
Of all the courses on this ‘off-the-beaten track’ of luxury Asian golf resorts, Saujana in Malaysia is perhaps the best known.
The Malaysian Open has been played since 1962 but more recently The European Tour has made a fixture of playing it at this luxury five-star resort close to the centre of Kuala Lumpur.
There are two championship golf courses at Saujana, The Palm Course (regarded as the more challenging and venue for The Maybank Championship on The European Tour) and the Bunga Raya (Crocodile) course. This is Malaysia’s finest golf resort but be prepared to play in sticky, tropical heat. Thick Bermuda grass also demands finesse and touch in the short game and commitment when hitting irons.
The greens at Saujana are slick and undulating and it’s wise to stay below the hole and avoid downhill putts at all costs.
Given its proximity to the capital city KL, it’s a perfect spot for those looking to squeeze golf into a family holiday or business trip and there’s plenty to keep you entertained off course with an award-winning spa and restaurants inspired by culinary excellence from across all of Asia.
Ocean Villas and BRG Da Nang Golf Resort – Vietnam
The BRG Da Nang Golf Resort opened in 2010 with a Greg Norman designed course that has quickly established itself as one of the best in Asia.
The Dunes Course uses the sandy loam of Danang Beach, the original landing, supply and staging post for U.S forces during The Vietnam War. The result is a golf course that blends the feeling of links golf with the charm of the famous Melbourne sand-belt courses which so inspired Norman’s early golfing life in Australia.
The resort has 110 luxury villas in a magnificent seaside location between Hoi An and Danang City. The resort is surprisingly accessible at just 20 minutes drive from Da Nang Airport.
In 2018, a Jack Nicklaus designed layout opened at the resort to complement The Dunes Course, the 4,000 square meter clubhouse and 300-yard driving range. The Vietnam Coast is known for its winds and many of the holes back onto the South China Sea which adds to the fun and playability as well as providing a welcome relief from the heat.