All the Tee in China

Hong Kong offers clients the thrill of a hole-in-one and much more

By: Jim Calio

With the addition of more and more golf courses and international tournaments, teeing off in Hong Kong is easier than clients might imagine. In all, the city probably boasts more golf courses per square mile than New York, a city with a similar population.

There are four courses open to visitors in the city proper (five if you count the nine-hole Deepwater Bay course, a little gem) and several just across the border in Shenzhen. All the courses are accessible by car, train, boat or some combination.

Most major hotels will arrange for visitors to play on one of the city’s private courses, but playing times are restricted. Also, some courses require a USGA handicap or a letter from a client’s home course.

As if to emphasize the growing popularity of golf in Hong Kong (and Asia in general), there are now more than a dozen driving ranges scattered throughout Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

The boom in Asian golf has given rise to dozens of international tournaments, including the Hong Kong Open in December. Recreational players are spending more money on golf, and as elsewhere in the world, golf has become integral to doing business.

“Golf is getting far more important,” said Iain Valentine, chief executive of the Hong Kong Golf Association.

It’s not unusual to see passengers on the city’s famous Star Ferry with golf clubs slung over their shoulders. This may be the most adventurous way to get to a course, but the preferred way is by taxi or private car which can be arranged through your client’s hotel concierge.

Golf was not always this popular in Hong Kong. Not long ago, there was only one course, and it could hardly be called a “course” at all. Golfers played on the infield of the Happy Valley racecourse. The infield grass was also used for football, hockey and polo, so golfers were not allowed to dig holes or build bunkers. Instead, they used wire mesh and pieces of granite as makeshift holes.

The region’s oldest golf course is the Royal Hong Kong Golf course, now renamed simply the Hong Kong Golf course (the word “Royal” was dropped after the 1997 handover).

During the course’s early days, there was a real danger of being attacked by tigers on the fairway; today, the only thrill is making a hole-in-one.

Hong Kong’s four major courses Hong Kong Golf Club, Kau Sai Chau Golf Club, Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club and Discovery Bay Golf and Country Club are best played from October through December, when it’s cooler and likely less to have air pollution.

Clearwater Bay, overlooking the South China Sea, is known as the Pebble Beach of China, while Discovery Bay is perched on the hilltops of Lantau Island just miles from the Chek Lap Kok airport. Accessible only via water taxi, Kau Sai Chau is the area’s only public course, and recently the course announced its one-millionth player.

Across the border in China (Hong Kong is considered a “Special Administrative Region,” or SAR, and a visa is required to go to the mainland), there are new courses being built all the time often by such big names as Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Gary Player, just to name a few.

Courses such as Mission Hills, Shenzhen Golf Club and Xili are synonymous with big international tournaments. Xili has a special arrangement with the Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong which allows guests preferred access to the course.

Even with all the professional clout, Hong Kong finds room for kitsch. The Sand River Golf Club in Shenzhen was built right next to a theme park. When clients approach the 14th green, they will find themselves staring at a replica of the Eiffel Tower.


The Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club

The Hong Kong Golf Club

Deep Water Bay Course

The Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course

Discovery Bay Golf Club

Hong Kong Golf Association