Time to keep an eye on 'the Hawaii of China': Hainan Island as a future exotic golf vacation destination
The golf boom in Asia, and specifically China has been well documented in recent years. But it’s still a golf destination with a lot to be uncovered. China is so big, so foreign and so rapidly developing, it can be a humbling trip to plan even for experienced travelers.
Though golf courses are popping up just about everywhere in the country, one smaller destination worth keeping an eye on is Hainan Island. About the size of Belgium, it’s a tropical island in the South China Sea with clean air, lush mountain beauty and is well on the way to becoming a major golf destination player.
Here’s an interesting article from China View on the growth of Hainan Island and how it’s beginning to make a bigger push towards attracting western visitors. According to the piece, it sounds like they’ve still got some ethical issues to sort out before more tour operators will be willing to bring their clients here, but they hope to be on the international scene by 2020.
Part of its future is a reported secret, 22-course project underway from the same folks who brought you Mission Hills’ 12-course resort spectacle outside of Hong Kong.
There are over a dozen courses on Hainan Island currently. Schmidt-Curley, a popular design team in Asia, just opened their second Hainan Island course, Dragon Valley.
Tom Doak also just signed on recently to built his first Chinese course on Hainan, tentatively named “The Island Club.”
Of course with a nickname like “the Hawaii of China” the immediate reaction from an American standpoint is probably, “Okay, why not just save two days of flights, the passport and foreign ‘x-factors’ and go to Hawaii?” But those travelers who like the more raw destinations will be intrigued by Hainan’s relative obscurity compared to Hawaii’s polished tourism product.
If you want to go to Hainan Island now, it’s probably a destination where you’ll want a full-time guide. Luxury golf packager Perry Golf offers Hainan Island golf packages, as well as Mission Hills & Hong Kong, Yunnan Province and Shanghai in China. Mark Siegel over at GolfAsian.com says he’s not convinced he should package China golf quite yet, sticking to his bread and butter destinations Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. That said, he said Hainan Island is most definitely on the radar for future possibilities.
I personally haven’t been to China yet (just Malaysia and Thailand in Asia) but those I talk to say it’s still an incredibly growing and raw country - one that still lacks a lot of the conveniences of other foreign destinations, even in Asia. Depending on your tolerance for keeping it real, it can be either exciting or excruciating.
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