Shanghai Country ClubTravel Feature

Shanghai is turning heads in the Chinese golf world

By Shawn Nicholls,

SHANGHAI, China (Aug. 14, 2004) -- Most of golf course architect Ron Garl's standout projects over his three decades of work can be found in the state of Florida. And that should not come as a surprise to many, given his roots in the Sunshine State and his days as a University of Florida Gator.

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Looking to the future, Garl will continue to design new courses and retouch some existing ones under the humid air in Florida. However, one of Garl's current projects takes him not just out of the state, but out of the country altogether.

The Nine Dragons Golf course (just an hour outside of Shanghai, China) will be a 36-hole private facility that is sure to turn some heads. The first 18 holes will be championship caliber golf, while the second offering will be half original holes and half replica holes, a la the Bangkok Golf Club in Thailand.

Ron GarlPlans are in the works as of now for the initial site, which will span 2,500 acres and 2.5 miles of coastline along the China Sea, while the end product will reach up to 35,000 acres and 7.5 miles of sparkling coastline. The landscape consists of seaside terrain and nine undulating hills that are sure to make the facility as picturesque as it is challenging.

And while this will be Garl's first project in Asia (he is subsequently also working on a private practice facility at the Shanghai Matsuoka office complex), it is by no means the first expansive golf complex in this area of China. Nor will it be the first time a big name American designer traveled half way around the world to construct a masterpiece.

The limitation for the traveling golfer is that the quality tracks in the region are extremely exclusive. Take for instance the Shanghai International Golf and Country Club -- a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that opened in 1991.

Shanghai Country Club clubhouseThe calling card of the course is its lakes. Rarely will you go more than a few shots without having to carry water or stay to one side of a fairway to avoid a hazard. A precious setting, just devastating on your scorecard.

The original design called for one clubhouse, a bar, a library, a billiard room and a pro shop. Since 1991, however, a second clubhouse has been added that includes ten guest rooms, a swimming pool and restaurant.

The cheapest way to the play the course is to be accompanied by a member who lives in the residential community, but it is not the only way. Guests merely introduced to the club by a member can play as well, just for twice the price.

As for membership, there is currently a lengthy waiting list.

The same is true for the Jingli Golf Entertainment Club. When the club opened, memberships had already been sold out for years. But a trip to Shanghai would not be complete without a stop in at this first class club, so make friends with a member, fast.

The golf, in fact, takes second stage to the rest of the club's features. The 18-hole par 3 course features a variety of holes ranging anywhere from 80 to 120 yards, while the driving range features 36 individual bays.

But off the greens, there is a massive outdoor pool, sauna, fishing pond, gym, restaurant and even a beauty parlor. And the six holiday villas and 19 guest rooms are some of the newest and nicest accommodations in or around the city.

The Grand Shanghai International Golf and Country Club is another golf complex that is home to a lot more than just tees and greens. The accompanying holiday resort features five-star accommodations, villas, marina homes and a theme park.

As for the golf, it has been touted as the best in the area. The 18 hole championship course was finished in 1996 by the Ronald Fream Golf Plan Design Group, and like the other courses around, makes full use of the undulating terrain.

Two other solid options in and around Shanghai include the Sun Island International Club and the Silport Golf and Country Club. The first is an 18-hole effort by Nelson Wright Haworth that features a difficult opening green surrounded by water. The latter features 27 holes designed by Bobby J. Martin.

Shanghai, ChinaPerhaps the most accessible course to the public in the area is the Tianma Country Club, nestled into the only mountain region in Shanghai, just 30 minutes from the airport. The 27 holes are a wonderful integration of the existing natural terrain and man made additions. Thousands of towering trees and colorful flowers were added to the already expansive collection, and a glistening lake was added both for looks and the challenge.

The course is private, but does open its doors to guests and tours. However, booking well in advance is a must.

And finally, if you don't necessarily have the time or the resources to make it out to one of these exclusive golf communities, there are several excellent practice facilities open to the public.

Take for instance the Shanghai Grasslands Golf Club, just outside of the city on the Sanyiba Highway, home to a 90 bay driving range and nine hole putting course. Another good option is the East Asia Golf Club. Centrally located in downtown Shanghai, it offers a two story driving range, putting area and a collection of tennis courts. It is an ideal getaway from city life, without actually going anywhere.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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