-By Paul Jansen
Southern Asia is home to some of the world’s best golf courses. The region boasts an impressive array of courses that are considered design masterpieces. From the oldest course in Sri Lanka to a gem of a course that is close to the world famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, here is a list of Southern Asia’s most unique and sustainable golf courses.
Royal Colombo Golf Club – Sri Lanka
The Royal Colombo Golf Club is the oldest golf club in Sri Lanka, having been established in 1880, and is situated in the heart of the city on only 96 acres of land. The most remarkable feature is the railway line that divides many of the holes on the front nine. During the week trains frequently pass through the golf course and add to its overall charm.
Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka
The Nuwara Eliya Golf Club is perhaps the most unique golf course in all of Asia. Situated at nearly 2,000 metres above sea level and the focal point of the town, this 18-hole golf course is routed on less than 100 acres of land. Be sure to take a course map at the start because holes don’t follow any formula, but rather bobble about the landscape like a roller coaster. Crossing holes are the norm, blind shots are frequent and features such as roads and fences needed to be surmounted on route to the hole. Pedestrians use the golf course to get from A to B and during my visit, some of the fairways were being used as a place of gathering. An unforgettable journey of discovery.
Delhi Golf Club – India
India’s most prestigious golf club – in the middle of the city of Delhi – consists of 27 holes laid out over 220 acres of prime real estate. The golf course includes the 9-hole Peacock Course and more famous Lodhi Course which has hosted the Indian Open on numerous occasions as well as being a strong test of golf. The golf club is identifiable because of the large number of tombs that dot the property and often at staging areas. On top of that, birds such as peacocks wonder the course freely and it just add to the overall experience.
Carey Island Sports Club – Malaysia
Carey Island Sports Club is surely Malaysia’s most quirky golf course. The original nine holes were built in the late 1920s for the local band of Europeans living on Carey Island and is about a one hour drive away from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur. The golf course started with only nine holes when it officially opened in July 1930 and the second nine holes were added much later on. Thankfully the original nine still remain untouched and make for a real adventure. Imagination and creativity is required to plot your way around the property, all the while making sure to appreciate the numerous golf features like impressive trees, vegetation, fences, ditches, roads and homesteads.
Jagowari Golf & Country Club – Indonesia
There are only a few golf courses on the planet that are routed through thick jungle thicket and many of these can be found in the region surrounding Bogor which is about an hour drive outside of Jakarta – where as many as ten golf courses are bounded by impenetrable bush and fast flowing river streams systems. One of the most impressive is the 45-hole facility at the Jagowari Golf & Country Club. The holes are well crafted and take you on a journey of discovery around the property. Each hole is alive with the sound of the jungle and the attention to detail is second to none. As one of Asia’s best golf courses, it is also refreshing to see the use of native broadleaf carpetgrass on the fairways which requires very little input. Welcome to the Jungle.
Bagan Golf Club – Myanmar
Bagan is a truly amazing place and should be visited at least once in a lifetime. In an area no larger than Hong Kong, you will find up to 3,000 ancient pagodas dotted about the terrain in random order. It just so happens that the Bagan Golf Club is routed to take advantage of 14 such monuments with many more framing the golf course in the distance. It is like playing golf back in ancient time.
Popa Golf Club – Myanmar
If the town of St. Andrews is the best backdrop in golf then the Popa Taungkalat Monastery is a close second as it looms large in the distance when playing the Mt. Popa Golf course which is only a few hour away from Bagan. The 9-hole golf course at the foothills of Mt. Popa is maintained by the locals and their cattle. The golf is as varied as it comes and hazards include roads, gullies, trees, bunkers, fences, cattle…and the rest.
Yay Tagon Taung Golf Club – Myanmar
A round of golf on most courses in Myanmar can put you back as little as $5 dollars including at the wonderful Yay Tagon Taung Golf Club – about an hour drive from the city of Mandalay. This 27-hole golf facility embraces the term “less is more”. The golf courses is uncomplicated with few man made features which allows the golfers the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful surroundings even more.
Royal Bangkok Sports Club – Thailand
The Royal Bangkok Sports Club could perhaps best be described as an obstacle course. It is an unbelievable scene on what is perhaps the best multi-use sports facility anywhere. Golf holes zigzag around the property, all the while trying to avoid the multitude of unusual golf features that dictate the play – like the race track or cricket field or driving range building.
Hong Kong Golf Club (Old) – Hong Kong
The old course at Fanling is a charming affair. Holes are fresh and original and derive their beauty and uniqueness from the surrounding environment. The golf course is marked by numerous unconventional features including crossing holes and numerous blind shots and highlights that golf can be quirky and fun.
Phokeethra Country Club – Cambodia
Last but not least is Siem Reap’s Phokeethra Country Club which is situated in the heart of the Cambodian countryside and is just a short drive away from the historic world heritage site, Angkor Wat. The course actually incorporated a piece of the country’s rich history in the form of the Roluh Bridge that dates back all the way to the Khmer Empire in the 11th century. The bridge was declared as an archaeological site for preservation by the Apsara Authority and UNESCO and represents a link between the past and the present. The course offers a challenging experience for golfers of all levels. Most of the holes are lined with palm trees with a generous amount of water hazards and bunkers.
About Paul Jansen
Paul is widely regarded as one of golf’s most well-traveled Golf Course Architects. After having schooled in South Africa, he began his career in the USA before relocating to Europe where he worked for Nick Faldo Design on a variety of projects in Europe, Africa and South East Asia. In 2011, Paul established Jansen Golf Design & Construction with a focus on creating highly sustainable golf courses that provide strategic, stimulating and memorable golf that is fun.