PEARL RIVER DELTA
One of China's most thriving regions, this southern area includes Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau, the country's oldest European colony. Shopping is still the main reason tourists flock to Hong Kong, but last year's opening of Disneyland Hong Kong might change that. Don't expect to be able to stay there anytime soon, however: The resort's two hotels are fully booked through Christmas. Guangdong isn't overwhelmed with cultural attractions, but a visit to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Cuiheng, near Zhongshan, is a great way to learn about the man known as the father of the Chinese Revolution.
Where to Play
The Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau, North ****1/2
Hong Kong's only public course also happens to be one of Asia's finest. While it's not strictly a links, the Gary Player designed North has rumpled fairways and a decidedly windswept Scottish air to it. When the rough is up it bears more than a passing resemblance to Player's Links at Fancourt in South Africa. The par-three fourteenth is one of the better short holes in golf: From an elevated tee, a long iron shot has to carry dense vegetation, ocean, beach, a mangrove plantation and a grass bunker to a miserly shallow green.
Kau Sai Chau, Sai Kung, New Territories, Hong Kong; 011-852/2791-3388, kscgolf.com. Yardage: 6,858. Par: 72. GREENS FEES: $59$80. ARCHITECT: Gary Player, 1995.
Mission Hills Golf Club, Norman ****1/2
Widely regarded as Asia's most challenging layout and by far the class of the ten Mission Hills courses, this is the place to go if you're looking to test both your game and your patience. The exposed front nine runs along a hillside, while the jaw-droppingly beautiful but much tighter back nine winds its way through two densely wooded valleys. Thick fescue flanks the fairways, and the bunkers are some of the deepest east of the British Isles. For a warmup round at Mission Hills, try the Jack Nicklausdesigned World Cup course or the water-laced Nick Faldo layout.
1 Mission Hills Road, Guanlan Town, Shenzhen, Guangdong Province; 011-86/755-2802-0888, missionhillsgroup.com. Yardage: 7,228. Par: 72. GREENS FEES: $137$206. ARCHITECT: Greg Norman, 2004.
Chung Shan Hot Spring Golf Club, Palmer ****
The Chinese mainland's first course, this is an absolute jewel. With its tree-lined fairways and small undulating greens, the Palmer is a traditional layout that looks as if it's been lifted from a scenic part of the English Home Counties. The course isn't long by today's standards, but it holds its own with some deceptively tricky holes. The Palmer is a bit of a rarity in southern China because it's a walking course (with excellent caddies) and has bent-grass greens that roll especially well in the coolness of winter.
Sanxiang Town, Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province; 011-86/760-6690-055, cshsgc.com.cn. Yardage: 6,486. Par: 71. Greens Fee: $69. ARCHITECT: Arnold Palmer, 1984.
Macau Golf & Country Club ****
This is a spectacular ridgetop layout offering great views of Black Sand (Hac Sa) beach and the South China Sea. As at the Sands Casino in town, a certain degree of luck is needed when tackling the dangerous par-three seventeenth: The tee stands more than 140 feet above the green and, depending on the wind, this 225-yard hole can be anything from driver to seven-iron. Although the club is private, guests at the five-star Westin Resort Macau next door can make reservations.
Estrada de Hac Sa, Ilha de Coloane, Macau; 011-853/871-188, macaugolfandcountryclub.com. Yardage: 6,624. Par: 71. GREENS FEES: $103$193. ARCHITECT: Hiroshi Ikeda, 1992.
Palm Island Resort ****
Like most resort courses, Palm Island isn't set up to be overly demanding. But with water coming into play on twelve holes as well as the imaginative use of sandy waste areas, it's not exactly a walk in the park, either. What makes this place special, however, are the off-course facilities: Exquisitely decorated Thai-style villas and an excellent spa make Palm Island one of the best resorts on the mainland and an absolute must-stay for anyone considering a family golf trip in China.
1 Golf Road, Huiyang City, Guangdong Province; 011-86/752-3829-999, piresort.com. Yardage: 7,009. Par: 72. GREENS FEES: $75$182. ARCHITECT: Jack Nicklaus Jr., 1999.
Where to Stay
Overlooking Victoria Harbour, the spanking new Four Seasons (fourseasons.com/hongkong) in Central is the latest addition to Hong Kong's long list of luxury hotels and a potential rival to the grande dame of the Far East: the Peninsula (peninsula.com) in Kowloon. If you prefer to base yourself outside the former British colony, try the Westin Resort (westin-macau.com) in casino-crazy Macau or the sumptuous Shangri-La (shangri-la.com) in the expanding megalopolis of Shenzhen.
Where to Eat
The Lan Kwai Fong and Soho districts of Hong Kong Island offer just about every style of cooking, but for authentic and reasonably priced Cantonese fare try Yung Kee in downtown Central. Fernando's on Macau's Coloane Island serves great Portuguese food in unpretentious surroundings, while Shenzhen's trendy Made in Kitchen is the place to go for Japanese, Chinese and Western favorites.