Kau Sai Chau Golf Club
The trend in Asia is for more public courses, and these courses on rugged Kau Sai Chau island are seen as a model because they were developed with private funds on low-use public land. (Steep terrain made the island unsuitable for business or housing; the British Army had been using it as an artillery range.) The thirty-six-hole facility, which opened just three years ago, consists of the championship-caliber, 6,692-yard North course and the 5,938-yard South course, both designed by Gary Player. Both are links style but hilly, with spectacular views of the South China Sea. The South course has wider fairways than the North, whose landing areas can be very narrow indeed. The greens on both courses are large and quite fast except during the rainy season (June through August); in dry months they become so firm they seem to crunch under your feet. Many of the greens are fronted by hazards that make approach shots tricky: For example, the obstacle on the North course's par-three fourteenth (above) is an inlet of the South China Sea. With the tee perched on a hillside, the approach from the back tees must carry at least two hundred yards over the water to the green. A round can stretch out to four and a half hours, and the hilly terrain makes walking difficult. First-time players would be well-advised to bring caddies along to help with carry distances and target lines. Pull-carts are available for rent. Electric carts can also be rented for a modest fee.
How to Get a Tee Time: Visitors are welcome daily, but you should call ahead to reserve a tee time. Weekdays are best; weekends are impossibly busy. You must either present a handicap certificate or attend the club school for two four-hour sessions. The phone number is 011-852-2791-3388. (Clubs and shoes are available for rent.)
Directions: It's a thirty-minute drive from Kowloon, forty-five minutes to an hour from Central to Sai Kung, where you board the club's ferry for a ten-minute ride to the island. From there a five-minute trip on the shuttle bus takes you to the course. Your hotel concierge can make these arrangements, as well as book a tee time.
Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club
With its high, windswept ocean views, this course is justifiably known as China's Pebble Beach. A daunting site for a golf course, it was laid out atop granite mountains more than four hundred feet above the South China Sea; there was no flat land, no regular supply of water and little topsoil. The resulting par-seventy, 6,115-yard course has steep-sided, narrow fairways and small greens. It runs through hills for the front nine, along the sea on the back. Steering the ball is paramount because of the narrow landing areas, which play hard and fast during the dry season. (The course is still playable during wet months because of its good drainage.) Zoysia grass is being introduced to replace the Bermuda, which had difficulty adapting to the high heat and humidity in summer and to the dry, cold conditions in winter. The holes may measure short, but strong winds--from the south in summer, from the north in winter--can make them much more difficult than they look. And errant shots are not likely to end up in another fairway; usually they land in a ravine or the sea. The tee shot on the 345-yard fourteenth, for example, comes off an elevated tee on a peninsula overlooking the South China Sea and must carry the rocks to find the fairway. There are no caddies available, but carts are highly recommended to deal with the steep terrain.
How to Get a Tee Time: Visitors are welcome weekdays only, and before-noon tee times are recommended. Handicap certificates are required. Ask your concierge to make the bookings. The phone number is 011-852-2335-3885. (Clubs and shoes are available for rent; carts are rented.)
Directions From Hong Kong: Located in the New Territories, Clearwater Bay is about forty-five minutes by car from Kowloon, about an hour from Central. Ask your concierge to set up a taxi ride.