By: Claudio DeMarchi – The Traveling Golfer
Being the Traveling Golfer, I am fairly spoiled with the quality of courses that I am introduced to on an ongoing basis, not to mention some of the exotic locals of the past couple of years. Just like most golfers I too have a list of favorites or what I might consider ‘top courses’. As wonderful as most of the courses that I get treated to are, it is not often that a course breaks into my Top 5.
We were on route from the Asia Golf Tourism Convention at Mission Hills in Haikou, the northern part of Hainan Island in China, to the more tropical southern shore with Sanya as our final destination. One stop along the way was at the Shenzhou Peninsula where we were treated to a fusion feast by our gracious hosts at the Sheraton Shenzhou Peninsula Resort. It just so happens that the GM of the property, Douglas Brennan, is a fellow Canadian from Oakville, Ontario, where I just happened to have lived for about 15 years. Small world! Sunrise came early again but it is not something that is uncommon in a region that sees some 290 days of sunshine a year. It is truly a tropical paradise that is also known as the “Sunshine Peninsula.”
Unfortunately we did not get to fully appreciate all that the Sheraton had to offer with our time being limited to less than 24 hours. However, just playing The Dunes (West Course) has me wanting to go back for more. From the moment you step into the clubhouse there is something that tells you this is a special place.
Former tour player of 30+ years, Tom Weiskopf, has created two masterpieces on the property; The West Course (that we would be playing) and the East Course being the other along with a 5-hole course used primarily for teaching and practice. I can’t say that I have played many Tom Weiskopf designed courses but I did like him as a player and now certainly as a designer. Except for bunkers and dunes being prevalent everywhere there were 18 distinctly different holes on The Dunes. The elegant clubhouse might be considered a masterpiece unto itself. Balconies provide panoramic views overlooking the natural landscape of both 18’s and beyond to the South China Sea.
It had been mentioned to me that this part of China was very similar to Hawaii, and that it was. The heat was turned up just a bit, probably close to 30 degrees C and The Dunes lived up to its name and billing …and then some.
Right from the get go, and as the name implies, you will find that there is no shortage of rugged dunes as well as finely maintained bunkers that define the immaculately maintained fairways and large complex greens. There are 5 sets of tees to choose from so very enjoyable for all levels of golfers except perhaps those that like to bite off more that they can chew. We played form the Blue Tees at 6,700 yards and that was more than enough.
I am not one to generally get into hole descriptions but this courses is so pretty and we have such great photos that I can’t resist. The first of these memorable holes is the par 3 – 6th. 211 yards with at least 180 of those over water, wetlands left with the green nestled into the backdrop of a huge outcropping of boulders. Good news is that you can miss right.
If your mojo is not going by now it will be as you come around another outcropping of boulders to the 8th tee. The 395 yard par 4 is the first of the seaside holes. The South China Sea lines your right hand side with dunes down the left. Flirting with the left side dunes is a much better option for the approach to the large undulating green. Took my best shots here using a Nikon!
The par 5, 14th begins a spectacular stretch of home holes to finish the round. A short par 5 usually into a prevailing wind. It is a beautiful site to watch as your ball sails to the green with the ocean in the background.
Probably one of the most spectacular views on the golf course awaits you on the 16th tee. This long 434 yard, par 4 follows along the beach area. A deep natural inlet bisects the landing area and the green, yet looks more intimidating than it actually is.
The 17th is the shortest of the par 3’s at 131 yards. There are a number of tee boxes to choose from but most important here is club selection. The green is small relative to most others on the course. Missing left is best with ocean right and bunkers short.
Getting To Shenzhou Peninsula
The Shenzhou Peninsula is the southernmost part of China and part of Hainan Island. Sanya is the 2nd largest city on the island and the closest city with a major airport and direct flights to and from Hong Kong. Haikou is the largest city on the north part of the Island and home to Mission Hills Haikou. A great way to visit this tropical island is to fly into Haikou, enjoy the Mission Hills courses (although not to be confused with Mission Hills Shenzhen) and transfer to Sanya with a stop at The Dunes of course. Fly back to Hong Kong directly from the Sanya airport. Average annual temperatures for Hainan Island are in the 22 – 26 degree Celsius range.
A great way to start you China visit is with a few days in Hong Kong. You will likely be connecting through there anyway! Get the jet lag out of the way and get acclimatized. Stay in downtown Hong Kong or the Kowloon, another trendy downtown district. Getting to and from the airport is very civilized by cab but most hotels have transfers.
Getting around Hainan Island I would probably suggest an escorted trip, just because you don’t want to get lost. A good place to start on this side of the pond would be Tour East Holidays www.toureast.com with offices in Toronto, New York, Hong Kong and Beijing.
They did a great job for me!
Awards of The Dunes:
- Voted 3rd Best New International Golf Course Worldwide by The U.S. Golf magazine and Golf.com
- Top 20 Golf Resort/ Top 10 New Golf Course/ Top 10 Scenic Golf Course of China 2011 by Golf Lifestyle + Vacation
- 2011 Most Popular Golf Resort in Hainan by China Tourism News
- Top 10 Most Popular Golf Course by GOLF VACATIONS