By: Claudio DeMarchi

It is never too early to start planning the trip of a lifetime…is it?  OK so China is on the other side of the world for most of us. I’ve done this a few times now and with the airlines adding the Premium Economy option to many long haul flights it is certainly much more comfortable and reasonably priced. Memories guaranteed, it will be an experience of a lifetime.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions China to you?

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Yalong Bay Golf Club

Not likely a comparison to – Hawaii!

I had heard that Sanya, which is situated at the southern tip of Hainan Island (same latitude as Hawaii), had been called the Hawaii of China, but then how many times have you heard about a course on the east coast of the USA being referenced as “the Pebble Beach of the East?”  I’ll be the judge of that!

Tropical climate, palm trees, beautiful beaches, approximately 300 days of sunshine per year, resort hotels and oh so many delicacies to temp your palate!  Now we just add some world class golf of which there is plenty.  Mix, stir and shake and we have a sampling of heaven.

Sanya is very easy to get to.  For most of us coming from North America we are most likely to fly into Hong Kong (direct flights from Toronto) and from there it is slightly more than a 2 hour flight.  FYI there is nothing wrong with a few days layover to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong!

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The Ritz-Carleton Sanya

Our home in Sanya was the luxurious Ritz Carlton, a seaside resort overlooking the South China Sea on Yalong Bay. Our host for our stay was the Ritz’s GM, Michel Goget, an avid golfer himself, but Michel is also the Executive Chairman of the Sanya Tourism Hotel Association. Michel and his wife Ruth treated our media group to an exceptional ocean side dinner under the stars.  Not only did we salivate while dining on this beachfront setting but even more as we learned of all that Sanya and the Ritz had to offer.

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The Traveling Golfer and his Caddy at the Yalong Bay Golf Club

Awarded as “The Most Favourite Golf Hotel” by China Golf Magazine in 2013, The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya has become an exceptional hospitality experience for many golfers. The property is ideally located in the lush, ancient paradise of Yalong Bay, also the number one beach in Sanya, and minutes away from two of the region’s top ranked courses.  Yalong Bay Golf Club overlooks the South China Sea and hosted a number Asian and European Tour events. The second, Sun Valley Golf Resort, features the only par-6 hole in China.

Day one of golf just so happened to be at the Yalong Bay Golf Club.  A China Top 10 Golf Club on many occasions and a Top 100 Golf Course outside the USA.  There is plenty of water, a serpent like river dissects the course and there are almost 100 bunkers on this Robert Trent Jones design.  The course, designed in the shape of a dragon’s claw, is surrounded by stunning mountains and the South China Sea, together, all make this a picture  of tranquillity.

The Traveling Golfer and cart partner Tim Hyland, American born but now running a golf tour company in Poland, were challenged to a little match by a couple of young bucks who had to be at least 40 – 50 yards longer off the tee.    Hmm, it did not seem very fair at first but by the 12th hole one of the young bucks turned to me and said “you are a very boring golfer!”  as I was on route to a tidy 77 and Tim and I put the match away on the 15th.  I always say, “The woods are full of long hitters!”

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Sun Valley

As with any Asian golf experience the caddies are an integral part of your day.  This was no exception! They are wonderful to have alongside and although for the most part many don’t play they are extremely knowledgeable of the course and it is amazing on how quickly they pick up on your game!  I always find things to be picking up with them around!

Sun Valley Golf Club is a 27-hole multi award winning complex.  It is certainly one of the longest courses in China measuring a daunting 7,800 yards from the tips, features a tee box (4th hole) that is more than ½ an acre and a 9th hole,  par 6 that is 828 yards from the tips.  Of course we played from a mere 782 yards and a couple of pars were had in the group.  Unfortunately I was not one of them.  Bogey!

Another extremely challenging course but with a selection of tee boxes that make it enjoyable for all.   Set alongside the Hongxia Mountains, yet tranquil, overlooking colorful tropical vegetation, surrounding villages in the valleys and views of the South China Sea from at least 7 tee boxes.

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Sun Valley – Hole #4 – The longest tee box and largest green in China!

When visiting and playing China, make sure that you take the entire experience.  Golf in China is a lifestyle.  The luxury within the clubhouse is second to none as is the food!

Michel Goget tells us, “With the unique tropical environment and ideal location located at the heart of a geographical triangle between Moscow, Tokyo and Singapore, Sanya has the right ingredients to become the hottest golf destination in Asia Pacific. We are competitive in terms of hospitality and services, and Sanya will eventually overtake its counterparts in Hawaii and Miami as the word spreads.”

I am a believer and you will be too!

For more information on visiting Sanya – and for an extraordinary experience at the Ritz Carlton Sanya –