Weihai Point, overlooking the Yellow Sea in China’s Shandong province, is, in a word, spectacular. The peninsula — anything but flat — juts nearly two miles into the roaring sea and is the width of almost two 400-yard holes. The terrain consists of sheer cliffs with heights between 35 and 100 feet. The local climate, almost arid, is suitable for year-round play — although cold weather and fierce winds can challenge golfers in the winter months.
Previously known as the Pan China Golf Club, the course is owned by the Kumho Asiana Group, which collaborated with San Diego-based Golfspan on an extensive re-design. The two companies previously worked together on the Asiana Country Club (GTee, October 2007).
Golf plan and Kumho Asiana teamed to correct flaws inherent in the original course design. The previous owner, an engineering firm with no golf experience, shied away from positioning holes near the cliffs. Can you imagine? Golf plan and Kumho Asiana righted that wrong by placing holes on the cliffs overlooking the Yellow Sea, a move that involved blasting some of the rock along the peninsula’s spine to create bail-out areas, resulting in a much-improved course design.
The architects worked closely with Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam-Koo (currently the chairman of the Korean Professional Golf Association), who identified early on that a maximum 6,235-yard course would fit comfortably in the space provided. Do not let the length fool you, though — this is a thinking man’s course. If you approach it any other way, you will have a disastrous score.
The blasting of the bedrock was costly; nearly 330,000cubic yards of rock and rubble were removed. If this had not been done, the average golfer would lose more balls than imaginable. Local environmental issues came into play. Developers were not allowed to uproot any of the existing native trees — they could not even be replanted or replaced. Adding further expense, every inch of the Weihai course was topped with sand shipped from Qingdao (Tsingtao). The sand is the perfect medium for growing and fertilizing the course.
The hotel and clubhouse, designed by Min Sung Jin, whose other projects include Seoul’s Opus and Wedge buildings, the Hilton Namhae Golf and Spa Resort, Gyeongsangnam-do and Lake Hills Soonchun Golf Resort, spectacularly complement the topography of the peninsula. Enter the clubhouse and your gaze is drawn to the patio overlooking the Yellow Sea and the sweeping vista beyond.
An interesting fact: Weihai Point and Shandong are the easternmost points in China, and there is a great deal of history in the region. During the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, the Meijin of Japan and the Qing of China fought the Battle of Weihaiwei on the land at Weihai and in the Yellow Sea. Outgunned, with significantly fewer ships than the Japanese, China surrendered Feb. 12, 1895. Playing this course, just a 45-minute flight from Seoul, can feel like a battle: Man against nature, wind and terrain.
Hole 1 (500 yards, par 5)
Right out of the gate, Weihai shows golfers this will be no walk in the park. This par 5, at just 500 yards, can be reached in two by only the most skilled golfers. Your tee shot must be aimed center right so you have a clear shot to the open area of the fairway, which lies about 80 yards from the green. Off the tee you need to steer clear of the hill and rocks on the right and trees on the left. Aim your second shot to the landing area, which lies about 80 yards from the green and is bunkered on the left with three traps.
The fairway continue to rise up to the green, and each shot from the second to the third will require more club than you might assume. All along the right side of the fairway, from about 200 yards away, is a deep slope where a ball can easily fall and be lost. Three traps guard the green: one on each side and another left front. The green rises sharply from the front to the back, which makes back pin placement a challenge.
Hole 2 (345 yards, par 4)
This is an excellent example of a hole that was moved closer to the cliffs: At the tee box, you can look down at the thunderous Yellow Sea. You will need an accurate drive, a point I will repeat over and over, as accuracy is key at Weihai. Any ball hit right will be lost, as the hole dramatically falls downhill to a red-marked hazard area running the entire right side of the fairway. When my team played, the wind was gusting at about 40 mph from the ocean; I was advised to aim slightly right and let the wind push my ball into play. I hit an excellent drive and skirted the right side, following along the hazard markers. It should have been perfect, but the ball had more power than the wind and hit the right rough, bouncing and remaining in China forever.
The green is two-tiered — this is very important to know for your approach shot. It is also elevated, climbing significantly to the green, with even more climb if the flag is on the top level. Make sure you listen to your caddy, who will offer excellent club-selection advice.
Hole 5 (165 yards, par 3)
Located at the tip of the peninsula, this hole requires you to park your four-person cart (with room for two caddies) near the lovely “halfway house,” the snack bar with a sleek design similar to the clubhouse. From here, you walk a stone path with steps carved directly into the rocky earth. The hole is downhill to the green, with the ocean directly right of the pin. Depending on its direction, you may need to play the wind and hit the ball out toward the ocean in a “Pebble-like” fashion. The day I played, the wind was howling and we had to be sure of our club selection (turning it down a notch). Only one member of the team hit the green, while one player accomplished a chip-in birdie.
Hole 6 (520 yards, par 5)
From this tee box, you have a blind shot to the fairway. You need to drive the ball directly to the flag marker and clear a significant hazard in front, requiring between 180 and 200 yards to clear. Holes 2–8 play along the edge of the ocean and are the most dramatic holes on the front nine.
Once you make your near-perfect drive, you need to hit a perfect second shot for the approach to the green. I was about 135 yards from the green and pulled my shot up in a rocky area. After climbing like a billy goat, I was able to chip onto the green to save bogey. Others in the group took a less strenuous path.
Hole 10 (510 yards, par 5)
The big challenge on Hole 10 is keeping the ball as accurate as possible and avoiding the high-sloping hill which runs the entire length of the fairway. It is dense with vegetation and eats up golf balls. The fairway forces you to hold the right side as it slopes sharply to the left. I topped my drive and landed, luckily, just beyond the ladies’ tees on the right rough. From here, I gambled with a 3-wood and was able to hit the ball cleanly with great distance to keep me in the game. The ball did land left of the fairway, slightly blocking the green for my approach shot.
The fairway runs downhill all the way to a series of four bunkers in front of the green, about 50 yards out. My second shot still had some meat on it and I was about 170 yards from the green. Throwing caution to the wind (it was gusting 35–40 mph), I hit a low-iron, which hooked ever so slightly to land on the left side of the green — to the cheers of the caddies and my teammates. From this green, there is a beautiful view of the Yellow Sea and a sweeping vista of the Weihai Point property and the surrounding area.
Hole 12 (420 yards, par 4)
Hole 12 will make you say, “Wow!” Your drive must carry a ravine over the ocean and beach below. You will need about 175–200 yards to clear it and land on the fairway, which is a dogleg right turning to the left of the hole. As if this clearing were not difficult enough, you also need to make your drive as right as possible for a clear shot to the green. Most lies will leave you with a blind shot uphill, and depending on your position, you will be forced to keep your ball along the left tree line to make the green. A par is like a birdie on this hole.
Hole 16 (505 yards, par 5)
Another clearing has to be made here; your drive will have to carry another ravine to the narrow landing area. My drive faded over the left side, just making the safe area on the left rough. From here, you really need to play the ball right. This is an excellent example of the new design coming into play — this right landing was blasted out of the bedrock for this purpose. The area lies about 50 feet below the fairway from which you are shooting. Your third shot is to an elevated green tucked into the left side and heavily guarded by six pot bunkers. This is the most magnificently designed hole I have ever played, and a little course knowledge would have greatly helped my score.
Hole 18 (400 yards, par 4)
The final hole offers players a beautiful view of the clubhouse, which lies directly behind the green. Your drive from the tee box, however, must land left between or beyond the two large bunkers on either side of the fairway. Errant shots veering right will find dense rough and trees which can cause you to lose a stroke. On your second shot to the green, consider that the hole rises sharply after the dogleg right to the green. Three bunkers protect the right side and one on the left, so accuracy is crucial. The back of the green has a hill to catch robust players and keep them in play.
Weihai Point Golf & Resort
Yuan Yoa Village
Weihai, Shandong 264201 China
tel 86 631 526 4600
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