The Beijing Grand Canal Golf Club is owned by the Beijing Tourism Group and managed by the Grand Hotel, Beijing. The hotel can easily arrange your tee time and transportation to the course. The course is located by the Tongzhou Canal, 30–40 minutes from the city center — close enough to the Third Ring Road that you can play before or after your flight at the Beijing Capital Airport (PEK). Rental clubs are available; and the large clubhouse, designed to mimic an imperial temple of heaven, has restaurants, a pro shop and full locker facilities.
The course, designed by Peter Deng, offers a moderate challenge for players and an opportunity to enjoy the serenity of the countryside away from the bustle of Beijing.
Staff from the Grand Hotel, Beijing whisked me off to the course in an Audi A6L, where I met the course manager who quickly set me up with a locker. I told the driver it would take four hours to play 18 holes, and he said he would be back at 6 p.m., which was only three hours. (Clearly, he knew better than I that they play golf quickly in Beijing; I walked the entire course in three hours.) I met my caddy, Quin (pronounced ‘‘Chin’’), and off we went, doing our best to keep up with the groups ahead of us and not slow the rate of play.
Hole 3 (199 yards, par 3)
After disastrous play on Hole 2, I hoped I could redeem myself on the third. A large pond lies between the tee box and the hole which, of course, I had to clear. My caddy toyed between clubs; I selected a lower iron, as he was still getting used to my game. I shocked him and hit a near-perfect ball to the left side and below the pin. Quin cleaned and placed my ball for the putt, carefully reading it for me — a ritual repeated on every hole. Unable to put enough gusto into my stroke, I walked away with par.
Hole 4 (528 yards, par 5)
We finally caught up to the foursome in front of us and had to wait. While standing on the tee box, I waved to the workers who had been replacing the sod on the forward tee box. About 10 of them — men and women — were waiting to resume work until I teed off. I told Quin to tell them I was a PGA pro from America, but he gave me a curious look, not understanding my joke. I repeatedly asked Quin for the proper aim, and he assured me the best advice was to cut the corner and slightly slice the ball in the direction of the dogleg. Once the fairway was clear, I turned to my audience and said, “Watch this” with a smile. They smiled back, and then I drove my best ball to the exact landing per Quin’s advice. The workers cheered! Unfortunately, my next shot, hit with my trusty 3-wood, went out of bounds left and I ended up with a double bogey. Quin knew I was no pro.
Hole 7 (363 yards, par 4)
This is where I introduced my Chinese caddy to the term mulligan. On his advice, I tried to cut the corner of this dogleg left, caught some willow tree branches and rolled into a pond. My second tee shot was to the right side of the fairway, into the rough of the adjoining hole. I was joined by a fellow golfer; he passed through quickly, never to be seen again. Hence, the speed of play in China — perhaps related to the country’s continual economic growth. My approach to the green was a clean shot back into play, but I hit the left side of the green and rolled off. I was left with a chip to the green and 2-putted for a bogey. Quin was not impressed.
Hole 8 (201 yards, par 3)
What crazy person designed this hole? The tee box is tucked away on the right side and the view of the hole is through overhanging tree branches! I had to get this image out of my mind as I teed up. Quin contemplated the club selection — a 5- or a 4-iron? We selected the 4, and I sailed a straight (unusual for me) shot to the green just below the hole. Quin said, “Birdie?” Alas, I 2-putted for par.
Hole 12 (557 yards, par 5)
This is a difficult and long par 5, with out of bounds on the left and, as it was spring, beautiful flowering pear and apple trees on the right. Off the tee box there is a pond which should not come into play on the right. I drove my ball past the pond, landing on the right side of the fairway. I took a moment to take a picture and smell the blossoms of the flowering trees. My second shot — a clean 3-wood hit — landed me within 115 yards to the green. Unfortunately, I chipped up short and landed in the sand trap in front of the green and, after “playing in the sand,” carded a triple.
Hole 14 (171 yards, par 3)
For some reason I was tearing up the par 3s, not my usual style. This par 3 was as challenging as the others, with its large gully between the tee box and the fairway. Still, no effect; I again hit a near-perfect ball, landing in front and bouncing on the green.
Hole 16 (412 yards, par 4)
I had a difficult time with this hole due to a series of errors that started with my drive. This straightforward hole requires a ball driven from the tee box to the right side of the fairway. The hole is tucked into the left side and well bunkered. I took my ball way left and landed among trees. I felt I had a once-in-a-lifetime shot to the green, but Quin insisted I punch out, which I did. From here I had a simple sand wedge to the green, which hit fat and landed in the trap, making par or bogey impossible.
Hole 18 (417 yards, par 4)
A nice finishing hole, No. 18 requires you to drive your ball left center of the fairway before the hole doglegs right. I, of course, took another approach and landed on the right side in the rough near the fairway sand traps. I felt confident that I could hit my 3-wood and clear the trees in front of me and land on the left side of the green. Quin reluctantly agreed, and I nailed my ball on the left ridge and 2-putted for par, power-fisting with Quin in jubilation.
Beijing Grand Canal Golf Club
Hugezhuang, Tongzhou District
Beijing 101118, China
tel 86 10 8958 2988
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