I recently visited the Middle East and Asia on the same trip, a 15-day journey that allowed me to cover two important destinations before the New Year. It also left me with a weekend to visit a good friend, TK Han, president, Air Busan. We played on a Saturday morning after a terrific rainstorm soaked South Korea the day before; it was a good sign the weather cleared for our game.
Dongpusan Country Club, a private golf club established in 1989, features three nine-hole courses aptly named Hill, Lake and Valley. We took on the Hill and Valley courses for a combined 18 holes on an overcast fall day. Joining us were Yong-Sam Shin, vice president, Busan Tourism, and Yong-Moon Jung, executive director, Korea Tourism Organization at the local office in Pusan. As a clarification, Busan and Pusan are the same place. Officially, the city adopted the “P” but historically spells it with a “P” or “B.”
This was my first trip to Pusan, and I was struck by how beautiful and modern the city is. I expected a dingy industrial town and found a hidden gem with lovely parks and a bustling community.
Hole 3 | 387 yards, par 4
The caddie was on her game and indicated the best position for my drive on this dogleg left. She said to capture the right side of the fairway for the best position to the green. I, of course, drove the ball left, landing about 200 yards from the green, where the hole descended to a green sitting at the end of the hill. TK landed in a good position to attack the green, while Mr. Shin held an excellent position with his usual strong drive. I knocked the ball up to the front of the green and, with a delicate chip, walked away with a par. Two bunkers protect the left side of the green, where an undulating surface challenges putting.
Hole 7 | 179 yards, par 3
I have been accused of writing mainly about my successes. Well, this is one of them! My teammates teed up one by one and took mighty strides at this peninsula green. TK took a little too much follow-through, landing left on the side of the peninsula and bouncing into the water. Both Mr. Shin and Mr. Jung took mighty swings but came up short of the green, landing in the water in the front. I was nervous following my mates, but I secured a great hit that did not reach the green but landed safely in the front on terra firma. We suggest you select more club as you approach the seventh tee. A lone trap on the left can be a godsend, catching errant balls rather than letting them roll into the water. I secured a lovely chip and one-putt for par, proudly marching off the green.
Hole 9 | 416 yards, par 4
This great finishing hole offers several challenging elements such as an uphill climb to the clubhouse and a slight dogleg right to the green. Ranked the most difficult hole on the Valley, it did take a bite out of me. From the tee box, the throat to the fairway is narrow and intimidating, but the fairway opens up where your shot will land. Make sure you admire the bamboo grove to the left of the tee box, typically Asian and beautiful. I followed my team and selected the left of the fairway for the best approach to the green. This leaves you with a long uphill fairway wood to the green. TK took on the closing hole in stellar fashion, landing on the green. I made a series of mistakes, catching the first of the three fairway traps on the right. These challenges continued to the green, where I carded a double bogey.
Hole 2 | 506 yards, par 5
The second hole on the Hill Course offers a beautiful fall view from the tee box. I guess I was running out of gas on the back nine, as I carded nearly all bogeys and not a single par. This hole chewed me up with a double bogey, while my mates did not fare much better with bogeys and higher. Hole 2 features a slight double dogleg, the first off the tee and the second just before the green tucked on the right side. In addition, the fairway is narrower than other holes, with a ravine on the right that swallows balls and keeps them in Korea forever. Mr. Jung struggled with this ravine, and we briefly considered naming it “Jung’s Riff.” I made it to the green with several sloppy shots and was pleased to move on, hoping to have another day to challenge this layout.
Hole 8 | 197 yards, par 3
All of us — except TK, who pulled together a great shot — scattered our tee shots, mine landing short and right of the green. The par 3 runs downhill through a wavy topography to a rather large green protected by a huge bunker running along the fairway all the way to the left. TK hit a ball clean and clear to the center of the green and secured a two-putt for par. The rest of us settled on bogeys and moved on to the finishing hole of our round in Pusan.
Hole 9 | 432 yards, par 4
Golf architects always try to create memorable finishing holes; Hole 9 on the Hill lives up to that challenge. The tee box is elevated and the green lies on the left side behind a pond at the end of a dogleg left. I teed off and took a beeline to the water and left side. I stayed in play and safe, but this left me with a rather hairy shot to the green. TK took the smarter play to the center of the fairway, and Mr. Shin drove way left in a difficult position among some skinny trees. I managed to land my ball over the water and right of the green for a simple chip to the green. Mr. Shin hit a beautiful shot over the trees to the green for par. TK also took par on the last hole, and Mr. Jung joined me in scoring a bogey.
We shook hands and marched off for showers and a lovely Korean lunch in the clubhouse. Golf is an opportunity to reach out to friends all around the world; the game at Dongpusan was a true bonding weekend with a good friend from Air Busan.
Dongpusan Country Club
131, Maegok-dong, Yangsan-si
tel 82 55 388 1315
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