The Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau, the only public golf course in Hong Kong, was developed with funds donated by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the government to meet the demand for golf in the region. Located on the rugged island of Kau Sai Chau, the property’s three 18-hole courses share sweeping views of the South China Sea.
The island was once a British Royal Navy artillery practice site; the constant bombardment of shells destroyed vegetation and animal life, resulting in significant erosion. (An unexploded shell was discovered during construction of the East Course.) But repairs made to the scarred land — soil for the course was brought in on barges — have restored the natural wildlife habitat. Prior to construction, 30 species of birds inhabited the island; the most recent count topped 140.
Gravesites located throughout the course command a place of honor. (A Ching Dynasty-era grave is near Hole 12.) Scars from fires caused by the burning of “hell banknotes” — fake notes burned to pay for ancestors’ passage to the afterlife — remain evident on the landscape.
Gary Player designed the championship North Course and the beginners’ South Course, both of which opened in 1995. Nelson and Haworth, a Singapore firm, designed the East Course, completed in spring 2008, with such long distances between holes that power carts are mandatory.
Course Superintendent Christine Chan prides herself on the course’s environmental efforts: recycled water, hardy grasses and a water-desalination system to compensate for shortfall during the dry months. The Hong Kong government closely monitors the use of water and chemicals as well as erosion, which has been dramatically reduced.
Getting to the course is nearly as much fun as playing it. From Hong Kong you hop a taxi to Sai Kung, where you catch the ferry for the 15-minute ride to the island.
Hole 2 (386 yards, par 4)
You hit your drive from an elevated tee box to a level fairway, which descends to the green. Drive your ball down the crest of this hill for a little more yardage. Aim right of the fairway bunker. There is one trap left of the green, which plays faster than it appears. Take in the spectacular ocean view from the tee and green; note the dam of one of Hong Kong’s reservoirs on the horizon. Also note the electrical fence around the course — it is turned on at night to prevent damage by wild boars.
Hole 3 (174 yards, par 3)
This tricky little hole has a large bunker in front of the right side of the green and a sloping hillside on the left. It almost has a slight right turn, with red stakes lining the right approach. A mid-iron should get you there, but there is not much room behind the green. Take note of the view of the pyramidal mountain behind.
Hole 4 (366 yards, par 4)
From the elevated tee box there is a drop-off of nearly 200 feet to the fairway; aim your drive for the trap at the right of the green. From here, you should have only a mid-iron to the green. Prevailing winds can carry your ball off the tee and push it to center. Two traps guard the green left and right, and the ocean beyond makes for a great snapshot. As with the entire course, any balls slightly off the mark are in deep trouble — there is very little rough. Nearly every fairway is crowned at the sides, so errant shots will roll down the cliffs.
Hole 9 (425 yards, par 4)
Ranked No. 3, this hole’s difficulty lies in the ravine that fronts the green. From the tee box, drive your ball to the center of the fairway. I clobbered the ball off the tee straight and true (a novelty on this round) and was in position “A.” The key for your second shot is to take sufficient club, as there is a lot of green behind. There is no rough to catch your ball in front, just a deep ravine frequented by snakes. My shot looked perfect, hit the green and bounced to the ravine on the left.
Hole 13 (209 yards, par 3)
A terrific hole! There are huge yardage differences between the blue tees at 209 yards and the white tees at 125. Carefully control your distance, as there are steep drop-offs behind the green. Compensation for lost balls is in the form of spectacular views of the sea and Sai Kung Country Park.
Hole 14 (366 yards, par 4)
This is the signature hole, considered by many to be the most picturesque in Asia. The entire fairway juts out into the sea like a finger pointing to Hong Kong. The fairway has a slight curve to the left, with a little extra room on the right for shots from the tee-off target. But beware — great shots can become disastrous if they bounce and roll toward the edge; the green is slightly crowned. This hole is so beautiful it will leave you wondering if Pebble Beach vistas can compete.
Hole 16 (522 yards, par 5)
This dogleg left has a blind shot from the tee, so shoot over the aiming pole in the center of the fairway. Any shot too far left of the pole will end up in a huge ravine. I wanted to impress Christine Chuck, golf services manager, and blew a shot left, trying to cut the corner. This ball will remain in Kau Sai Chau forever. Your second shot should aim slightly right on this crescent-shaped fairway. There’s a large bunker on the left 50 yards from the green and two deep ones right of the green.
Hole 17 (441 yards, par 4)
As we approached this No. 1-ranked hole, the sun was setting and we were quickly losing light. We teed off by driving all balls within a few yards of each other center of the fairway, which is elevated above Hole 9. There is a little bail-out room left of the fairway and absolutely nothing on the right — a small trap on the right side will catch balls with a slight fade, and two bunkers on the left side protect the elevated green.
The Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course
P.O. Box 88, Sai Kung Post Office
New Territories, Hong Kong
tel 852 2791 3388
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