For my second in a series about the Korean golf mecca Jeju Island (see Golf, September 2013), I hit the links at Pinx Golf Club with my Korean friends Mr. Han, Mr. Kim and Mr. Koo. The course was designed by renowned golf architect Ted Robinson, who designed more than 160 courses in his career, including Robinson Ranch outside Los Angeles and Tustin Ranch Golf Club in Orange County, Calif. Robinson died in 2008, almost 10 years after the official opening of Pinx in 1999, and is known in the industry as the “King of Waterscapes.”
Pinx consists of three nine-hole courses, opening originally with the East and West, adding the North later. Robinson’s design is nestled between Marado Island to the south and Han-la Mountain to the north for a very scenic and challenging layout.
Pinx management wanted control over what is written about the course, and technically I was “not allowed” to take photos when I played. I was warned several times by the caddie (translated by my golf mates) not to take pictures, but I persevered so that I could bring you my impressions of Pinx Golf Club.
Hole 1 | 543 yards, par 5
I don’t know why this is dubbed the No. 18 handicapped hole on the course, as it is exceptionally long and difficult. The left is lined with an out-of-bounds fence, and dense foliage lines the right. I recall seeing Mr. Kim climbing the hillside looking for and finding his drive. The key is to make three decent shots: a drive to the center, a second shot to within attack distance (near fairway bunkers on the right and left) and then your winning shot to the green. The green is well guarded with bunkers ringing the right, left and back left side.
Hole 5 | 217 yards, par 3
This is a challenging and long par 3 with a valley of bramble you must clear. I don’t recall anyone landing on the green in regulation. I was quite happy to walk away with a bogey. Two traps act in defense of the hole catty-corner to each other, and the green runs from back to front. The day we played, the pin was way back, making this long hole even longer.
Hole 7 | 563 yards, par 5
Beautiful flowers line the left side of the tee box, but do not allow this to let your guard down. The best drive is left center, as the fairway has a significant slope from left to right. This slope adds difficulty to your second shot and has a tendency to send it right — like yours truly — precariously close to the pond on the right side. I marched down and hit a lob wedge high onto the green. Mr. Han caught the forward right trap, causing him to lose a stroke.
Hole 9 | 490 yards, par 4
This is a fun and difficult hole, and I showed some of my trickery to the team as we played the final hole on the West Course. The smart play is to drive your ball left center of the fairway so that you can take a stab at the green, which is tucked away on the right. You also need to clear a stream that runs across the front of the green and spills into a small pond on the right. I took a more challenging route, landing safely right of the water and making for an interesting pitch to the green. Mr. Kim and Mr. Han secured par, while Mr. Koo and I carded a bogey and double bogey.
Hole 1 | 493 yards, par 5
Ted Robinson-designed courses tend to break you in with a par 5, and this one nearly broke me in two on the first round on this first hole. I was the leader on the deck and was quite eager to try out my new stance and swing. My goal was to straighten my drives and add distance, but everything backfired when I shot my drive along the left side into what I saw as a rock formation with thick weeds. My caddie thought I was clear, and we marched off, hoping to find me sitting up and ready for the second shot. I was right and the caddie was wrong. My drive was lost, starting a comedy of errors to the green. The fairway is slightly tilted to the left with a gradual upward slope, causing a limited roll. The green has one trap front right and another about 50 yards from the green on the same side.
Hole 4 | 203 yards, par 3
This is a beautiful hole, which allows players to take in all that Jeju has to offer — from its green, rolling hills to Han-la Mountain beyond the green. The tee box lies above the hole and the green sits with two traps guarding the left side, a favorite landing area the day we played. An additional bunker catches shots on the upper right side. Our team secured no pars, which is testament to the difficulty of this par 3.
Hole 5 | 409 yards, par 4
The fifth hole is ranked the most difficult hole on the North Course. We added to the difficulty with our shot making. I was particularly impressed with Mr. Kim, who nestled his drive right next to one of the Jeju pines that line the right side. I also favored the right and was under a branch but with enough swing room to launch my 3-wood on the ball for a decent third shot to the green.
Hole 9 | 354 yards, par 4
A fine finishing hole in true Ted Robinson style. From the tee box, you can clearly see a berm of shrubbery crossing the fairway just about where your drive could come to rest. Big hitters might want to use a 3-wood to be safe and to allow a mid-iron to the green. After a string of disasters, I pulled off a par with a clean shot to the green. Approach shots have to cross the berm and land squarely on the green. Any shot right and short will fall into the pond protecting this side. I enjoyed a fine day in Jeju with good friends, and the weather held out for our game.
Pinx Golf Club
San 62-3, Sangcheon-ri
tel 82 64 792 5200
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