Find the Blue Sky at a Golf Course in China
Going out for a round of golf in China, around one of its metropolises, allows an interesting side benefit possibility. That of, being able to see the blue sky! Indeed, the common refrain of those visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen is the enveloping haze. While the sun does manage to break through on occasion, the blue sky is a rare sight. And it is difficult to imagine it at beyond just a few places other than a golf course. Thankfully, there are plenty of golf courses around the metropolises, notwithstanding several forced closures in the last few years. I visited three recently, although I’d be lying if I said I did so for the blue sky. My reasons were purely to get a first-hand sense of playing golf in China beyond the Mission Hills experience. The blue sky was purely incidental.
The Prelude to Golf in China
My travel to Guangzhou included double record-breaking feats on counts of insipidity and time spent off-aircraft and in aircraft (stationary). It was only the prospect of golf in Guangzhou, that foiled my grand escape from both airport and aircraft. Eventually, I arrived in Guangzhou and did feel a little enthused, despite the prelude. The first task was to get into a taxi, with which I had brilliant success. Where it was to take me was another matter. Neither could I communicate where, nor did I have a plan around it. The taxi driver eventually appeared to work out the destination, but I think he was only guessing. This was confirmed when we arrived at the doorstep of a different hotel. Thankfully, that turned out to be the smartest move of the evening. There was only one other hotel whose name sounded like what he was hearing from me. The right one.
A Word of Caution Here
China, including its biggest cities is not for the intrepid (read “unplanned”) Chinese non-speaking traveler. Who cares if you are afraid or not if you cannot communicate. Even the non-verbal signs may have a different meaning here. Google Translate is known to help, but it works only on a non-Chinese data connection. In fact, most of the apps on your phone are rendered useless on data networks subscribed to in China.
Take your Golf Buddies Along
Next morning, I was in a car, driving to play golf at Peach Garden Golf Club in Foshan City. This was pre-arranged, previous night experience notwithstanding. My ground-handler had budgeted two and a half hours between my hotel pick up time and tee time. The buffer, I realized was double the actual travel time, consistent in the remaining trips to the golf courses. I got there in much less than an hour, but thankfully was allowed to tee off early. I was “pre-warned” that being a single golfer, I would be joined with other golfers, which actually, I was happy about. However, it played out completely differently in all the three games. The sense I got was that nobody wanted to play with me and I am guessing it’s the language barrier. This suggests it would work well to go with your own group if planning to play golf in China.
Cram your Chinese Numbers
I got an unheard brand of rental clubs for 300 RMB. In my ten years of playing golf, I haven’t seen this brand owned by people. However, it must be said that the rentals were exponentially better in the next two golf courses. Anyway, I pretended to not be too fussed, and in fact, found solace in them. They would serve as the perfect explanation for the scores to ensue. Next, was an “English speaking caddie” on my request. He, of course spoke no English and we were soon down to We Chat Translate for yardages and club selections. The communication at Dragon Lake with an earnest female caddy was drastically better. Doesn’t say much, but, to her credit, she definitely worked there. By my third round, I had crammed basic Chinese numbers. I now know what it takes to be better equipped for golf in China.
Single Golfer in China? Stay Put…
Fortunately, as I was a lone ranger between 2 four ball groups, I had time to kill. Taking photos, videos and WeChatting with my caddie were quite appropriate. Being caught between a slow group in front and a fast group behind is another story though. It means you have to rush through your shots the moment it is clear in front. I don’t think they allow a single golfer to pass through. I fail to comprehend, because it cannot be doing them any good either having someone always hovering behind them. The same situation played out in Lakeview in Kunming. Maybe this amounts to a cultural thing, if not a peculiarity of playing golf in China.
But the Golf Courses are Superb
The three golf courses I played were superb though, and the time I had, perhaps allowed me to appreciate them more. Rarely, would you face such challenging opening 4 holes as you do at the East Course of Peach Garden. And the Mountain Course of Dragon Lake has to be played to be seduced by its raw treacherous beauty. Finally, Lakeview’s Nick Faldo design is a pure parkland thrill with water bodies and bunkers dominating the landscape. But more than the Nick Faldo course design, anyone thinking of playing golf in China must consider Kunming. The weather here is the best you can find for all year golf in Asia.