Tropical golf in Hainan Island, China

China‘s tropical Hainan Island is home to the world’s largest golf complex and boasts luxury resorts and courses designed by stellar names such as Nicklaus, Weiskopf, Norman and Faldo.

The island enjoys beautiful weather with year-round temperatures between 20 and 32 degrees and white sandy beaches lined with palm trees, as well as some of Asia’s best luxury resorts. The east-coast beachside towns and the burgeoning surf scene are putting the region on the tourist map and the island’s world-class golf options are too.

For tourists visiting Hainan Island, the best beaches are located in Sanya Bay, Yalong Bay, Dadonghai and Haitang Bay, while the luxury resort brands here include Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, JW Marriott, The Westin, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Mandarin Oriental and MGM Grand.

Mission Hills

Mission Hills is the largest golf complex on earth with an incredible 12 golf courses to choose from, located in the north near the city of Shenzhen in the Guangdong province. The resort is home to the world’s largest pro shop, China’s biggest day spa, and the first five-star resort attached to a golf course in China. It’s also the world’s largest hot spring resort, about a 20-minute drive from Haikou Meilan International Airport and Haikou Volcanic Cluster Global Geopark.

As well as the golf, it encompasses an eighteen-floor luxury resort hotel with over 500 guest rooms and suites. There’s a spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, water park, artificial beach and a total of 168 hot mineral pools.

Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman are among the big names to have attached their designs to the resort’s courses. Free resort shuttle buses depart regularly from the main resort complex to transfer golfers, while the Annika, Els, Ozaki and Rose-Poulter courses are all top quality and flood-lit to enable golfers to play late rounds into the evening.

The courses are set amid rainforest-covered mountain ridges and the layouts are likely to surprise golfers with their quality. Lava Fields designed by Brian Curley is particularly good, with a verdant layout etched through a moody lunar landscape of dark volcanic rock, although the Australian Sand Belt-like Greg Norman Course is arguably Mission’s Hills most popular layout.

The Jack Nicklaus World Cup course is a regular host to several Asian and International golfing events, the Faldo Course is the first stadium-like design in China with an amphitheatre feel of forest-lined hillsides and the spectacular island green on the 16th hole, and the Els Course is a diverse mix of dramatic elevations, brilliant bunkering and water features.

The Vijay Singh Course includes a 150-yard beach bunker and nods to Pebble Beach, the Olazabal Course is the longest course that Jose Maria claims will “excite your soul”, the Leadbetter Course is a wonderful mix of sculptured bunkers, streams and waterfalls, and the Pete Dye Course has small pot bunkers, tall native grasses and wildly undulating greens.

Shanquin Bay Golf Club

Master designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have made the most of an outstanding site on the east coast of Hainan, shaping a course of understated beauty that overlooks the South China Sea. Shanquin Bay Golf Club has a wide array of landforms, sand dunes, chasms, foliage and cliffs. The exposed par-3 16th drops more than 70 feet to the green, and depending on the wind you might be forced to choose between clubs. It’s a course when the wind is a big factor and it has a Ballybunion in Ireland feel.

The Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula

This Tom Weiskopf-designed gem is situated on the south side of Hainan island. Out of the two courses here, the West course has drawn the most plaudits. Many holes run alongside the South China Sea and the most memorable, the 547-yard 16th, literary touches it. You drive to a split-level fairway and the green is located out on a small peninsula that sweeps away to a sandy beach. The landing areas are generous and, like most Weiskopf designs, there is a wonderful subtlety to the whole package.

The golf courses as well as the resorts and beaches of Hainan Island will likely surprise many tourists who are now beginning to discover this tropical paradise.

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