Play it as it lies, so the saying goes. In Asia, golfers probably won’t mind very much if their ball lands in an unfavourable spot, especially when they would be playing at some of the world’s newest golf courses.

According to golf’s governing body The R&A, Asia has the most new golf projects in the world. Between 2010 and last year, 185 courses opened while 92 were being developed. Last year alone, 12 were launched officially.

Mind you, these are no run-of-the-mill courses built to sell condos and villas. Over the last two years, the region has not only seen the revival and refurbishment of layouts that have become long in the tooth, but also the construction of new, high-end properties that push the boundaries of quality and luxury.

The six that The Peak highlights here harbour strong designs that take advantage of prime terrain, offering gorgeous playing surfaces and challenging configurations that can hold professional events on any given day.

Golfers in Singapore won’t think too much about packing their bags and flying away for a weekend to play. Given that these courses are reachable in less than half a day, they are perfect for a fine getaway indulging in a favourite pastime. And we know that there are few more enjoyable occasions than spending time in an idyllic setting with friends, smashing that golf ball into the wide, blue yonder.


The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip
Ho Tram, Vietnam

Opened last October and about two hours north of Ho Chi Minh, The Bluffs at Ho Tram Strip sets the bar for all other developments waiting to open in the country.

Built on natural, towering sand dunes that evoke images of Scotland, the course ground rises from sea level to almost 50m at the highest point. Sand is fine, firm and pristine, offering an ideal base for a Bermuda grass fairway so wonderfully conditioned that one would be embarrassed to carve a divot out of the ground.

Course designer Greg Norman, who was also behind the famed Doonbeg Golf Club in Ireland, was arguably a shoo-in for the job. Both courses share similarities – they are situated along the coast and removed from urban civilisation. Notably, they are located on real estate that is near perfect to lay out 18 great holes of golf.

Norman’s design approach at The Bluffs is to offer golfers a wide fairway to hit off their drives, and challenge their approach to large undulating greens. The nature of the land dictates that there are few flat lies to hit second and third shots from. There are hardly any straight putts, no matter where the ball lands on the greens.

Many holes play like amphitheatres with walls of sandy dunes covered with indigenous brush, and populated with tram trees (pronounced “cham”, after which the area is named). The precociousness of the new greens will have golfers scratching their heads as to how each putt breaks. That is part of the immense fun of playing at The Bluffs.

For now, the only place to stay at is The Grand Ho Tram Strip. Accommodation is superb, and the resort’s casino gives golfers a chance with Lady Luck at the tables, if she didn’t show up on the golf course next door.; stay-and-play packages from 6,279,000++ Vietnamese dong (S$395).


Bali National Golf Club
Bali, Indonesia

Its topography meanders through thick forest, up and down hillocks, and out towards the Indian Ocean. Standing on the elevated grounds of hole six, one has a panoramic view of Nusa Dua’s dramatic coastline and Lombok’s mountains. Piqued?

Beautiful scenery aside, the refurbished 7,166-yard course – it reopened last March after an 18-month overhaul – throws up different challenges in one seamless continuum, thanks to the award-winning Nelson & Haworth Golf Architects.

Hazards are laid out clearly so a tourist golfer can easily navigate his way through a morning round and be on time for lunch at his villa.

Some holes recall the old layout. The 10th still doglegs right to a green that is perched on the far-end hook of a crescent-shaped par 4, which is lined by sand bunkering on the right. The eighth remains a tough nut to crack, with its narrow entrance from the tee, villas to the right and trees on the left.

While fairways are wide enough to let rip from the tee with long clubs, the greens are not that straight forward. Most of the latter are built on raised mounds, or have sloping contours, which means golfers need to be able to hone that high-spinning approach to keep it close to the flag.

Water comes into play on six holes, with the 17th boasting the most spectacular view of the Indian Ocean. This is, after all, one of the club’s signature holes – an island par-3 similar to that of Florida’s TPC Sawgrass’ 17th – and is as picturesque as it is deadly to your score.

Only 15 minutes from Bali Ngurah Rai Airport, this is the perfect course to play upon arrival or just before departure.; green fees from US$182 (S$246); complimentary transfers to and from hotels in Nusa Dua and Tanjong Benoa.


Nikanti Golf Club
Nakhon Pathom, Thailand

Nikanti, which opened a year ago, is arguably Thailand’s most unique golf development. While most 18-hole courses are built in two halves of nine holes, Nikanti, which is located about one-and-a-half hours east of Bangkok, divides itself into three sixes.

Designed by Thai architect Piraporn Namatra, this configuration hopes to address the plight of golfers who lament that nine holes are too short, and 18 take too long. This gives them an option to play six, 12 or 18 holes, depending on how much time they have. Golfers can start from any of the three groups of six holes – each with two par 3s, two par 4s and two par 5s.

The course sits on relatively flat terrain, but Namatra’s clever use of bunkering provides an inherent movement that veers one away from the straightforward. Sand hazards are immaculate and provide ample protection of the greens. Water works in tandem to keep golfers from par.

Given the shortage of elevation changes, both elements stand vigil on nearly every hole to keep players from scorching up the relatively short course (6,789 yards from the back tees). All hazards of each hole are laid out bare. Many holes skirt around ponds, prompting golfers to pick distances and club to bite off only as much as one can chew. Take too much and one braves running out of fairway. Too little and the drink awaits.

Another interesting aspect is that Nikanti is a pay-to-play development; it does not offer memberships. But that doesn’t mean it is crass. The elegant clubhouse, designed in a luxuriated, modernist accent, feels rich and classy.

Tee times have 15-minute intervals. Caddies come as part of the charge, and a refreshing “no tipping” policy is in place – yet another forward-thinking element that also makes sense to a customer.; green fees from 2,750 baht (S$115) (inclusive of GPS-equipped buggy, caddie fee and drinks).


Laguna Phuket Golf Club
Phuket, Thailand

Redesigned by top architect Paul Jansen, the 18-hole championship course has little in common with the former, resort-style layout and adheres to the features of classical links courses. Furrows along fairways now make balls dance right and left, depending on the fate on any given shot. Green complexes are now monumental mounds of undulating turf to challenge approaches and putts.

To reduce maintenance cost, bunkers are down from 100 to 37 and sand areas are now fewer than half of the original. Jansen also reduced grass areas by over 30 per cent, so there is less water consumption. Woodchip and mulch generated from felled trees now feature in the rough areas.

Perhaps the one feature that will raise eyebrows is that the course plays somewhat shorter than the 7,000-yard monstrosities that pervade modern designs. “I wanted to show that a golf course can be a little over 6,700 yards, and just a par 71, and still test the best golfers,” Jansen told us.

Laguna Phuket shows that length isn’t everything. Those who are long off the tee may need to put their drivers in the bag for some holes. The first, for instance, is risk-reward in its true essence. With a skewed fairway, and a tree blocking the right side, a good drive may leave one with a short wedge to this 396-yard par 4. But anything right or left will leave one reaching for a second ball.

Strategy is key to negotiating many holes, as knowing where to place tee shots can result in either a shot at birdie, or having no shot at all. But those who drive well and long can dominate the par 5s, and come home with a score that just might make the short trip all that much more memorable.; green fees from 4,420 baht.


Pine Rock Golf Club
Qinhuangdao, China

Mention Qinhuangdao and one is most likely to associate the coastal city with coal. After all, this is China’s largest coal shipping port. But, with the opening of Pine Rock Golf Club in July 2013, visitors may go there to hit a white “rock” rather than shovel black ones onto boats.

Designed and currently managed by IMG, the club promises to set a new, luxury benchmark for such developments in this area. Since it opened for play, the 18-hole course, which is located about two-and-a-half hours from Beijing, has already garnered rave reviews as one of the best new golf clubs in China.

As its name suggests, rocky terrains are Pine Rock’s trademark. Topography rolls gently from hole to hole, often providing vantage points to the hill country in the distance. Mature pines and rock quarries lend themselves to a landscape that juxtaposes idyllically with the iconic rock cropping. The holes have varied length, variety and balance, offering something for all manner of handicaps.

Beyond the course, the clubhouse is a fine location to spend some time before or after a round. Designed in a contemporary style, its elevated position provides beautiful views across to Beidahe beach and the ocean beyond.; green fees from 980 yuan (S$215) (includes buggy, caddie, a set meal and souvenir).


Siam Country Club Waterside
Pattaya, Thailand

Against the “colourful” reputation that Pattaya has earned, Siam Country Club stands unblemished by providing courses that stand head and shoulders above peers in both quality and stature. Complementing its existing Old and Plantation layouts is a third course, Waterside, which opened last year.

While the Old course meanders through a parkland environment and Plantation has rolling hills, Waterside’s characteristic is the prevalence of water as its main defence. Though located right next to the other two courses, it offers a strikingly different experience. There is a vast openness to it, and the lack of trees and shrubs along the fairways opens up the horizon – all of which add to the challenge of gauging distances well.

While there is some undulation, the course lacks any serious vertiginous drops. There are no ravines to cross and chutes of vegetation to negotiate, but at 7,454 yards from the back tees, Waterside is no walkover. Sand bunkers are stern hurdles to securing pars, and water along the fairway on several holes urges golfers to choose their line carefully from the tee box.

Still, fairways are ample, which makes driving the ball onto the short grass somewhat forgiving. Although ponds are a dominant feature, there are few forced carries. However, the rather arduous 222-yard, par-3 seventh does question one’s resolve, as golfers ponder over which club to use to make it over the water hazard.

Off course, the clubhouse is as alluring as the greens. Clean and modern, the terrace on the second level affords a nice view over the course, and makes for an apt place to recount the day’s adventures as the sun sets.; green fees from 3,600 baht.