The Seven Wonders of Southern Asia
Award-winning architect Paul Jansen recently embarked on a 28-day trip around southern Asia in search of the region’s most unique golf courses and landscapes.
Award-winning architect in search of the region’s most unique golf courses and landscapes.
As a golf course architect, I am most inspired by environments that are distinctive and unique, and thus this trip provided me with an opportunity to develop my own skill set. Moreover, I would also use this opportunity to extol the virtues and unique appeal of the golf courses on my journey and highlight that golf can be unique and quirky and still be good.
As a strong advocate for the environment, I was also interested in visiting the most sustainable golf courses. Fortunately, the most environmentally sound golf courses tended to be thae most unique golf courses as well - they are fun to play (and you want to play them again and again), and they are typically designed around existing features rather than man made-features (which can cost a lot to build and maintain).
My journey would begin in Sri Lanka and take me to India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia. Here are some highlights from this trip.
1st Wonder - Sri Lanka
Nuwara Eliya Golf Club (in the middle of Nuwara Eliya town). In an era where most of our golf courses are guideline driven Nuwara Eliya hits back and shows that golf can be as good - even better - when it does not conform to any formula and where holes are not laid out in an orderly fashion or to meet some desired end number. This is highlighted by Hole 4 - the tee shot is played from an elevated tee. Golfers are required to hit their shot over the public highway, 11th green and fairway, lateral hazard and public footpath onto a common area and then towards a green complex surrounded by the city.
Royal Colombo Golf Club (in the capital city Colombo). As Golden Age Golf Architect Tom Simpson once wrote, “Roads, railways, sheds and gardens may be thought unsatisfactory and unwelcome on a golf course, yet they are often the essence of a course; take them away and the difference would at once be felt.’ At Royal Colombo, an active rail line bisects many of the holes and is the essence of the course.
2nd Wonder - Delhi, India
The famed Golf Architect George Thomas wrote, “When you play a course and remember each hole it has individuality and change. If your mind cannot recall the exact sequence of the holes, that course lacks the great assets of originality and diversity.” In the same way, the tombs that dot the property - at the Delhi GC help create a very memorable golf experience and one you can’t easily forget.
3rd Wonder - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Royal Selangor GC, in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, perfectly melds the old school charm of the past and modern wonders of new world Malaysia. There are few golf courses on the planet with such an impressive backdrop.
The Carey Island Sports Club highlights that it is possible to build fun, quirky and characterful holes on a small parcel of land. On approximately 40 acres the original nine holes repeatedly criss-cross as golfers are required to negotiate numerous unconventional features like the internal roads, ditches, hedges, fences and some beautiful homesteads.
4th Wonder - Bogor, Indonesia
The Rancamaya Golf & Country Club is dominated by the impressive Mount Salak. This beautiful landmark gives the golf course an identity and highlights that natural features always trump man-made ones.
At the Riverside Golf Club native plants such as Bougainvillea dot the landscape. They are not just impressive to look at and give the course an identity but also require minimal input. The key is going local.
5th Wonder - Myanmar
Yemon Island Golf Resort is one of Myanmar’s most unique and fun golf courses. Highlighted by a 200m “rickety” bridge crossing to go with square greens, tees and bunkers. Yemon Island is also a multi-use facility where golfers can also take a time-out during the round to enjoy a bit of fishing.
Myanmar Golf Club represents most of the golf clubs in Yangon - it is affordable, sustainable and a lot of fun to play. Large pagodas also surround the property and add to its intrigue.
6th Wonder - Da Nang, Vietnam
A few of the holes at the Laguna Lang Co Resort are flanked by rice paddy fields that were brought back into existence during the construction. This feature not only influences the play from a visual and strategic perspective but up to 30 tonnes of rice is produced from two harvests a year.
The area around Da Nang saw some of the most intense fighting during the Vietnam war, so its fitting that holes at the Da Nang Golf Club are routed to take advantage of some of the reminisce of the war. A sense of place is important.
7th Wonder - Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap may be well known for its expansive temple complex, but the Angkor Golf Resort and Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf Course are both worth visiting if you want to experience some of the unique countrysides including the hundreds of thousands of date palm trees that dot the landscape.
Notable mention: 8th Wonder Bangladesh
With nearly 90,000 rounds per year, the Kurmitola Golf Club highlights the growth of the game in the developing world. Nestled on approximately 100 hectares in the middle of the city of Dhaka, this golf course is an oasis for wildlife including monkeys and peacock. Surely a significant part of the enjoyment of the game comes from the player's awareness of the beauty of the golf course and the abundant wildlife that wanders freely there.
About Paul Jansen
Jansen is widely regarded as one of golf’s most well-travelled Golf Course Architects. After having schooled in South Africa, he began his career in the U.S. before relocating to Europe where he worked for Nick Faldo Design on a variety of projects in Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. In 2011, Paul established Jansen Golf Design & Construction with a focus on creating highly sustainable golf courses that provide strategic, stimulating and memorable golf that is fun.
The Laguna Lang Co Resort and the rice paddy fields
The reminisce of the Vietnam war can still be seen at the Da Nang Golf Club
The 200m “rickety” bridge at Yemon Island
The Myanmar Golf Club
The remarkable backdrop of Mount Salak
The Riverside Golf Club
Royal Selangor GC with impressive backdrop of KL city centre
Stand-alone residences bounding some of the holes at Carey Island
Delhi Golf Club (Lodhi course)
The tombs that dot the property create a very memorable golf experience
Nuwara Eliya Golf Club
Royal Colombo Golf Club
The Bagan Golf Club in Myanmar is one of the planets hidden gems
The Angkor Golf Resort
The Kurmitola Golf Club