Formerly known as Sanjiu (999) when it was owned by the mainland corporation of the same name, Jiulong Hills occupies a series of beautifully wooded valleys near Guanlan, a thirty-five minute cab ride from the Huanggang border crossing. Situated close to the Mission Hills Resort, Jiulong is the complete antithesis of its mammoth neighbour: while Mission Hills comprises twelve courses designed by the likes of Faldo, Norman and Nicklaus, Jiulong only has eighteen holes—the work of the unheralded Wang Guang-lin—and a comparatively tiny clubhouse. Previously a strictly private club, visitors are now welcome seven days a week.
If you like your courses short, tight and packed full of character then Jiulong is the place for you. From the members’ blue markers, none of the par-fours measure in excess of 400 yards, but don’t let that fool you: this is as strategic as courses in Guangdong Province get—and it’s really very refreshing deciding whether or not to tackle the jungle-flanked holes with a driver or long iron (normally an option available only to the pros) from the tee. Although diminutive, the majority of the holes here are decidedly tricky, with many featuring elevated greens, deep-faced bunkers, sweeping doglegs and, at times, dramatic shifts in elevation. Some might characterize the place as a bit quirky, but that’s definitely part of the charm. You can play all eighteen holes here without seeing a single factory or any other sign of industrial sprawl—only the ubiquitous lighting poles tarnish the course’s natural setting—which is pretty much unique in this part of the world. Perhaps not one for the really wayward hitter, but few tracks in the region can compare to Jiulong’s beauty.
Considering that our visit to Jiulong coincided with some of the heaviest rainfall to have hit Guangdong in years, the playing surfaces withstood the meteorological onslaught admirably, which was undoubtedly helped by the course’s natural topography. While the lower lying holes were certainly squelchy underfoot, they were still very playable, and the greens, despite not being cut that day, rolled impressively smoothly given the conditions. It was interesting to note that Jiulong was one of the few courses in the Shenzhen area that was able to remain open during the worst of the weather.
Excellent. Somewhat unusually for a Chinese course, Jiulong Hills employs male as well as female caddies—and the loopers for our fourball (two from each sex) were very friendly, polite and certainly knew their stuff. Green reading, in particular, was superb.
Don’t come to Jiulong expecting to find a glittering array of fancy post-golf amenities—indeed, spartan probably best describes the facilities here. Its bijou clubhouse is functional: a tiny pro shop, somewhat austere locker rooms and a small restaurant and bar. Although it’s perfectly adequate for most, the lack of space makes it unsuitable for hosting bigger tournaments and corporate golf days.
Check-in was handled politely and efficiently and our group was whisked to the first tee within a few minutes of arriving. The excellent caddies aside, the club’s staff was courteous and even arranged for sandwiches to be brought out to us on the course from the clubhouse restaurant after the halfway house ran out of supplies.
We paid $1,080 each for a Saturday package booked through Golf 007 (www.golf007.com), which included green fee, individual caddie and shared cart. Thankfully, the club doesn’t operate the moronic policy of charging separately for locker rental, which many other courses in the area do. Like everywhere across the border, prices have risen in recent months, but this nonetheless represents a very good deal for a weekend round. Weekday packages start from $670.
A definite must-play: one of the most unique courses in the region. Higher handicappers should choose which tees to play from with care, however. We shall return.
Shenzhen Jiulong Hills Golf Club
Par: 72. Yardage: 6,939.
Architect: Wang Guang-lin
Address: Fumin Village, Guanlan Town, Shenzhen
Getting There: Taxi from Huanggang: ApproxRMB150; 35 minutes
Booking: Call Golf 007 on +852 2187 3146;golf007.com
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