Mountain Course of Kunming Spring City Golf & Lake Resort

The Jack Nicklaus designed Mountain Course at Spring City in China kept a little closer to the resort brief and is consequently a more forgiving course compared with Trent Jones Jnr’s [Lake] design slightly lower down the hill. Jack’s course is perched more to the top of the banks of the hill that rises out of Lake Yang Zong Hai. The first nine describes an anti­clockwise loop. You then cross the centre point of the property and play two smaller loops separated by the practice facility.

The benignity of the Mountain Course is established from its tees. The course does not sanction blazing away with impunity, but as the landing areas are generous, the test from the tee is forgiving. This is despite the fact that the course is very well bunkered. While the bunkers are omnipresent, most are placed at the very edges of those wide fairways. No, the challenge here is to be found on the greens. The Nicklaus design team have made most of the opportunity to lay bent grass and have presented deeply contoured and fast surfaces.

A round opens with a fairly gentle 4-4-3 start and you have a better chance of clearing these three with dignity intact than on the Trent Jones course. Matters deepen on the par 5 4th where a little strategy is forced upon you. A single fairway bunker 61 yards short of the green must be avoided. The narrower strip of land to the right of the bunker provides the easy entrance to the green with an uninterrupted view while the approach from the left side is semi-blind and over bunkers. This ruse is revisited again at the par five 9th. In a head wind, many golfers will struggle to take the left-side line that affords the best entry to the green. A thumb of fairway to the right offers a bail out but at the cost of requiring an uphill approach over bunkers to an angled green for the 3rd shot.

The highlights on the back nine are the 10th and then the finishing quartet of holes. The 10th requires the tee shot to be as close as the golfer dares to a series of bunkers on the left side, thus providing the best angle of approach to the green, which is very well protected at the front right hand side. The 15th is the longest hole on the course and works its way downhill as it swings left. The critical decision here is the positioning of the second shot in relation to bunkers left and right. The green is shallow and bunkerless and protected by a rapid fall off at the back. The 16th is a medium-length par three to a long, tiered green protected by bunkers left and grassy hollows on the right. The 17th plays into the prevailing wind off the lake and is a tough two-shotter. The best positioned drive will be actually aimed at two clusters of bunkers on the right hand side of the fairways with the aim of landing between them so better to align to the angled green which for good measure contains a severe tier.

The 18th hole is a very strong finishing hole. There is much more value in this hole than the stroke index of 4 would suggest. This par four is 465 yards from the very back tees and the tee shot must find a fairway with some pronounced kinks to it. The land falls away to the right side where there is a large bunker complex in the landing area. Depending on the drive, the second shot might easily be a lay-up shot as the green is separated from the main body of the fairway by a forbidding gulley. A front pin is especially hazardous as the chances are you will be putting downhill to a lower tier. The 18th is a fitting culmination to this exhilarating course.

The above passage is an extract from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.