Being a British Golfer from the south coast of The United Kingdom, I do miss my Links Golf Courses. Therefore you cannot imagine my excitement to hear of a Links Style golf club, here in Hainan. Situated towards to the north west of Hainan Island, near Yangpu, is a Graham Marsh designed golf course, named after the historic Salt Pans which are only a stones throw away from the club.
The Salt Pans where GuYanTian inherits it's name from - along with some local fishing vessels!
Only 25 minutes away from BaiMaJing train station, a driver very kindly collected us from the station and drove us to the Ancient Saltern "GuYanTian" Golf Club. After circumnavigating traditional Chinese Town Traffic, we made it to a 6km long driveway leading to a huge golf estate. The resort boasts (shared) luxury villa accommodation, high end Korean and Hot Pot restaurants, a supermarket and an extremely fancy clubhouse. A clocktower is the trademark of the resort complex at sits directly in the centre of the public area. We experienced some fantastic hospitality from the local management team and despite my Chinese being pretty hopeless, the staff did their best to help all of our golf related needs.
Now onto the course. Being a Links golf purist, it wasn't really a links course. Does this make it a bad course? No, quite the opposite. I don't understand why I was expecting a pure, burnt out, long grassed and treeless Links Course, like I have grown up wth and come accustomed to. This is Hainan! A tropical island where palm trees are aplenty and thick Bermuda grass grows from the fairways.
Love the attention to detail of this place!
So let's wipe the slate clean and rate the course for what is is. It is superb! There are not many times I play golf in Hainan and realise that I am not in China. The hustle and bustle of city life, tooting horns and the sound of millions can take away the peace and tranquility of golf. Not at Ancient Saltern. You feel like there is nobody around for miles, except for local fishermen and the gentle and rhythmic sound of a traditional fishing boat. This is my idea of paradise.
Opened in 2011, this Par 72 sets the competition tees at a staggering 7512 yards, which is longer than most PGA Tour courses, but you will be hard pressed to gain permission to play off of those tees. I know I wasn't! The course will gently ease you into the round over the first couple of holes, with moderate length par 4's with only the boundaries of the course the big danger from the tee shots. Then you are greeted by a true 3 shot par 5, straight up hill and after that, you will be treated to some pretty spectacular views. The course will follow the shape of the coastline, yet despite this, you will have to hit a pretty wild drive to end up in the sea! The course does feature it's own water hazards, so you will not be completely saved from losing your ball to the drink!
The 6th hole is the signature hole of the course, a dog leg left par 5 which is truly incredible. Out of bounds covers the entire left side of the hole, with it continuing to around the back of the green also. Big hitters can reach the green in two shots but it will be at your own peril, because one poorly executed shot and you can wave goodbye to your chances of saving par!
Tee shot from the 17th Tee at Ancient Saltern Golf Club
The course will continue to take your breath away with some beautiful views and very cleverly designed holes, yet the final two holes are particularly impressive. The 17th is a 'fiddly' par three with a bunker short of the green, the coastline to your right and a long and undulating green. Walk off with par here and consider it a job well done.
Looking back down the 18th hole from the Green
The final hole is a true challenge for the amateur player, a dog leg right with out of bounds running down the right side of the hole. It plays incredibly long unless you are brave enough to cut some of the corner off, but bunkers will be waiting to swallow your golf ball if you haven't put your Sunday best swing on it! The green isn't particularly deep, front to back, but is very wide with three tiers, departed by very steep banks. A well controlled iron shot will be required if you want to make par.
As far as condition is concerned, it was in brilliant shape. The fairways were cut to a nice length, which didn't give too much run on your drives (making it play longer than a true links course). The greens were running at what I like to call a 'sensible pace'. Not slow by any means, but not so fast that you will be too scared to bring your putter back. Trust me, I've played this course in competition conditions and when those greens get quick, it is terrifying!
A thoroughly enjoyable day out at one of the best tests of golf, that Hainan has to offer. Strongly recommended to avid golfers, who want to take some time out from the frantic, city life and get back to golf at it's best.