'Spring City is destined to become one of the great golf resorts in the Asia-Pacific region.' Robert Trent Jones Jr
Located a short distance from the ancient capital of Yunnan Province in Southern China, the Spring City Golf & Lake Resort was built on a mountainside almost 7,000 feet above sea level and overlooking the beautiful Yang Zong Hai Lake. With an ideal year-round climate for golf and grass growing, the resort enjoys tranquil views across the still waters of the lake to the surrounding mountain range and is not dissimilar to the setting of Scotland’s famous Loch Lomond club, the golf also with a distinct American flavor.
The more impressive of the resort’s two courses is the Robert Trent Jones Jr designed Lake Course, which is laid out beneath the elevated clubhouse and drops down the hillside toward the water with three holes touching the lake’s edge. The design team shifted more than 4.5 million cubic meters of earth, primarily rock, to construct the course with most holes built on ledges and terraced down toward the water. Lined by thick native grasses the course is severe on stray balls and par is well protected by some extreme driving challenges, excessive length and heavily contoured green shapes.
Hardly an ideal start, the opening tee shot is fairly typical of what to expect throughout the round, a dramatic plunging drive to a narrow fairway with an instant reload for those missing on either side. Although the rest of the course is similarly penal, there is no denying the adventurous quality of holes like 2, 3, 4 and 7, which tumbles down and right toward the lake and is fun to play provided you can find the narrow fairway from the tee. The next three holes lie partly within the lake. The short 8th drops sharply to a green backing onto the water, and is followed by a beautiful par five right along the lake’s edge which is reachable in length but sadly not in design as the neck of the green pinches in so tight that only the desperate or deranged would take it on.
Perhaps the biggest highlight is the intimidating long par three 10th, played from a lakeside tee over part of the hazard and up a steep ridge to a seemingly tiny target. Requiring at least your longest iron, anything short or right will crash down the rocky cliff and into the water while a thick menacing hillside waits on your left. So scary and narrow is the shot here that many actually choose to lay-up. Of the remaining back nine, the beautifully sited 13th green with its lake backdrop and the very fine 18th hole are the standouts. Despite moments of extravagance, the impeccably maintained Lake Course is terrific fun, well constructed and does enjoy the most pleasant golf views in China.
Also part of the Spring City Resort is the more user-friendly Mountain Course by Jack Nicklaus Design. Built higher into the hillside, and barely distinguishable from other Nicklaus courses in Asia, the front nine features tighter driving zones and more interest off the tee than the tamer back nine which, aside from the excellent 18th hole, offers little to challenge the good player.