Stoneforest International Country Club - Course A
Rated by some as the ' No 1 wonder of the world' , The Stone Forest National Park is a UNESCO world heritage listed site , and accommodates over 3 million tourists a year . Aptly named the vast limestone formations have the feel of a vast forest - it is an awesome sight!
Imagine then being allowed to build a golf course in such terrain . Australians would liken it to building a golf course on Ayers Rock! Sacrilege!
Completed in 2011 , and designed by USA golf architects Schmidt & Curley - Stone Forest has 3 courses in their complex . Schmidt & Curley came to prominence with their role in the designs at Mission Hills Shenzhen ( with the marquee player courses ) , and then in their own right at the fabulous Mission Hills Haikou.
StoneForest is one of perhaps 300 sites around China where courses were built without them being sanctioned by the appropriate authorities , and has been in some danger of having the development abandoned. Hopefully this is now a thing of the past...
But what a spectacular site for a golf course! Our group had goosebumps before we had even teed off on Course A - known also as Yufeng Ridge
It is certainly a unique landscape for a golf course , and high on my list as one of the world's must play courses.
Do you remember those goofy old golfing calendars with ridiculous golf holes? - well sometimes it felt just like that with greens and tees tucked away in the rocks..
The course has significant elevation change throughout and dramatic stone formations surrounding both tees and greens and sometimes used as obstacles in the fairway . You can never forget where you are . The scenery and terrain are so overwhelming at times it is hard to realistically asses the merits of the golf architecture . The green complexes were full of interest , and would be a handful if firm and quick . The bunkering was reasonably strategic , but relatively understated . In this respect I don't think the bunkering was overly impressive for such a good course , but given the surrounds it may well be that 'flashier' bunkering may well have been too much...
And there are some world class holes on Yufeng Ridge.
The medium length par 4 second hole grabs your attention with a water carry off the tee, and an elevated well bunkered green with plenty of movement ensuring a par is well earned.
The slightly longer par 4 third hole places more emphasis on the long approach shot which needs to carry a water hazard to hit a green angling away from right to left. Both are strong holes, but with the ever present rock surrounds it is all a bit surreal.
Another favourite is the short Par 4 sixth hole, a dog leg left to a green framed by magnificent Stoneforest rock formations.
And then the downhill par 3 seventh, again with the limestone formations as a backdrop is a hole you want to play over...
Maybe the strongest of this trio is actually the wonderful par 4 eighth hole with elevated tee high in the rocks and a challenging tee shot and classic green setting again with the rocky backdrop.
In the back nine the glorious green setting on the par 5 twelfth hole is a joy to play and a nice contrast with a creek to clear in the approach, and treed landscape around the green.
The short par 4 thirteenth is an all world hole with elevated tee, a fairway arcing around a chasm to the left and elevated green perched above the trouble well framed by the rocks.
And I loved the short tricky par 3 sixteenth hole from a very elevated tee to a gorgeous and extremely contoured green sitting in the dell below surrounded by stone....
Overall this was a top golfing experience and goes straight into my top 10 list for the most fun courses I have played - let the pictures tell the story!!!
Yufeng Ridge rates as a must play course for all Travelling golfers!
Stoneforest International CC is played as one of the courses on The Travelling Golfer's Spring City & Stoneforest Tours.
Other courses played include The Lake & The Mountain courses at Spring a City Resort, Yunling, course B at Stoneforest, and possibly Sunshine GC.
The Travelling Golfer