We flew out of Melbourne with Singapore airlines just after midnight on 29 September and with a quick connection at Singapore followed by a 4 hour flight into Kunming, the flying was about as painless as it could be. But it got better!
The brand new Kunming airport is now the 4th biggest in China, and with plenty of capacity we literally whipped through gathering our backage and going through customs without taking breath...
It is the quickest such experience I have had. Talk about premature evacuation...
Nevertheless our driver was waiting and we headed off for nearly an hour on the road to reach our destination for the first 3 nights- the fabulous 5 star Spring City Golf Resort.
As we arrived early afternoon we all settled in and then had to time to loosen up with a bucket of balls, some short game practice, and then a putting competition on one of the toughest, most severe putting greens anywhere!
The rooms were quite comfortable, and we had a bit of fun working through what we wanted to eat, and then getting that message across to the waitress, but in the end we had a lovely meal....
Tuesday was our first day of golf and we had an early tee off on the renowned Lake Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr in 1998. This course has consistently been rated no 1 in China from inception until the last year or two. After enduring precipitation for the first few holes the cloud lifted and it became a good day for golf.
The Lake Course has many spectactular holes with skyline greens and beautiful view over the lake behind. Of these the short par 3 eighth hole is probably the signature hole with a big drop from tee to a green projecting out into the lake. It is a gorgeous hole!
Click here or a full report on The Lake Course
Tuesday night Spring City put on a complimentary banquet dinner (as part of our package), and while some of the courses were not to everyone's liking we all ate well.
On Wednesday morning we again fronted up early for our game at The Mountain Course, and again the weather lifted early to reveal a lovely warmish day.
The Mountain Course was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and until recently has rated no 2 in China behind the Lake Course.
Personally I think it is a better golf course, and although it does not have the skyline greens, is a stronger course strategically, very well bunkered, and sited in some really lovely landscapes.
Perhaps I influenced our group but all seemed to prefer The Mountain Course.
On Wednesday night we were entertained by a massive fireworks display put on by Spring City Resort for the Chinese National Holidays. It was a spectacle and we all enjoyed it, before again working through the communication issues to order our meal.
On Thursday we met our new non english speaking bus driver and headed off to the brand new Yunling GC, some 15 minutes or so from Spring City.
Actually it probably took us 15 minutes from the guarded front gate at Yunling to get up the newly built entrance road which twists and winds its way up the mountain...
The courses were designed by US Open Doctor Rees Jones, and only opened in 2013.
The site is right on top of the mountain and the views are stunning. This is extreme golf, and would be nigh on impossible to play without a cart. Indeed the designer has made full use of the fact that with a cart he can insert quite lengthy drives from green to tee up steep inclines to find a dramatic high tee for his next hole. Hole 3 started a run of holes where we were all scrambling for our cameras. With stunning white splash bunkering, dramatic elevation changes throughout, some pretty decent golf holes, and a view of the world below Yunling GC grabbed our attention right from the start, and held it.
We were well looked after in the new clubhouse afterward for lunch, although some of us hadn't quite got the knack of eating our noodles with our head buried in the bowl like the chinese do...
As a result of sitting up like Aussies we had a number of noodle stained shirts to explain...
Back in the bus we had 45 minutes to our next hotel- the 5 star Sloane Place near Stoneforest. This was always going to be the more challenging part of our itinerary as the Stoneforest/Shilin area see less westerners. We had a driver who spoke no english at all, and sadly at Sloane Place we were no better off.
Still we managed to check in and later order dinner without too much difficulty, although it was a slow process to get the communication working.
We managed to do so through a combination of charades, sign language, phone apps, and good fortune.
The rooms at Sloane Place were relatively new, and quite comfortable, so we settled in well.
Their cellar had a few decent reds, so we were well set until some of dinner orders never turned up. Eventually we worked out with them that they could not honour the missing orders because they actually didn't have the necessary stock....the replacement 'signature' chicken dish certainly took our attention with all "the bits" of the chook still evident.
After much merriment and not much eating we photographed the comb, and decided it had to be our Players Club logo!!
Friday was a day of anticipation as we played Stoneforest Course A which is known as Yufeng Ridge
In my opinion this is a must play golfing experience for every travelling golfer with the unique Karst stone landscape dominating most holes.
Everybody loved the course.
My contact at Stoneforest was english speaking, and she recommended a local restaurant, and kindly instructed our driver, so we were set for the night.
We had a unique night absorbing the local culture, enjoying the challenges of selecting and then ordering the meal, and concluded the night a great success.
On Saturday we played Course B- Masters Resort- at Stoneforest CC.
Masters Resort has some magnificent holes in the Karst Landscape ( notably the picturesque 10th hole ), but plays through some quieter landscapes as well, with less elevation change, and less dramatic scenery. It is a good course but not of the standard of Course A
On another recommendation we headed to dinner at a local restaurant run by a minority group from the area.
On this occassion we viewed and selected the ingredients for our meals from displays near the kitchen, and once again managed to order a pretty decent meal.
We had some fun with Kerry's phone app- Jibbaco , or some such- it could be quite useful at times, and some times it was just plain amusing...
Sunday was our last game of golf on this tour- and what a way to finish. We had been fortunate through my contacts to get access to the very private members course- Course C- known as Leaders Peak at Stoneforest International CC.
I was excited!
Leader's Peak was an interesting course- the front nine largely headed into rugged mountainous heavily vegetated landscape.
I liked it, but it was not as dramatic as Course A, and there was very little of the signature rockwork until we reached the lovely dogleg eighth hole.
But when we reached the eleventh hole it got very exciting with a series of holes set in the Karst landscape that were crazy good, and ever so dramatic.
It was worth coming on this trip just to play these few holes, in my opinion!!!
So that was that!
Six games of wonderfully spectacular golf in six days
A group of blokes who had a lot of fun together and duly voted to head to East Lothian next year, and Japan the following year.