East doesn’t just meet West in the Republic of Korea (ROK). Rather they collide in one almighty explosion, so expect a heady mix of traditional and modern. Buddhist temples, tea houses, historic palaces, hanbok (colourful silk costumes) and hanoks (traditional Korean houses) are juxtaposed alongside skylines of steel and glass, clubs playing K-Pop and chi chi boutiques - ensuring that South Korea truly has something for everyone.
ROK has long been overshadowed by its larger neighbours - China, to the west and Japan, to the east - meaning that the country isn’t as clogged-up with tourists. Fast forward to 2017 though and ROK is finally coming into its own as a tourist destination, owing to its harmonious blend of technology and tradition and yes, it's rise as a golfing power. Our advice? Visit now - before everyone else catches on.
Spurred on by the success of Se Ri Pak - the first Korean woman to win one of golf’s major championships, the 1998 US Open - Inbee Pak, Hyo-Joo Kim and co, golf is seriously big business in ROK. There are two television channels dedicated to the game, while more than 250 courses dot the Land of Calm. Three of the best are:
Jungman Beach Golf Club
Situated on a seaside cliff, Jungmun Golf Club is ROK’s sole coastal course. It’s also the longest golf course in Korea, with a total of 18 holes and 72 pars, and one of the most picturesque: fairways are adorned with Jeju-grown foliage and subtropical plants. Green fee from 91,000 won (weekdays) -128,000 won (weekends) for 18 holes; www.jungmunresort.com
Nine Bridges Golf Club
Named one of the ‘Top 100 courses in the World’ by Golf Magazine, Nine Bridges’ name derives from the eight stone bridges built on the course - the ninth bridge is a metaphorical one connecting the club to its members and guests. Green fee from 140,000 won (weekdays) to 180,000 (weekends); www.ninebridges.co.kr/
Pinx Golf Club
Designed by renowned golf course designer, Theodore G. Robinson, Pinx Golf Club offers arresting views of both the Hallasan Mountain and the ocean. Year-round play is possible while over 30cmof sand paved beneath the greens, provides good drainage. Green fee from 85,000 won (weekdays) - 97,000 won (weekends) for 18 holes; www.thepinx.co.kr
Hotels and motels abound in the major cities and on the volcanic island of Jeju - the largest of ROK’s many islands - offering all the amenities a modern traveller could desire. However homestays are arguably the best way to to experience Korean culture and customs first-hand. For a truly unique stay, check into a hanok (single story, tile roof, traditional Korean houses made out of wood and characterised by their traditional courtyards).
PART 2: Essentials
When to go
Late spring (April-May) and early Autumn (September-October) is the ideal time to tee off in ROK, when temperatures are mild and rainfall is low.
From £59- £124 for 18 holes.
The average flight time from London to Seoul (ROK’s capital) is 10h, 45min.
UK citizens are granted a 90-day permit on arrival, providing they have a confirmed onward ticket.
There are no special vaccination requirements for visiting ROK, although immunisation against Hepatitis A & B is recommended.
ROK boasts an excellent public transport system - reliable trains and buses link cities, towns and rural villages alike - that puts the UK to shame.
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