Spotlight on South Korea

The vibe
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.

The crowd
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.

The golf
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;

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);

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;

The hotels
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.

Green fee
From £59- £124 for 18 holes.

Flight time
The average flight time from London to Seoul (ROK’s capital) is 10h, 45min.

Visa requirements
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.

Getting around
ROK boasts an excellent public transport system - reliable trains and buses link cities, towns and rural villages alike - that puts the UK to shame.


View the article here:


Make me a match

The UAE is becoming a haven for championship golf courses. Kaye Holland suggests the best layouts for a variety of holiday golfers


For a country that was only formed in 1971, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hasn’t half hogged the headlines thanks to its single minded pursuit of superlatives –  the seven star hotels, the man made islands, the world’s tallest tower…. But the desert kingdom is also - owing to advancements in technology - becoming a haven for championship golf courses. Here’s the low-down on five of the best…

Best for beginners: Al Hamra Golf Club
Tucked away at the northern tip of the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah is less crowded than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, making the emirate’s Al Hamra Golf Club a great choice for golf novices to practice in peace. Designed by renowned golf course architect, Peter Harradine, the course incorporates both open water lagoons and desert landscapes resulting in a stunning par 72 championship course measuring 7,325 yards at full length with five varying tee options on each hole.  Green fee from AED275;

Best for serious golfers: Yas Links Abu Dhabi
The Middle East’s first and only Links course was over three years in construction but the wait was worth it.  Set among rolling hills and delicate mangrove plantations on the western shores of Yas Island - Abu Dhabi’s landmark entertainment destination - every hole boasts arresting visas of the Arabian Gulf. Gorgeous views aside, the beloved Kyle Phillips designed course, with its uneven fairways, pot bunkers and unpredictable wind conditions, offers golfers the ultimate challenge. Little wonder the par 72 championship course, which stretches to a demanding 7,450 yards, has been hailed by Golf Digest Magazine as the ‘24th best course in the world outside the US’.
Green fees vary. Email for information;

Best for families: Tower Links Golf Club
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the UAE’s ultimate holiday destinations, but families may prefer the sleepy emirate of Ras Al Khaimah whose Tower Links Club is set against the backdrop of the stunning Hajar mountains and mangroves - as opposed to modern shopping malls. With four tees to choose from, golfers of all handicaps can enjoy this 7,199 yard, par 72, 18 hole course whose back nine holes are fully floodlit allowing for night golf. What’s more, the golf carts on the course are GPS enabled meaning even a first time golfer can catch up on the course layout, in no time. There’s also a world class clubhouse equipped with a pro shop, restaurant, gym and spa.
Green fee from AED650;

Best for couples: Saadiyat Beach Golf Club
Designed by golfing great, Gary Player, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is the Gulf’s first ocean course. As such stunning seaside views (keep your eyes peeled for dolphins) come as standard. 
The club’s 18-holes are of varying difficulty from challenging par 3s with gently contoured greens, to par 5s with strategically positioned bunkers and water features aligning the immaculately shaped fairways. But the best bit? The course, which has been graced by the A-list likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Ernie Els, weaves in and out of several superlative five-star hotels - perfect for a romantic getaway.
Green fee from AED550;

Best for groups: Abu Dhabi Golf Club
Home to the European PGA Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship since 2006, this par-72, 7,334-yard Championship course provides a tough-but-fair challenge with 18 holes of lush fairways, 90 strategically placed bunkers and generous greens. Presiding over the course is the Middle East’s most striking clubhouse - a winged falcon perched atop a golf ball - that encompasses a state of the art gym, large, swimming pool, sauna and steam room and three fantastic restaurants. Bottom line? There’s plenty to keep groups engaged after they’ve finished on the fairways.
Green fee from AED550;


PART 2: Box Copy, Essentials

When to go
The best time to play is between the months of November and March when the weather is warm and sunny virtually every single day. Summer (June-September) is hot and humid - temperatures have been known to top 50 degrees. Golfers will also want to avoid visiting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when drinking and eating in public is unacceptable.

Green fee
From AED275-945

Flight time
Emirates Airline fly from London to Dubai- one of the most acclaimed airports in the world - in under seven hours.

Visa requirements
UK citizens will be granted a free visit visa on arrival - expect your passport to be stamped as you pass through immigration. The visa is valid for 30 days but can be extended for an additional 30 days, by visiting an immigration office and paying an extension fee.

At the time of writing, no specific vaccinations are required for entry to the UAE, but it would be wise to check with your GP prior to travelling.

Getting aroundOfficial taxis are air conditioned, well maintained and metered but beware: huge volumes of traffic can turn a 20 minute journey into a two hour long grid-lock nightmare - particularly in Abu Dhabi.

Tourist board contact

Tee time

What is the fascination of chasing a little white ball for miles? This was the frequent question upon my lips each time my Mother set off for a game of golf. Finally, fed up with my bewildered wonderment, my Mother decided to sign me up for a lesson at her new club, unaware of what she was about to start.

From the safety of the sofa, golf was the simplest sport in the world. What could be so difficult about whacking a little ball with a great big stick? No problem, no fear. If I wanted to play golf, I would be able to play golf.

Fast forward to reality and my first ever golf lesson, a patience testing process! There was so much to take in. The posture, the stance, the swing and the problem posing task of getting the grip right. Having mastered all this, I was allowed to take a swing at the ball. This is when I caught the bug. Watching the ball fly through the air, admittedly not on the first attempt, was a positively exhilarating and uplifting experience. I was hooked, well and truly hooked.

I have since been back for more lessons and getting to grips with other shots such as chipping, putting and bunker shots. My half set of clubs consisting of a sand-wedge, putter, three, five, seven and nine iron are my prized possession - a 30th birthday present from friends who regard my new found passion with mixed feelings. Those that play golf themselves are thrilled, having decided that golf is something we can all do together. So carried away are my golf enthusiast friends that they are already talking of future holidays to golfing resorts. The golf haters, however, are less than happy, having lost another friend to the allure of the golf course.

My clubs are cleaned with loving care on a regular basis before my trips to the golf club and even the focus of my shopping sprees has now changed. No longer do I shop for going out gear. The emphasis is now firmly on golfing attire. Titeliest and Callaway have replaced Mango and Massimo Dutti as the new desirables.

My golf vocabulary is also improving as I attempt to familiarise myself with terms such as eagle, birdie, bogey and so on. I am fast developing opinions on what went wrong in my shot and those of others. I have aligned myself with certain players - step forward Sergio Garcia - too.

If you are thinking of taking up golf, then now is the time! More than three and a half million people played golf this year in the UK and a further six million want to take it up. Hundreds of young players are swinging clubs for the first time, spurred on by the hyper success of Tiger Woods who is back to winning ways once again, following his sex scandals.

It is not just ordinary folk that have taken to golf, but those above par (pardon the pun) too. It seems that any self respecting pop star, TV personality and footballer is seen sauntering across the perfectly manicured greens of a golf course sporting a pair of golf slacks and a diamond shaped jumper. The new golf worshippers include Robbie Williams, Chris Evans, George Clooney, Matthew McConnaughey, Samuel Jackson, Cindy Crawford and Vinnie Jones - all of whom have elevated the game to previously unseen heights of ‘coolness’.

If you are not already convinced to take up golf, then think on this. Learning to play golf could be one of your best career moves ever. Golf and business deals have been natural partners since the invention of the sport and the trend is still growing, witness the increase in corporate golf days. It would seem that more deals are stuck on the golf course, than at the dinner table.

Golf is a sociable game and can provide you with a completely new set of friends - golfing friends. However the real bonding experience is arguably on the 19th hole.

Yet the real beauty of golf is that it is accessible to all, whether we are fat or thin, tall or short, young or old. As Mark O’Meara once said: “The ball doesn’t know how old you are when you hit it.”