SHENZHEN, CHINA - As the late day November sun begins to dip behind the jagged mountains surrounding Genzon Golf Course, I fear the rapidly fading light will prevent me from completing my round at the best golf complex in China — if not all of Asia.
When I express that concern to my cool caddy — her name is Ice — the delightful young woman tells me not to worry. Ice then calmly picks up her cellphone, taps the screen, and mutters something in Mandarin to someone on the other end.
Within seconds, the 16th fairway, which I could barely see a few seconds earlier, is illuminated by bright light — the final nine holes on Genzon’s championship B Course has suddenly been transformed into a “golf stadium.”
“Now we can finish; no rush,” says Ice, who wryly points to a series of massive spotlights partially hidden by the thick foliage lining the back nine as the light source.
Left: The female caddy. Centre: The nighttime golfer. Right: PGA Bubba Watson loved the course.
If you’ve ever wondered what the Chinese are doing with their new-found wealth, Genzon supplies the answer. The 36-hole golf complex is one of the most extravagant of its kind anywhere in the world and limited to 1,800 of the country’s richest — and luckiest — people who can afford the $200,000 U.S. it costs to join the club.
Genzon’s Southeast Asian-style clubhouse is the Taj Mahal of golf — the men’s locker room looks like a 5-star hotel — and its practice facilities are without a doubt the best this well-travelled golfer has ever seen. Very impressive, even without the night golf.
The fabulous golf complex is the centrepiece of a massive resort spread over 2.5 million square metres of tropical splendour on the outskirts of this mega industrial city, which 30 years ago had fewer than 70,000 inhabitants but today boasts a population of over 15 million.
In addition to the two PGA championship courses — simply named the A Course and B Course — the resort boasts a luxurious hotel, the aptly named Castle Hotel, which is surrounded by a Garden of Eden setting that is simply breathtaking.
The resort is owned a local industrialist named Deng Xue Qin, who made his billions in the pharmaceutical industry before branching out into the real estate and hospitality sectors.
Left: The resort's practice facility is top notch. Right: The course ranks among the best in Asia.
Money was obviously not an obstacle when plans for this mega project were drawn up and two well known architects — one from China and the other from Japan — were employed to make sure what Deng created here would be the envy of the golf world. No expense was spared; the hotel’s public spaces are adorned with 2,000-year-old Chinese antiques, and the best redwood was imported from British Columbia and used liberally throughout the hotel, especially at the award-winning entrance.
Accommodation at the Castle Hotel ranges from a palatial Presidential Suite to a two-storey Executive Suite and Deluxe Rooms. Other than the size, there’s no difference in the furnishings or amenities in any of the rooms at this 5-star-plus property. Each room also comes with a terrace hot tub where you get exceptional views of the well-groomed courses, the remarkable glass and steel tower skyline of Shenzhen and the silhouetted peaks that separate China’s mainland from Hong Kong — a two hour train ride away.
The hotel also boasts some of the best restaurants in Shenzhen, including a traditional Chinese room that features lots of fresh fish — the city straddles the South China Sea — a Western restaurant that wouldn’t look out of place in New York or Paris, and a Japanese restaurant that offers the best sushi and miso cod dishes I’ve eaten outside Tokyo.
The service level at the Castle Hotel, as you can imagine, goes well beyond the property’s 5-star rating. China’s rich and powerful are a demanding lot, after all.
Above: The resort's owner has amassed an impressive collection of artifacts.
Front office manager Daniel Christian and his incredibly well-trained staff are attentive, courteous and exceptionally well versed in all aspects of the hospitality business and cater to guests’ every whim. And with a guest parking lot crammed with McLarens, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and every other exotic car imaginable, you know service expectations among members run high.
The hotel’s spa redefines the expression “pleasure place” and now ranks among my favourite in the world. The spacious suites feature two traditional treatment tables — perfect for couples’ massages — as well as a large tatami-style bed for more energetic Thai massages. Steam rooms are located right in the treatment suites, which affords guests more privacy, and large soaker tubs promote intimacy between couples. The spa staff is well trained in all the latest treatments, and my therapist, Nancy, took me to new heights of relaxation during the session with her slow rhythmic hands.
But for a golfer, Genzon is the icing on the cake when you come to Shenzhen.
While Genzon is a members-only complex, the Castle Hotel has been afforded tee times for guests and they are the hottest tickets in this town.
Genzon also plays host to a European PGA event every year, the Shenzhen International, which last year attracted an global entry list led by former Masters champion Bubba Watson.
Above: The resort is dotted with some exotic gardens.
The tournament — it’s held in early April each year — was played on Genzon’s fabulous A Course, a stunning 7,145-yard beauty that’s built around lovely Dragon Lake. The 7,218-yard B Course offers golfers a mountainous backdrop and its undulating fairways and super fast mounded greens make it a challenging but fair test for all handicaps.
Watson and the rest of the field stayed at the Castle Hotel and, according to Genzon’s charming planning manager, Scarlett Mai, the American loved his experience here.
“He (Watson) did not play very well during the day (he ended up finishing 29th in the tournament) but truly enjoyed the night golf experience,” remembers Mai. “He played well into the night on the B Course after finishing up his tournament round on the A Course.”
After one visit to this Shenzhen resort, you know the wealthiest Chinese are spending their money wisely.
The best way to get to Shenzhen from Canada is with Air Canada or Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. You can take a taxi, ferry, train or bus from Hong Kong International Airport / The Genzon resort is about a 40-minute drive form downtown Shenzhen / Rates at the luxurious Castle Hotel (it has 220 rooms) are surprising affordable and start around $150 U.S. a night. / For information on the courses at Genzon, go to www.genzon-golf.com
/ For information on the Castle Hotel, go to www.castlehotel-shenzhen.com
About the Author
Marc Atchison is a veteran journalist and a seasoned traveller with more than 20 years of travel writing experience. As the former Travel Editor of the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper, and now Editor-in-Chief and Senior Writer for TraveLife magazine (Canada) and travelife.ca, Marc has been to over 100 countries in the world. Japan is one of his favorite destinations and he's been there on numerous occasions.