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Text by Andrew Marshall.
Photos by Paul Marshall, Gran Canaria Golf, Stone Forest China and Cape Kidnappers.
1. Links to the past
As you turn off the A90 north of Aberdeen, glimpses of shaggy-topped dunes provide a tantalising appetiser for this traditional Scottish links on a modern day scale. Right from the par-5 opening hole you are thrust into an imposing landscape of the world’s largest dunes. One of the highlights is the par-4 14th and the unforgettable sight of a rumpled fairway twisting its way through towering dunes alongside the crashing waves of the wild North Sea.
2. A gran design
Designed by Robert Von Hagge, Gran Canaria’s impeccably maintained desert-style PGA championship course, set amid rocky canyons and teeming waterfalls, offers a perfect contrast to the surrounding volcanic mountains. Anfi Tauro is one of those rare courses that generate a genuine sense of awe from one hole to the next. One of the most photogenic holes is the classic 209-metre par-3 6th, framed on either side with swaying palms and a pyramid-shaped rock, with the crystalline Atlantic as a backdrop.
3. Thai greens
Black Mountain Golf Club at Hua Hin is one of those courses that grab your attention the moment you enter the property. Right by the main entrance is an exquisite 9-hole par-3 course, set in a valley with water on every hole, and the clubhouse sits on a ridge looking towards the black rock mountains that give the course its name. A wonderful range of uphill and downhill holes and just enough water are among the reasons Black Mountain has been named Thailand’s best course for the past few years.
4. Great course of China
There may be no more spectacular a setting for golf anywhere in the world than Stoneforest International Country Club complex in Kunming, China. Set among 200 million-year-old karst rocks of all shapes and sizes, the course has players reaching for their cameras as often as a club. With three 18-hole layouts, and situated some 1,800 metres above sea level, Stoneforest has more than taken full advantage of its location. Some holes, playing among the surreal rock formations are simply dazzling.
5. Cape crusader
Legendary American golf architect Tom Doak has skilfully linked together 18 amazing holes on a triangular headland that juts 8 kilometres into the Pacific at Hawke’s Bay on New Zealand’s North Island. Cape Kidnappers fabled fingers of fairway dodge menacing ravines and skirt the Cape’s signature white cliffs which rise some 150 metres from the sea below. “I’ve always thought that ‘Pebble Beach on steroids’ is a good description of Cape Kidnappers,” says head professional Jonathan McCord.
This article was first published in the April 2015 issue of Finnair's monthly in-flight magazine Blue Wings.