Yang Yong-eun stunned the world by beating Tiger Woods in the 2009 PGA Championship and boosted Jeju's popularity as a major golfing destination. Tiger Woods congratulates Yang for wining the championship. Photo courtesy Jeju Provincial Govt.
Having already played host to several major tournaments, and home to the first Asian-born man to win a major golf tournament, Jeju's golfing reputation is quickly growing. It's never too late to start playing, as is proven by the success of recent PGA Champion Yang Yong-eun, who hails from Seogwipo, on the southern coast of Jeju Island.
Working as a trainee at local driving ranges, Yang started learning the game of golf at the fairly late age of 19. Most South Korean golfers start out very young and usually take part in elite training programs. Yang had neither of these things going for him. He practiced in the early hours of the day and late at night at local driving ranges; where he worked in exchange for out-of-hours access.
World-class courses Possibly Jeju's most popular recreational activity, golf is a rapidly expanding market. Courses here are among the best in Korea and the world. At the top of the list of Jeju's most impressive and exclusive clubs, are Nine Bridges and Pinx Golf Club, rated amongst the top 100 courses in the world.
Nine Bridges, developed by the CJ Group and designed by Golf Plan, was constructed with the Scottish Highlands in mind. The result is two, 9-hole courses situated at the base of Mt. Halla. With rolling fairways of bent grass, tees and greens dotted with pine trees and red maples, it’s a truly stunning setting and a great golf course. With all-female maintenance and caddy crew staff, the club goes to great lengths to keep the course in the most pristine condition; complimented with these highly trained and qualified members of staff. Membership is restricted and is based largely in Seoul. Limited access is offered to non-members.
Pinx Golf Club, a leader of domestic golf courses since its opening, is playable all year round and offers spectacular views. It was also recently included in the list of the top 100 golf courses in the world. Photo courtesy Pinx Golf Club
Pinx Golf Club, also situated near the base of Mt. Halla, offers an equally breathtaking scene. Designed by world-renowned American golf course architect, Ted Robinson, the course is as strategic in appearance as it is in play. Everything is carefully looked at and considered, down to the smallest of details. With a first-class employee service, a comfortable and atmospheric clubhouse and the famous Podo Hotel- designed by Korean-Japanese architect Itami Jun; Pinx makes an effort to "wow" members and guests.
In 2008 Pinx first played host to the Ballantine's Championship, the first European Tour event ever staged in Korea. It also held the event in 2009. Bringing in top-tier golfers from around the globe, the tournament had great success, and received positive feedback from all those involved. This coming year will be the final year in the contract between Pinx and Ballantine's, whether it will be extended or not still remains to be seen.
Golfing options For the average golfer, golf on Jeju is a luxury and not easily afforded. For those looking to play more regularly this can be an annoyance, however, there are several alternatives for those seeking a more affordable option. The first, and most readily available, is the driving or practice range. You can find them just about anywhere within the city limits and they are easily spotted by their large green netting. With most places, there is an option to pay by the hour, or by the day- which costs, on average, 10,000 won and upwards. Some even provide annual memberships which can range from 500,000 won to 700,000 won.
A third option, for those looking for a more recreational group activity, is the popular "screen golf." These indoor simulators combine the enjoyment of playing a wide selection of golf courses with the luxury of a comfortable and air-conditioned, private room. During the day you can play nine holes of simulated golf for around 10,000 won or 18 holes for 20,000, which usually equates to about two to four hours of playing time respectively. After 6p.m., the price rises to 30,000 won for 18 holes. Unlike the driving range, all your clubs are provided as well as shoes, gloves and access to cool beverages and snacks. There is one such place located across the street from the Ramada Hotel in Jeju City, or if you're looking in Seogwipo, there is one on the second floor of the building across from Plus Mart.
Yang Yong-eun’s success has undoubtedly lead to more Korean people becoming interested in golf and has put Jeju Island, and Korea, firmly on the map of world-class golfing locations.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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