CHUNCHEON, South Korea -- Which nine at Whistling Rock Country Club is best?
It's one of those questions that has no answers, only opinions. Each of the three nines -- Cloud, Cocoon and Temple -- at this prestigious private club has its own mesmerizing merits.
The 27-hole Ted Robinson, Jr. design was blasted from rocky, mountainous terrain outside Seoul, opening in 2011.
A recent renovation by Erik Iverson of Tom Doak's Renaissance Golf Design further tamed a course built on such an extreme site. Bunkers were taken out or renovated. Iverson and his crew shaved down several elevated greens to create more pin placements and allow better access to running shots. What remains is a visual wonder that's thrilling and entertaining like a Hollywood blockbuster.
Each nine is named after a teahouse players encounter halfway through its holes. Teahouses are Korea's version of a "snack shack," although 10 times better. The Cloud teahouse floats high above the par-3 fourth hole, offering up panoramic views. The Cocoon teahouse sits in a lovely setting adjacent to a pond. The Temple teahouse provides some relief after an uphill climb on the tough par-4 fourth hole.
Whistling Rock's Temple nine provides the property's most scenic tee shot on no. 3, a stout 445-yard par 4. The ball, when launched off of a ridge, hangs in the air for what feels like a minute before landing. The first and ninth holes cross streams that are part of an elaborate system of interconnected waterfalls and water hazards flowing throughout the layout.
The risk-reward sixth hole highlights the Cocoon nine, which has a great variety of holes. The fairway doglegs right to a green tucked behind a pond and a pair of bunkers. A well struck drive can hold the green from the white (288 yards) or blue (326 yards) tees.
Whistling Rock's "Cloud" nine goes rogue with five holes on the other side of the mountain, only reachable by driving through a massive tunnel anchored by a pair of giant doors. The 11th hole is particularly memorable as a dramatic par 5 over water.
Female caddies accompany this epic journey. They control four-person carts with a remote control, allowing their players to walk or ride. The carts stay on the paths, keeping the course in pristine shape. It's touches like these that make Whistling Rock so uniquely memorable.
Between the golf course, the caddies and a cavernous clubhouse, Whistling Rock delivers an experience like no other.