'Asia's Pebble' at Pine Beach?


'Asia's Pebble' at Pine Beach?
Sean Dudley

With Korean golf at the forefront of world attention following Yang Yong-eun’s victory in the recent USPGA Championship, the recent opening of the spectacular Pine Beach course in the south of the country is especially significant.

The course, designed by the Golfplan firm run by David Dale, Kevin Ramsey and Ron Fream, has, since its inception, been plugged as an Asian version of the famous Pebble Beach course.

“It’s sort of blasphemous and borderline naïve for an architect to discuss any project in the same breath as Pebble Beach, but the comparisons were obvious and apt before we built any golf holes at Pine Beach,” said Dale, who directed the project. “The rocky cliffs, the beaches below, the towering headlands with the natural green sites already in place. Just look at the pictures. They speak volumes but, honestly, they don’t do justice to the setting or the course.”

Located on the west coast, in Haenam, near Gwangju, Pine Beach boasts what Dale calls one of the finest natural golfing sites to come along in the last 50 years. With ten holes perched directly on the rocky clifftop and smaller peninsulas extending 200 metres into the sea the 7,290 yard course is attracting attention across Asia and beyond.

“To be honest, the inland terrain at Pine Beach is better than Pebble’s,” Dale said. “It’s just more dramatic physically, more akin to what you’d find at Spyglass. Just call the whole place Monterey East.”

Dale says he routed the 18 holes at Pine Beach to take maximum advantage of the site’s extraordinary physical characteristics. No opportunity for exposure to the coastline was wasted. On the sixteenth hole. a 430 yard dogleg par four with the Yellow Sea forming a hazard all along the right side, he built a retaining wall to allow tee placement directly at the cliff edge, creating a spectacular water carry.

The par three fifteen also plays across open water. The front side has its own collection of seaside holes — the 370 yard, ninth sweeps along the sea before doglegging uphill to the clubhouse. The par three plays downhill to a green with a backdrop of pure blue sea: the penalty for going long is a steep plunge into oblivion.

But Dale says the inland holes don’t suffer by comparison. “It’s wonderful, wildly undulating golfing terrain,” he said. “When you get a peak at the sea from the elevated tee box at number three, for example, it’s thrilling. From the fifth green you get the first full panorama of the ocean holes you’re about to play, the seventh, eighth and ninth, plus the seventeenth and eighteenth beyond. You just don’t get that sort of anticipatory moment at Pebble, or any course without serious elevation changes inland.”