Built within a winter sports resort in the mountains south of Seoul, Birch Hill is a luxurious golf experience with plenty of attractive scenery, fine turf conditions and pretty golfing visuals.
The course looks great and will please most demographics, but it’s frustrating from a design perspective due to some of the elementary mistakes made by Ronald Fream and his design team. Holes often fight the terrain, the use of water is rarely done to increase strategic interest, drive bunkers are continually out of position and there is an unfortunate internal out-of-bounds area.
Problems start early, the par five 3rd punishes the long, straight hitters with a series of tall pines blocking access to the green, while the 7th is a mid-length hole with a pond in front of the green but a wide, dull fairway that lets you hit the ball anywhere provided it stays dry. By contrast, the downhill par five 10th is a striking hole visually, but another that frustrates because bunkers short of the green point you to the right but the green favours those coming from the left. The next is also silly, it features a lake down the right side but the left side is not only safer but gives you a much better angle on the approach.
Aside from the uphill par five 18th, where bunkers ringing the green prevent the heroic approach, the rest of Birch Hill is decent enough and it does take a beautiful picture. Despite a lovely setting, this is a course that should have been much more impressive.