It is often erroneously reported that North Korea only has a single golf course. In fact, the country has three, but none are open to the general public. In this article, I'll examine each one and their current status.
The golf course (39.107805° 125.997879°) at the unofficially-named Samsok Mansion, along the banks of the Taedong River east of Pyongyang, was recently in the news because North Korea tested its Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile on April 13 from a launch pad mere meters away.
The launch site is located on an island within the mansion complex that was fitted out with berms and ponds (for an unknown reason) prior to the missile test.
The golf course is the nation's smallest and was added to the mansion grounds in 1986. It consists of three holes with six sand traps which are arranged along a semicircular course running for 600 meters.
The mansion isn't one of the main residences for the Kim family, but it is surrounded by a dozen smaller villas set within a wooded landscape that are all interconnected by a network of private lanes. This suggests that the mansion serves as the center of a rural 'getaway' for the country's elite and provides a slower pace of life for those visiting.
The most well-known golf course, however, is the Pyongyang Golf Club (38.897281° 125.437426°). Located on the banks of Lake Taesong, this 18-hole course is part of a larger 16.4 sq. km. pleasure ground for the country's elite. Opened in 1987, it has been reserved for use by the country's wealthy and foreigners.
In 2011 it began hosting the DPRK Amateur Golf Open, but there hasn't been a new tournament since 2016 despite attempts by several tourist groups to resume the competition.
However, that doesn't mean activities at the golf course have ceased. In 2018 plans were released by the government detailing an expansion of the Club. This included the addition of nine new holes, additional lodgings and other facilities.
Construction actually started as early as April 2017, with early landfill activities, but it began in earnest in 2018 and by February 2019 at least 13 buildings were nearing completion. Changes at the site also involved the creation of a small pond (by building a barrier to enclose a smaller portion of the lake) and the installation of a helipad which was finished by Nov. 2019.
Approximately 1 km north of the original club house is a peninsula that was meant to hold five of the nine new golf holes. Those have yet to be constructed but the peninsula did serve as the site of CRBM missile launches in March 2023.
North Korea's third golf course was created as part of the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region (38.712675° 128.213664°) beginning in 2005. The course and grounds cover approximately 143 hectares and contains several lodgings/hotels, a clubhouse, and access to the floating Hotel Haegumgang.
The tourist region had been established as a joint DPRK-ROK venture, but the effort didn't last long.
There had been a fourth golf course (38.997397° 125.750226°), one that was located on Yanggakdo Island in the middle of Pyongyang, next to the famous (or infamous) Yanggakdo International Hotel. But it was removed in late 2011 to make room for another hotel; however, that hotel still hasn't been completed.
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