Changes at the Yanggakdo Hotel Golf Course over the years
Back in 1995 the Yanggakdo International Hotel was opened in Pyongyang – at 47 floors, and with a thousand rooms, this was and is the largest building that can accommodate foreign guests in Pyongyang and in North Korea in general.
Over the years this has become the home base of most tourist visitors to the capital city and continues to boast a good selection of bars and leisure activity as well as a usually-reliable bank of eight elevators including two glass-fronted ones to carry guests to and from their floors.
Boasting ten-pin bowling, swimming pool, casino, billiards, a shoe repair room, ping pong, as well as a revolving restaurant at the top of the building, there is plenty to do when the day ends and tourists are effectively confined to the building and its grounds. However….there used to be more.
Originally the Yanggakdo Hotel also featured a par-three nine-hole golf course on the small plot of land in front of the building. This course was never particularly popular, especially given the busy visiting schedule most visitors induced meaning that their only free time was in the evening when the course was closed. But it was there anyway and Koryo Tours staff enjoyed many an early morning hack around the frustratingly difficult course.
Sadly, in 2010, the course was demolished to make way for a brand-new entertainment complex, which was half-erected in record time, and then abandoned, making nobody at all very happy.
The completed building with the very well-manicured lawns in front of the unfinished complex is a study room for the works of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, used only by locals (hotel staff basically) and not open to foreigners.
Modern archaeologists looking for evidence of the golf course can still find some of the markers used to show the length of the various holes repurposed as paving stones on the street leading from the hotel to the main road.
There was also a driving range where balls were whacked directly into the Taedong River, with no distance markers provided, and a hefty fine for anyone who accidentally let a club fly in as well, and also no obvious way for them to be retrieved afterwards.
A final interesting snippet of info is that around the time that the course was demolished there was also a renovation of parts of the hotel including the addition of a screen in the elevators which plays a video on a loop promoting the facilities of the Yanggakdo Hotel, including the golf course itself, which is no longer there: A curious instant anachronism.
There remains an active driving range in Pyongyang, at the Sosan Hotel - read all about it here!
Our guide to the Pyongyang Golf Course, a full 18-hole course, can be found here - you can play this course on a visit with Koryo Tours!