It’s a bit classist, a bit elitist for sure, but it can’t be denied that Hong Kong has a long history of private membership clubs dating back to the days of Empire when certain basics were insisted upon by the British no matter how far-flung the colony might be: the High Commissioner’s residence, law courts, a cricket pitch and, of course, the club.
The club was developed as a place for recreation, more for colonial officials than army officers who already had the Officers’ Mess as a place to relax after a hard day in the tropics. In the early days, clubs were generally for members only; locals and women were not permitted entry and the rules could be a minefield.
Things have changed and we’ve come a long way since then. Women and locals are welcome. But the fabric of the many membership clubs remains the same — a place to kick back from the stresses of the city. They cater today to many different interests and are no longer related to politics or snobbery; they are simply great places to enjoy the good life and incredible amenities in one of the best cities in the world.
In Hong Kong, these last vestiges of British rule remain even though the territory has now been a part of China for over 20 years. We’ve selected the top 10 sporting clubs where one can enjoy not only the outstanding sports grounds, pools and playing fields but also excellent food and beverage outlets and other facilities.
1. The Hong Kong Cricket Club
The Hong Kong Cricket Club is the second oldest club in Hong Kong. Established just five years after the Hong Kong Club in 1851, it is older than all but three cricket clubs in England. It comes in at No 1 for its location, its views, its friendly, laid-back atmosphere and for its superb range of facilities. Its cricket pitch is one of just three in Hong Kong to host international matches and also doubles as a premier lawn-bowling venue. In the summer grass tennis courts — a rarity in Hong Kong — are laid out there. Other sports facilities include four squash courts, three tennis courts, an indoor cricket centre, well-equipped gym, all-purpose sports room, golf simulator, snooker room and bowling alley. If these aren’t enough you can also play darts and pool in the Boundary Bar, one of the Cricket Club’s five bars. Dining includes a superb Chinese restaurant, a fine-dining venue, the Chater Tavern serving pub-style food, the Sportsman’s Bar, and a very good coffee shop. There are very few better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than to sit on the terrace outside the Long Room watching cricket with a cold beer or a glass of wine in hand.
Hong Kong Cricket Club, 137 Wong Nai Chung Gap Road
2. The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club
A short stroll from the Noon Day Gun is the Hong Kong Yacht Club–which has proudly kept the appellation ‘Royal’ even after the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The Club has squash courts, a pool, a bowling alley and a gym but its focus is of course, on watersports, concentrating on sailing and rowing. Apart from its clubhouse on Kellett Island in Causeway Bay the Yacht Club also has a facility on Middle Island where you can rent rowboats and dinghies and enjoy a fine weekend barbecue. But, the real reason why the Yacht Club comes in at No.2 is for its beautiful, hidden facility at Shelter Cove, down a track leading off the main road to Sai Kung. There the boats sit tranquilly in their moorings in a sea which is clear and blue. The tiny clubhouse serves beer and wine and pub-style food and on Sundays hosts a family barbecue. It is a superb haven away from the bustle of Hong Kong.
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Kellett Island, Causeway Bay
3. The Football Club
In the heart of Happy Valley with spectacular views of the racecourse, The Football Club is Hong Kong’s premier sports club and is far more laid back than many of the others because it is all about its phenomenal sporting facilities. It provides Hong Kong’s largest collection of pitches: for soccer, rugby, hockey and netball. It also has seven squash courts, six tennis courts, a pool, huge state of the art gym, snooker room, bowling alley, golf simulator, even an indoor bowling green. To quench the thirst after all those activities there is the Sportsman’s Bar, with half a dozen TV sets showing the latest games, the Captain’s Bar and the Chairman’s bar. Four restaurants round off one of the best sporting clubs in the 852.
Hong Kong Football Club, 3 Sports Road, Happy Valley
4. The Hong Kong Country Club
A stone’s throw from Ocean Park, looking out over Deepwater Bay, is the Country Club. While it may have more limited sports facilities than the others, it still boasts tennis courts, squash courts, a bowling alley, a pool and a gym. It is a beautiful club of over five acres of secluded grounds and a great place to eat, drink, and relax. Its five eating establishments, Chinese, French Italian, continental and a noodle bar, are among the best in Hong Kong. A long lunch, a stroll across the manicured lawns, and a drink on the Foreshore Deck should see your stress levels fade away. Take care to pay for your drinks: a few years ago the French consul stole two bottles of wine and was promptly expelled.
Hong Kong Country Club, 188 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Deep Water Bay
5. The Ladies’ Recreation Club
In 1883 Louisa Coxon, wife of the Belgian consul wrote to the then colonial secretary asking him to allocate a piece of land where the ladies of the Empire could go for sports and relaxation. Exactly one year later the Ladies’ Recreation Club opened its doors in an impressive display of speed and diligence that would be hard put to find today. At the bottom of the old road to The Peak, the LRC has indoor and outdoor pools; squash, badminton and tennis courts, a library, and a fitness centre. With no fewer than five dining outlets and a sports bar and cocktail bar, the ladies of the Empire would have found many spots in which to relax. Originally it was for women only but these days men are (grudgingly) allowed.
Ladies Recreation Club, 10 Old Peak Road, Mid Levels
6. The Kowloon Cricket Club
One of Hong Kong’s most iconic clubs has to be the Kowloon Cricket Club. Its most obvious facility is a cricket pitch that hosts local and international matches as well as for soccer and hockey. A swimming pool complex, tennis and squash courts, a bowling green, an indoor bowling alley and snooker room make this one of the best sporting clubs in Hong Kong. With a café, a Grill Room, a large bar and meals also served in the Pavilion and by the pool, the KCC offers a comprehensive range of food options. They would also dispute USRC’s claim to serve Hong Kong’s best curries.
Kowloon Cricket Club, 10 Cox’s Street, Jordan
7. The Aberdeen Boat Club
In Aberdeen, facing the famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant is the Aberdeen Boat Club. It is right next to the Aberdeen Marina Club, a much larger club with a large marina and good dining and sports facilities but the ABC is a friendlier and more welcoming sports club. For landlubbers, they have squash courts, a snooker room and a pool but the club is of course mainly known for watersports. They offer wet and dry moorings but also, a short boat ride away, a bar and small restaurant at Middle Island opposite to Clearwater Bay beach. There you can hire rowing boats and a variety of dinghies or just enjoy a barbecue and a beer. The main clubhouse serves excellent food in its two restaurants and the bar, with its outside patio and views across the sea, is one of the most pleasant places to relax in Hong Kong.
Aberdeen Boat Club, 20 Shum Wan Road, Aberdeen
8. The United Services Recreation Club
Described as Hong Kong’s best-kept secret the USRC is built on the site of Gun Club Barracks in Kowloon. It was founded for the use of the British army, navy and air force officers but civilians were always admitted and now form the majority of club members. The USRC supports a rugby club – USRC Tigers and also has floodlit tennis courts, a squash complex and bowling green. In its restaurant and small friendly bar, the USRC serves the best Indian curries in Hong Kong.
United Services Recreation Club, 1 Gascoigne Road, King’s Park
9. Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club
On the tip of the Clearwater Bay peninsula with stunning views looking back towards Hong Kong Island, this club offers a tough 18 holes especially when the wind is howling in off the sea. It also has a 9-hole executive course that is bigger and more challenging than the average pitch and putt. The 27-hole golf course is cleverly irrigated by a reverse osmosis plant that uses desalinated seawater. The club has splendid facilities including a marina, a large swimming pool, tennis, squash and badminton courts, two restaurants and one of the nicest bars in Hong Kong.
Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, 139 Tai Au Mun Road, Clearwater Bay
10. The Hong Kong Golf Club
With not one but two sites, the Hong Kong Golf Club is one of the most coveted. The Fanling location offers three 18-hole courses, plus venues for reading, billiards, and cards. Its restaurants and outdoor terraces are simply beautiful, with an old-world charm and gracious clubhouse structure. It also boasts a 9-hole course on Deepwater Bay Road consisting of eight par 3s and one short par 4 (you play the holes twice from different tees). With its superb location, you can get your 18 holes in and still be in the office for the afternoon. In a lovely green setting, across the road from the beach, the club veranda with its reasonably priced food is very a pleasant place for lunch or a drink or two. Non-members are allowed to play the course on week-days.
Hong Kong Golf Club, Lot No. 1, Fan Kam Road, Sheung Shui, New Territories | Island Road, Deep Water Bay
Main image: The Hong Kong Cricket Club circa 1961 via Gwulo.com