U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy has signed up to headline a made-for-television golf odyssey through China this year to showcase the sport in the country and the nation's fast-growing cities to the rest of the world.

Former world number one Ernie Els, Englishman Ian Poulter and China's number one Liang Wen-chong will also compete in the four-man event from October 10-16, at which the quartet will play just 18 holes, competing on two or three holes at each of eight courses.

The event, sponsored by property development company Shui On Land, will tee off in Shanghai before heading to the northern cities of Dalian and Beijing, west to Chongqing then south through Haikou on the tropical island of Sanya, Dongguan and the former Portuguese colony of Macau.

No prize money is on offer, but McIlroy said the event was more about the experience.

"I'm always keen for a challenge, but this is different to any golf tournament I've competed in," McIlroy said on Monday as the event was unveiled. "For me, this will be as much about exploring China as competing."

The itinerary will feature pro-ams, coaching clinics, entertainment and publicity events as well as the golf contest, organizers say.

Already an aspirational sport among China's burgeoning middle class, golf will get an additional boost thanks to its Olympic inclusion from 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

"The Shui On Land China Golf Challenge will combine world-class golf with travel, tourism, business and great entertainment," said Raymond Roessel of tournament organizer Infinite Ideas International.

Sponsor Shui On Land Chairman Vincet Lo said the company hoped to promote golf in China through the event and show viewers around the world the golfing experience in modern China as well as the dynamism of its cities.

"(It) will make for spectacular viewing as the golfers' travels and competition offer a window into both the history and modern growth of China," he said.