The state of Penang comprises both the island of Penang and parts of the mainland radiating out from the port of Butterworth. While many Malaysians travel here with the express purpose of eating (okay, the food is excellent) others travel to relax by the beaches of Batu Ferringhi or maybe for a round of golf. There are several superbly designed international-standard golf courses in the state and some provide carts, caddies, buggies and golf sets for hire, if required. On the island many golfers like to play Bukit Jambul Country Club and for visitors staying in the adjoining Hotel Equatorial Penang with its extensive array of other recreational facilities and some smart rooms it makes good sense. While not near the beach it’s still a good hotel that has many appealing qualities for all family members.
Hitting up at Bukit Jambul
One the most established courses on the island is Bukit Jambul Country Club located not far from the Penang International Airport. Opened in 1984, the 18-hole, 5,763 metres, par 72 course has played host to several local and international golfing events including the 1984 Malaysian Open. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, the club allows visitors to play on the course everyday as long as they produce a handicap certificate. Carts are compulsory and no one is going to complain considering the tropical conditions.
It’s tough, hilly and complete with four contoured water hazards, so a round becomes a challenge as well as a pleasure to play. Tee shots must be carefully placed and properly executed to avoid the rough along the fairways. The often dense jungle is impenetrable in places and the rocky landscape also adds another difficult dimension for wayward shots. While many of the Bermuda greens are large, strategically-placed bunkers and undulations present a challenging playing surface for most golfers.
Like many Robert Trent Jones Jnr courses, golfers really have to think before they put stick to ball. For example, it’s easy to overshoot on some holes and then you are in trouble playing catch up if not conceding a lost ball in the rough.
Locating the greens is not always easy and golfers need to constantly consult their scorecard to know where to drive. Most of the greens on the course are elevated to add to the complexity of a game here. At the weekends, ground staff control tee offs and act as spotters to ensure the previous flight has putted out and vacated the hole. Golfers soon get a taste of this on the second hole which needs to be played blind with its dogleg to the left and a narrow elevated green.
On the fourth hole, golfers get their first sighting of the Hotel Equatorial Penang which sits like a castle on Bukit Jambul. On the sixth, golfers need to drive between two storage ponds onto a narrow elevated hole. The par four seventh is another slight dog-leg with an exposed green located below the hotel. Both the ninth and 18 th are parallel holes that lead up to the hotel and the clubhouse.
The 10 th and 11 th are probably the most scenic on the course. Teeing off on the 10 th is combined with enjoying excellent northerly views to Georgetown and the Penang Bridge. Don’t get too distracted though as the fairway is a long way down in the rocky valley. The par four 11 th hole is the signature hole on the course and is noted for its lack of bunkers and a long and wide fairway.
Water is a problem in the dry season and the ground staff have to work overtime to keep water onto the greens and fairways. Several artificial dams assist but the task of keeping the course in peak condition is not easy.
The golfing conditions in Penang are not dissimilar to those in other parts of the country however, the island is cooled by sea breezes and it has more of a resort atmosphere. It still gets hot and humid in the middle of the day and golfers need to drink lots of water, use sun block and wear a hat. By David Bowden
Bukit Jambul Country Club Penang
2 Jalan Bukit Jambul
11900 Bayan Lapas
T: +604 644-2255+604 644-2255