Golf is one of the most popular sports in Malaysia and the capital Kuala Lumpur is surrounded by landscaped golf courses. There are almost 200 golf courses in Malaysia with at least 20 of them within one-hour’s drive of the capital.
Many people play for the exercise and the challenge of the greens while some play to impress others. Indeed, golf is considered a prestigious sport and most businessmen will claim that many a deal has been clinched between the pitching and putting of their game. Regardless of the reason, there are many golfing options in Malaysia from high altitude mountain resort courses to those located by the sea and there’s even the novelty of playing golf at night under floodlights.
While some courses are members’ only courses, most are open to the public. Some are attached to resorts and staying there provides access to the course. Most clubs allow visiting players, although it’s easier for golfers to have reciprocal arrangements with their own club.
Some tips for playing in tropical Malaysia include being protected against the heat (hat and sunscreen), drinking lots of water, playing in the cool of the day and taking lots of balls as water hazards are common. Another good golfing tip is to avoid retrieving balls in the rough as you maybe sharing your game with a snake.
For more details on Malaysia’s golf courses, contact the Malaysian Golf Association (www.mgaonline. com.my) or purchase one of several magazines devoted to Malaysian golf such as Golf Digest Malaysia or Pargolf.
Malaysian golf came of age when the Mines Resort & Golf Club in suburban KL hosted the World Cup in 1999 and golfers of the calibre of Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara played there.
Prices by world standards are reasonable with many courses in main cities and resorts offering the services of caddies and electric carts (for a fee).
Golfers will appreciate having the use of these carts when it’s raining or in the heat of the day. As rain is not uncommon on many afternoons, especially during the monsoon season, it’s advisable to play early as courses will be cleared if there is lightning. Like most parts of the world, golf courses are busiest at the weekends and green fees are higher.
Many golfers claim Malaysian courses to be fascinating playing surfaces with so many various terrains on which to play. Most courses are well landscaped with tropical vegetation and some are surrounded by lush rainforests. Water traps are also quite common due to Malaysia’s abundant rainfall. One of the oldest courses and still one of Malaysia’s most prestigious is the Royal Selangor Golf Course within a good wedge shot from the Petronas Twin Towers in downtown KL. Its two courses are the exclusive domain of its private members; the 6,224m, par 72 and the newer course of 5,933m and par 71. This is strictly a walking course so golfers have time to admire the mature landscaping, ponds and rolling fairways.
The Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in suburban Bukit Kiara is one of the most exclusive of the newer city clubs. There are two 18-hole courses here, the East (5,827m, par 71) and the championship West (6,164m, par 72) as well as a prestigious clubhouse.
Further out of town the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Club is known as the “home of night golfing”. There are 27 floodlit holes here including the championship course of 7,026m but night golf incurs an additional fee on top of the normal green fees. Nearby, Monterez Golf & Country Club also provides night golf on the 5,647m par 71, 18-hole course. This is a course with everything and golfers will use every club they have as they face the hilly fairways, islands and water hazards. Visitors are allowed to play at the 27-hole Staffield Country Resort located on former rubber estate land in Negeri Sembilan on the road south heading towards Seremban. The Graham Marsh/Ross Watson-designed course has three, nine-hole sections that will especially appeal to those staying in the southern parts of the city.
The 18-hole, 6,312m, par 72 course at the Awana Golf & Country Club covers over 45ha of challenging mountainous terrain just below the Genting Highlands at 1,000m above sea level. Just 45-minute’s drive from Kuala Lumpur it makes a cool escape from the bustle of the city and the entertainment facilities of the Genting Highlands are a pleasant distraction. Some other courses close to the capital include Templer Park Country Club Tropicana Golf & Country Club, Beringin Golf Course, Glenmarie Golf & Country Club and Saujana Golf & Country Club.
PLAYING THE PENINSULA
Further afield there are many excellent courses throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Some of these are attached to resorts and therefore, make pleasant weekend retreats. The nine-hole course at Fraser’s Hill for example is open to the public and makes a cool escape from the heat of the lowlands.
Down south, the Peter D. Scott-designed Austin Hills Country Club (36 holes) is one of 20 or so courses in Johor. Alternatively, try out the 54-hole Palm Resort Golf & Country Club at Senai. Designed by Hiromasa Inagawa, Palm Resort is the country’s largest course. Visitors are welcome, subject to availability of tee-off time slots but the Cempaka Course is a member’s championship course while Melati boasts the longest par five in Malaysia, at 680m.
Two other fascinating courses in the south are the E and G Parslow-designed Sebana Golf & Marina Resort and Desaru Golf & Country Club both close to the maritime border with Singapore. Robert Trent Jones Jr. crafted the latter course in 1982 and its mature vegetation and South China Sea views are two of its main features along with the South African-styled log cabin clubhouse.
To the north of Kuala Lumpur book a round at courses such as Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort near Batu Gajah just south of Ipoh in Perak. With 27 holes and resort facilities, Clearwater is a popular weekend retreat in natural lakeside surroundings. The Wetlands par 3’s here offer golfers nine opportunities for a hole in one. Nearby, the forested Meru Valley Golf & Country Club in Ipoh is home to 27 beautiful holes and each of the nines is of championship standard.
Damai Laut Golf & Country Club on the mainland near Pangkor Island was designed by Ronald Fream and includes the Raintree Nine and the Lotus Line. Most holes are crafted into a natural forested setting besides the Straits of Malacca. An abundance of lakes creates a scenic visual vista but provides a challenge even for low handicappers.
Further north on the island of Langkawi, the course to play is the Datai Bay Golf Club attached to the luxurious Datai Resort. This course has narrow fairways which meander through lowland rainforest with some holes coming right down to the beachfront.
ON PAR IN PENANG
The state of Penang comprises both the island of Penang and parts of the mainland radiating out from the port of Butterworth. It’s a very popular tourist state with the island attracting most of the foreign tourists.
Penang offers beaches, excellent resorts, delicious Nyonya-styled cuisine, heritage architecture in historic Georgetown and many recreational activities.
There are several superbly designed international standard golf courses in Penang and most provide carts, caddies, buggies and golf set hire, if required. Some good places to play golf on the island of Penang include the Bukit Jambul Country Club, not far from the international airport. It has an18-hole, 5,763m, par 71 course and has played host to several international golfing events. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 1984, visitors are allowed to play on the course everyday as long as they produce a handicap certificate. Carts are compulsory on a course which adjoins the Hotel Equatorial Penang. International accommodation makes this a great hotel offering excellent facilities for both leisure and business travellers.
The Penang Turf Club Golf Section which was established in 1948 now offers 36 holes with a rating of 69 on a 5,313m long course. Visitors are welcome on all days except when the races are held and a handicap certificate must be produced. On the mainland, near Kepala Batas the Penang Golf Resort is the most comprehensive 36-holes course in the state, if not the country.
Bukit JawiGolf Resort is located near Seberang Perai on the mainland. It provides 36 holes, of two 18-hole, par 72 courses. The Hill Course is 5,565m while the Lakes Course is more demanding at 6,540.
Kristal Golf Resort at Sungai Bakap on the mainland is a 7,028m, 18 holes, par 72 course. Established in 1984, it has a very interesting topography and mature tropical landscaping. There’s a good mix of hills and lakes providing challenging watertraps. Take lots of balls, as there’s a good chance many will end up in the water.
The overall golfing conditions in Penang are not dissimilar to those in other parts of the country. However, the island is cooled by sea breezes that can impact upon your game.
Most courses in East Malaysia feature picturesque natural backdrops for many memorable rounds of golf. Superbly designed international-standard golf courses are nearly all located in scenic surroundings of mountains, forests and beaches. There are six international-standard courses in Sabah including the “Pride of Borneo”, the Jack Nicklausdesigned Borneo Golf & Country Club at Bongawan. For something a little cooler, play the Mount Kinabalu Golf Club at 1,800m altitude near the base of the majestic Mount Kinabalu. Dalit Bay Golf & Country Club designed by E & G Parslow is part of the Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort located just north of the Sabah capital Kota Kinabalu.
Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club is part of a large integrated resort complex in Sabah that includes two hotels, restaurants, marina and sport facilities. Graham Marsh has designed 27 challenging holes on the reclaimed waterfront land that is Sutera Harbour. Golfers will especially enjoy the signature hole, a par 3, 330m-long 24th hole (on the Garden Course).
In neighbouring Sarawak, the Damai Golf & Country Club located by the South China Sea at Santubong is one of Arnold Palmer’s finest courses. This 6,428m, par 72 gem was opened in 1995 is an essential play for any visitor to Kuching on the island of Borneo. The Glen Nickle-designed Eastwood Golf Course is the course to play in Miri located in northern Sarawak. It features billiard table greens and vast fairways. There’s nothing too complicated about playing from tee to fairway as the wide fairways are quite forgiving. However, split level, undulating greens ensure that golfers need to be on top of their putting game.
Kelab Golf Labuan, located on the island of Labuan off Sabah’s west coast, is just a nine-hole course. This par 72 course is 6,111m long but those who play here claim that it offers sufficient challenge to keep them interested enough to play here regularly. Vijay Singh worked here as a teaching pro in 1985. A creek dissecting the ninth fairway means that accuracy off the tee is essential. Labuan is a walking course and is open to all visiting golfers. Clubhouse facilities are very good with a great restaurant and possibly Malaysia’s cheapest beer as Labuan is a duty-free island.
Source: The Expat February 2011
This article has been edited for Expatgomalaysia.com
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