By Gordon Lethbridge
MALAYSIA has a well developed golfing infrastructure with around 200 world class courses. Whether on tropical islands, beside the sea, carved out of the lush tropical jungle, in or close to the capital Kuala Lumpur or surrounded by forests and tea plantations in the highlands, you will find a golf course to your taste.
Golfing is not new to Malaysia – the Royal Selangor Golf Club was established right back in 1893 and its current home in Kuala Lumpur’s centre was built in 1921. However, many of today’s courses are relatively new with designers such as Jack Nicklaus, Max Wexler, Andy Dye and Robert Trent Jones Jr. involved in the development.
The following is a quick guide to six golf courses that reflect the variety of the game in Malaysia. These courses match the geographical and cultural attractions of the country, making it a good value alternative to other Asian golfing destinations.
The Golf Club Datai Bay, Langkawi
Voted the Most Scenic Golf Course in Malaysia by Asian Golf Monthly in 2009, and often considered Asia’s best golf course, it is set in a jungle reserve beside the Andaman Sea. The fairways are narrow and hemmed in by jungle leaving little room for error and there are some tricky well bunkered greens. The challenging dogleg on the 8th, the downhill on the 15th and overhanging trees on the 16th are other highlights. Watch out for the local monkeys.
5994m par 72
Saujana Golf and Country Club, Near Kuala Lumpur
Of the two courses here the undulating ‘Palm’ is considered better and has hosted the Malaysian Open, indeed it is de facto home to the competition. It is acknowledged to be the toughest course in Malaysia and has earned the nickname “The Cobra” as a result. It has tight fairways and thick rough bounded by the palms that give it its name. The greens are fast and challenging and well guarded by bunkers. The challenging 2nd, 3rd and 8th are the highlights of the course.
6423m par 72
Cameron Highlands Golf and Country Club
If the heat and humidity of the jungle is too much then head for the highlands. At 1525 feet above sea-level this course is cooler than those carved out of the jungle. The forest clad mountains form a spectacular backdrop to this course as well as panoramic views. The fairways are wide and forgiving and coupled with the thinner air – the ball travels faster and further – a round here is quite relaxing. However the course is not without its challenges particularly the 15th with a dramatic 100m elevation change. There are shared fairways on the 12th and 17th.
6101m par 71
Bukit Jambul Country Club, Penang
A steeply undulating parkland course with great panoramic views of the island and mainland Malaysia. This technically challenging course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. It is compact with smallish greens protected by hidden bunkers and demands accuracy constantly. The first tee, the 4th, and the signature 10th are the main highlights and challenges.
5763m par 72
Orna Golf and Country Club, Malacca
This is a relatively new course, designed by Andy Dye, and completed in 1997 and one of the more challenging courses in Malaysia. It consists of three 9-hole loops, called East, West and North. The East and West loops are combined for the championship course while the North loop is the shortest and easier of the three. Fewer trees and wider fairways make this a big hitters’ paradise though there are plenty of challenges too: creeks and lakes to catch out the unwary and large bunkers and mounded fairways lead to undulating well protected greens. The healthy dose of water hazards is designed to tempt big hits across to avoid the longer route around. The green on the 12th is on an island and the 16th has a split fairway either side of a lake.
Championship Course 6697m par 72
North Course 2911m par 36
Borneo Golf and Country Club, Sabah
This links style course on the South China Sea is a classic Jack Nicklaus design suitable for any ability level. The many natural lagoons and lakes have been incorporated and played up to offer some interesting challenges. Many of the holes on the back nine are bounded by the sea and the attendant stiff breezes ensure play is not straight forward. The fairways are forgiving, but beware the water hazards which are not. Greens are fast and often guarded by large bunkers and/or water. The course is 70km from Kota Kinabalu but worth the effort as the seaside setting puts it among Malaysia’s top scenic courses.
7159m par 72
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website
About the author…
Gordon Lethbridge (UK)
Gordon is a freelance travel writer, blogger and photographer based in the UK who has articles published in numerous publications. He has also written or updated guidebooks to France, Austria, Singapore, Madeira and Birmingham for Michelin and Thomas Cook. His writing is also featured on his website www.travelunpacked.co.uk