Golfing around Malaysia8 Apr 2016
Though golf maintains a lower profile in the Malaysian sporting scene than other high-octane sports such as badminton or football, it nevertheless plays a significant role in the country’s sporting history. Indeed, the Royal Selangor Golf Club is one of the oldest golf courses in Asia, established in 1893 when interest in the sport was only just beginning to bloom among society’s elite – and it remains one of the stalwart institutions of premier golf in the country to this day.
Over a century later, more and more world-class courses are sprouting up in diverse locations all over Malaysia, each offering invigorating play and topnotch facilities. Some of them were even designed by golfing greats such as former world number ones Ernie Els and Greg Norman, and more than a few have played host to international tournaments such as the CIMB Classic, the EurAsia Cup and the Maybank Championship Malaysia.
Plus, many golf courses have opulent resorts built up around them where players can rest and unwind in luxurious splendour after a long day out on the green. Whether it’s working the kinks out of your body with a spa treatment or going on a jungle trek, there’s plenty to do around Malaysian courses even when you don’t feel up to tackling the fairways. After all, a holiday shouldn’t feel like work!
Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club
PAR FOR THE COURSE
It’s impossible to talk about Malaysian golf courses without mentioning the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, which is regularly hailed by top golf players as being one of the most well-maintained and beautiful courses in the country. Lush nature preserves, rich with flora and fauna, enclose the two 18-hole courses in tranquil seclusion; both East and West courses have been graced by the presence of golfing stars in a long list of world-class championships such as the Sime Darby LPGA.
The Mines Resort & Golf Club
Golf can be a rejuvenating sport and The Mines Resort & Golf Club in Selangor is physical proof of that. The site of the golf course was once the world’s largest open cast tin mine, desolate and stripped of all natural resources; but thanks to dedicated rehabilitation and a year of isolation to mature alone, it was transformed into a splendid parkland-style course that now hosts a diverse variety of flora and fauna. This metamorphosis is affectionately commemorated in the naming of the two sets of nine holes: ‘Crane Nine’ and ‘Eagle Nine’.
Kota Permai Golf & Country Club
Nestled within the Kota Kemuning suburb of industrial Shah Alam, just 30 minutes away from Kuala Lumpur, is the Kota Permai Golf & Country Club - a masterpiece of celebrated Australian course designer Ross Watson. Its immaculate greens regularly appear on ‘best course’ lists in Malaysia and the Asia-Pacific region, but the attractive aesthetic belies a true ‘thinking’ course; for instance, with water stretching down the right and a deceptive three-tiered green, Hole 4 is famed for being the loveliest yet toughest of four unique par threes among the 18 holes.
Glenmarie Golf & Country Club
Shah Alam is home to yet another worthy contender for golfing attention: the Glenmarie Golf & Country Club. The Valley Course is considered the harder of the two courses here with its ‘Championship Course’ billing, though the majestic view of rolling hills and pine trees might compensate for all that bunker time; meanwhile, the Garden Course certainly lives up to its ‘Resort Course’ reputation with its rich tropical adornments of frangipani trees, royal palms and serene lakes.
IT’S A LONG SHOT
Looking for something a little more off the beaten track? Head up to the cool climes of Cameron Highlands where the 18-hole, par-71 Sultan Ahmad Shah Golf Club awaits, tucked within a valley 5,000 feet above sea level. Its elevated location makes for a refreshing playing environment, both in terms of the weather and the course layout - the latter is quite literally carved out of the surrounding tree-lined mountains, creating a unique course to navigate through.
The Royal Selangor Golf Club
Further to the west coast, the beautiful island of Langkawi forms a truly picturesque setting in which to play some great golf in – which is where The Els Club Teluk Datai comes in. Besides being flanked by marbled limestone mountains and the azure Andaman Sea, the Ernie Els-redesigned course features no bunkers and its ‘nature-centric’ layout incorporates natural streams and sections of the million-year-old rainforest as hazards instead, enhancing appreciation of the local terrain.
Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club
Over in East Malaysia, the Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club attached to the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort in Kota Kinabalu has long received praise for its scenic views and frequent animal sightings. This award-winning Sabah golf course has been painstakingly designed around the surrounding thick jungle and mangrove swamps, with monkeys and monitor lizards often cited as unexpected visitors; plus, most of its holes afford breathtaking glimpses of Malaysia’s highest peak, Mount Kinabalu.
The southern state of Johor saw the stars align back in the early 90s to create The Legends Golf Resort - golfing stars, that is. Originally, three household names in golf were meant to come together to design championship courses here, hence the name: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. While only the Jack Nicklaus course was completed in full, with the Arnold Palmer course remaining at nine holes, they are nevertheless both considered to be of international standard with rows of palm oil trees and water features serving as backdrop.
RESIDE IN RESORT RESPLENDENCE
Besides the golf courses, the attached resorts also factor heavily into a player’s enjoyment of the whole golfing experience – which is why the holiday retreats that perch on the fringes of the courses are often equally as worthy of the five-star billing as the courses themselves in terms of services and amenities.
The Club Saujana Resort offers a tranquil spa
Among these is Shah Alam’s The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur, which sits adjacent to two 18-hole championship golf courses for easy access to luxury and comfort after a round on the greens. You can pamper yourself with various healing therapies at The Spa in sister property The Club Saujana Resort - in-room, if you’re feeling particularly inert - or enjoy urban pleasures such as booking a package tour, hopping on the shuttle to go shopping or just renting a bike to go cycling around the area.
Deer feeding at Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort and Spa
Besides the picturesque Dalit Bay course, the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and Spa even features the 64-acre Rasa Ria Nature Reserve, where visitors can watch trained rangers care for orphaned baby orangutans that will eventually be moved to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. You can explore jungle trails and birdwatch from the Canopy Walkway, or the more adventurous can go horse riding and deep sea fishing. There are scheduled activities every week that range from Pilates sessions and cooking demonstrations to beach volleyball and a ‘Sunset Ceremony’ with firelighting performances to ensure you never get bored.
Otherwise, go back to nature in Perak at the Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort, which sits upon 100 acres of greenery dotted with lakes and trees teeming with wildlife. When you’ve exhausted yourself tackling the challenging Raintree and Lakes Nine or getting a feel for the game on the Wetlands Nine, change things up by going birdwatching to spot herons, moorhens, doves and more; or take to the water with fishing pole in hand to try and catch yourself a nice big fish from the 350 acres of lakes. Just remember to release after!
The ELS Club Teluk Datai Course
Take island privacy to the next level at Langkawi with luxury resorts The Andaman and The Datai Langkawi, both of which lie a stone’s throw away from the stunning Els Club Teluk Datai course. The two properties share an exquisite, white sand private beach where you can sunbathe on deck chairs, take up watersports like snorkeling, windsurfing or kayaking (some of which are complimentary) or swim in the azure ocean as attentive staff make periodic visits with cut fruit, water sprays, wet towels and more.
The Datai Langkawi at nightfall
Both resorts offer nature walks with the guidance of an expert naturalist to help you discover the diverse flora and fauna of Langkawi – hornbills are always a treasured sight. For something a little more unique, The Datai offers a traditional schooner named ‘Naga Pelangi’ for exclusive chartering purposes, where you can experience the beauty of Langkawi’s islands through various bespoke cruise routes. Meanwhile, The Andaman prides itself on taking coral conservation seriously with its Coral Nursery, believed to be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, where you can take Guided Reef Walks or help out yourself with Coral Clearing activities.
Enjoying a spa treatment at The Andaman
There’s plenty to do up in the highlands as well, particularly at Awana Hotel; when you’re not out for a round at the club, you can complete a team-building activity circuit or take the Genting Skyway cable car towards theme park excitement and some hoped-for luck at the Genting Highlands casinos. If you opt to stay in the one-room condos, you can kick back and relax with a movie on the flatscreen TV or enjoy some bubbly relaxation in the bathroom’s Jacuzzi.
Awana Hotel high up in theTitiwangsa mountains
Down south in Johor, the Austin Heights Golf & Hotel Resort is a recognisable landmark of the Austin Heights township with its perch upon a hilltop. When you’re not on the 18-hole championship golf course, the resort itself provides some good, clean fun with an eightlane bowling alley, tennis court, a games room for pool, board games and table tennis as well as Jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath facilities for rejuvenation – after a dip in the free-form swimming pool, of course.
Austin Heights Golf & Hotel Resort
Despite already having so much to offer in terms of intriguing course design, luxurious facilities and unique terrain challenges, Malaysia is still only just scratching the surface of golfing tourism - a state that the government hopes to change by supporting more major tournaments and spreading awareness of the country’s desirability as a stop on the golfing tourism front. However, it is a growing industry that is just teeing it up right now; wait until it gets into full swing!