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 top-notch 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.
TPC Kuala Lumpur
PAR FOR THE COURSE
It’s impossible to talk about Malaysian golf courses without mentioning TPC Kuala Lumpur (formerly Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club) which is regularly hailed by top golf players as 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, 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.
The southern state of Johor is home to The Els Club on Desaru Coast. The two courses here were designed by golfing legend Ernie Els and are set amidst stunning surrounds. The 27-hole Ocean Course comprises a distinct layout of three nine-hole loops, while the epic Valley Course – a design collaboration between Els and Vijay Singh, a world’s first – with its undulating landscape and strategically placed sandy bunkers offers golfers a truly memorable round.
The ELS Club Teluk Datai Course
Moving to the west coast, the beautiful island of Langkawi forms a truly picturesque setting to house the other Els Club course – The Els Club Teluk Datai. 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.
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!