Kuala Lumpur is more than just a capital city; it is a monument to Malaysian ingenuity and determination. From humble beginnings as a tin-mining shanty town, KL has much evolved into a 21st - century metropolis, dominated by the tallest skyscrapers in Southeast Asia. Over the years, KL has faced its share of challenges but nothing has succeeded in suppressing the determination of locals to make KL, and Malaysia, a leader among Asian tiger economies.
Golf in Kuala Lumpur has a rich history, dating back to its days as a British colony. The first club ever opened in the heart of the capital is the Royal Selangor Golf Club back in 1893. It’s in the 1980s that golf really exploded, chalking over 200 golf courses in the country today. In this issue, we feature three of Kuala Lumpur’s popular courses that has hosted world class events and attracted locals and tourists alike.
The Mines Resort And Golf Club
Constructed on the former site of the world’s largest open cast tin mine, The Mines Golf Course is home to the richest PGA- sanctioned tournament in the Southeast Asia in the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, boasting a purse of US6.1 million. This is a masterpiece of environmental restoration, as the former mining wasteland was thought to be beyond redevelopment. Designer Robert Trent Jones, Jr. managed to repair the soil and stabilize the land, such that fairways are lined with a foot of sand to serve as a buffer against polluted soil; and to provide the necessary drainage during the frequent monsoon rains.
Playing 6,191 meters from championship tees, The Mines is nonetheless a golfer-friendly layout. Although this course requires accurate approach shots to well-contoured greens, the fairways are wide and accommodating off the tees. The front nine is laid out through natural and jungle bounded terrain, with occasional water hazards complementing challenging bunkers. Natural elevation changes are used to create some of the most remarkable holes. Two of such gems include, the risk-rewarding, downhill, short par-4 6th (with a deep swale waiting anything that hits left); and the plunging par-4 9th with its knee-trembling tee shot along with a panoramic backdrop.
The highlight of the front nine is the par-3 2nd, played across the jungle-filled ravine, towards an imposing tree, of roots that appear to be more above than below ground. The jungle of the front nine gives in to the lakeside back-nine, where many challenging holes are played along the large Mine Resort Lake (formerly the heart of the huge tin mine). An array of large buildings line the opposite side of the lake, most impressive being the Palace of the Golden Horses, which could be closely inspected on the par-4 12th.
It’s crucial to note though, that the Mines is a member’s only course, and outside visitor fee is not applicable. Resort guests however, can apply to play at The Mines. The hotels do currently offer a stay and play opportunity based on luxury accommodation in an executive suite and one round of golf.
Glenmarie Golf And Country Club
Regarded as one of the top-10 golf courses in Malaysia, the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club is only about half an hour’s drive from the Kuala Lumpur airport. The former Glenmarie Rubber Estates where palm oil is once produced is now a semi-private golf course with nice facilities, locker rooms, sauna, as well as an onsite golf academy. Designed by American Max Wexler, the Glenmarie features two 18 holes, both similar in styles, but features contrasting: The Garden Course that spans 6,432 meters; and the Valley Course at 6,325 meters.
Its rich flora and fauna ornate the Garden Course with a huge diversity of palms and flowering shrubs. Gently sloping down to some small lakes in the lower sections, the almost bowl-like terrain of the Garden Course creates an open feel to most of the layout. The holes are well spaced, rarely if ever intruding on each other. Although the opening two holes on the Garden Course looks like water will be a constant threat; its only two further holes, the par-4 5th and short, and snaking par-5 12th that have water serious in play. Most of the challenge here comes from judging approach shots into large, fast, and undulating greens, all that while staying out of quite deep and abundant greenside bunkers.
The Valley course on the other hand, features hundreds of pine trees lining a narrow course with spectacular views in a parkland setting. Further enhancing its beauty, water comes into play and sprawls over the hills on the Valley course. For these 18 holes, water comes dangerously into play on about five or six holes. The par-5 4th presents the biggest water challenge, with a creek to avoid from the tee-shot, and an island green to hit before you get the chance to putt-out. Much tree planting has given parts of the Valley course an almost orchard like feel, although only around the course perimeter does the flora become thick enough to make ball finding a problem.
The more undulating character of the Valley course makes it a favorite with several club members, whilst others prefer the more garden-like charms of its companion. As ever, it’s best to play them both and then decide.
Saujana Golf And Country Club, Bunga Raya Course
Saujana Golf and Country Club has established itself as Malaysia’s number 1 golf club. Also carved out of a former palm and rubber plantation, and set among rolling hills and lakes, Saujana has two internationally famous golf facilities- the Palm course, and the Bunga Raya course. Whist the Saujana Palm course plays host to big professional tour events, the Bunga Raya course remains to be the people’s favourite. Although tour players get a slightly longer and more forgiving layout to play on, the Bunga Raya is nicknamed the Crocodile because of its powerful bite. Its tighter and more undulating course presents to be stern, but thoroughly enjoyable test for the higher handicapped golfer.
Designer Ronald Fream’s fantastic layout takes you twice across an old railway, cutting into a former palm oil plantation. Half the front-nine and half the back-nine are played across the railway tracks. The surrounding jungle vegetation, oasis-like environment, and frequently seen monkeys steal the limelight. The greens are fast and sloping, and if missed, your ball can easily go rolling away down a steep run-off, that requires a delicate pitch or chip break onto the putting surface.
Some of the more notable holes include the 3rd, a par-3 over a ravine. While it looks deceptively easy at first, it is actually a difficult play. Not only do bunkers on the left guard the green and a strong slope on the right, the triple-tiered green has big undulations and is 40 yards deep. Another to note is the 8th hole, with a downhill par-5 with an almost 90 degree dogleg to the right. Unless you are a long-hitter, it’d be a better idea to lay up in front of the hazard on the second shot. The approach shot would take 140 yards into a small, undulating and well-protected green.