THE country is home to Asia's oldest national golf championship - The Philippine Open - which was first played in 1913 at Manila Golf Club. Around its vast archipelago which includes more than 7,000 islands, there are a large number of superbly challenging first-class golf courses. These include Manila Southwoods Golf & Country Club, Sherwood Hills and the Sta. Elena Golf Club. BT checked out a few others worthy of inclusion in a golf itinerary.
Anvaya Cove Golf & Sports Club
One of the country's newest in its golf course portfolio and it is simply stunning. The first-class, 82-hectare layout is one that you will want to keep returning to - if not for its beauty then certainly its challenges, risk and reward holes, and amazing vista - the back nine holes sweep alongside the West Philippine Sea with views across Subic Bay.
Kevin Ramsey from California-based golf architects Golfplan started work on the course back in 2006 and it was officially opened at the beginning of December 2013. Mr Ramsey calls the site one of the best he's ever seen or worked on, with it being a real highlight of his career, especially with the special terrain, such as high grasslands, beachside holes and those perched on bluffs.
He has many favourite holes but cites the short par-4 11th because of the views and the setting. "I've always liked the challenge and the risk-reward factor of a short par-4 and I think that captures the essence of the design very well and it tempts you to hit the long shot but it's not really required. You can take many different clubs with lots of choices plus a lot of thinking goes into how you want to play that hole. From an architect's perspective, I really like to create that thought process and make you mentally think about what you're trying to do."
While the course has been designed to provide fun family golf for the entire family, it can easily be transformed into a strong test of golf for the accomplished golfer under tournament conditions. Each hole has been individually named with titles, such as Fortitude, Respect, Resilience, Persistence, Accuracy and Composure.
The 505-metre par-5 10th has one of the most breathtaking views on the course and plays much shorter as it rolls down the ridge to a green perched at the end of it. On this "Discipline" hole, one must use self-control and place the drive carefully.
If hit too far, it will find the down slope which will take the ball closer to the green but with a difficult downhill lie to a long narrow green flanked on both sides by sand. The 385-metre par-4 12th requires two big shots. With the tees set high above the landing area and green, one must be careful not to be too aggressive off the tee as the landing area is 24 metres below and bisected by a natural stream working its way across the fairway and down to the beach. From here, the fairway drops down to the green another 10 metres or so below separating the beach from the natural hillside. This is the only hole where the golfer gets down to the beach.
It's quite easy to spend a few days at Anvaya Cove, what with all the facilities which include the Beach and Nature Club. There is also luxurious accommodation, a driving range, pro shop, clubhouse, infinity, lap and lounge swimming pools, a private beach, bar, wine room, restaurants, Anvaya kids club, nature trails and Veda Spa. As it's a three-hour drive from Manila, make sure you book your return flight to Clark International Airport which is a much shorter distance.
Tel +63 2 848 5000
Ayala Greenfield Golf & Leisure Club
This property consists of a Robert Trent Jones Jr designed 18-hole par-72 layout which is both beautiful and challenging, with water hazards, mountain slopes and flat greens. Facilities include Ayala Greenfield Estates, a nature park, restaurant, massage and steam rooms, jacuzzi, sauna, function hall, swimming pool, gymnasium, basketball, volleyball, badminton and tennis courts, and indoor games room.
Barangay Puting Lupa
Z+63 (2) 848-5000, +63 (49) 833-3333
Fairways & Bluewater Newcoast Boracay
Located approximately 200 kilometres south from Manila, this island resort offers a number of other facilities such as fitness and wellness, swimming pools and a number of different types of accommodation. There is also an 18-hole championship course which was designed by Australian PGA champion and golf architect Graham Marsh. As you would expect, the par-72 golf course has some spectacular views and is an enjoyable experience for both the high or low handicapper, and should also prove a test for all levels.
Tel +63 36 288 5587/ +63 915 846 4848
Wack Wack Golf & Country Club
Founded in 1930 by American William J Shaw, the Wack Wack Golf & Country Club is one of the oldest courses in the Philippines and regularly voted by experts and the general public as one of the best in Asia. Venue of the Philippine Open numerous times - around more than half of Philippine Open editions until 1990 - it also played host to the 1978 World Cup. The East Course is a vast layout and its challenge lies in its water hazards, large greens and length of its fairways. Its famous No. 16, a par 3, has been known to be a make-or-break hole. The West Course, an all-weather par 72 championship course, is shorter and less challenging. Facilities include a clubhouse, pro shop and number of function rooms.
Tel + (632) 723-0665
How to get there
A number of airlines fly to Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in addition to other major airports including Clark International Airport, and they include Singapore Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Tiger Airways.
When to visit
November to February are the coolest months while the March to May period is classified as hot and dry. June to October is rainy, with the months between July and September characterised by typhoons.
The currency is the peso One Singapore dollar is worth around 35 pesos.
Where to stay
Metro Manila and its surrounds have an excellent pool of accommodation to suit all budgets from five star chains to budget hotels. If playing at Anvaya Cove, then make a holiday of it and stay in one of the resort's many casitas - there are four types including the Garden Room, Garden Terrace, Lagoon Terrace or Anvaya Suite.