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Tee off in new courses
THE nearby islands of Indonesia, such as Batam and Bintan, as well as the Malaysian state Johor Bahru, have long been popular with Singapore residents who want easy access to a range of golf courses at reasonable prices.
Many clubs also have - or are near to - resort-style facilities, making it worthwhile for families and individuals to stay for a couple of nights. The Business Times checks out a new golf course on Desaru Coast and a revamped one in Bintan.
The Els Club Desaru Coast
The Els Club Desaru Coast - The Ocean Course - opened for play last month and comprises three nine-hole layouts called the Lakes, Coast and Ridge. Managed by Troon Golf, the property is owned by Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels Sdn Bhd (TAR&H), which also has The Els Club Teluk Datai in Langkawi in its portfolio of key investments.
Course designer and four-time Major champion Ernie Els has created a mix of strong bunkering and water hazards together with some real challenging holes on all three loops.
The par-5 second on the Coast course runs straight out towards the ocean, so there's usually a battle against the sea breeze, while the par-3 third is quite stunning with its green just next to the ocean. The Ridge nine is located at the highest point of the property and there are some elevation changes, while The Lakes has a number of testing water features.
Says Mr Els: "Each has its merits and I love the way you can mix it up. I'm always drawn to the ocean and enjoy nothing better than a view out over the water and the challenge of playing different shots in the wind. The Lakes and The Ridge also represent a good test and you really have to think about your positional play, your shot selection and your distance control going onto the greens."
In early 2017, a par-72 18-hole championship course named The Valley is set to open. Designed by both Mr Els and Vijay Singh, it looks set to offer a dramatic change in elevation and provide golfers of all levels a challenging round.
Current facilities include a 13,700 square metre clubhouse, function rooms, restaurants, 261 Sports Bar (named after Mr Els' record-breaking 72-hole score in the 2003 Mercedes Championship), driving range and the Els Performance Golf Academy.
A number of hotel chains and resorts, such as Aman Resorts & Villas and The Westin Desaru Resort, look set to open on the Desaru Coast in the future, together with a themed water park and retail village.
- The golf club is accessible from Singapore via road (90 minutes) and sea (30-minute ferry ride followed by a 30-minute drive).
Laguna Golf Bintan
Tel: +62 770 693 100
ORIGINALLY designed by Greg Norman, this course first opened in June 1998 but commenced a redesign and extensive renovation in June 2015. The result of the US$730,000 revamp is quite stunning, and at the Asian Golf Awards 2016, the layout won Best Renovated Golf Course in the Asia-Pacific.
The course reopened in July this year, and features a number of beachfront holes on both the front and back nine. The club decided to flip its front nine with its back nine to feature stronger finishing holes on the back nine with the highlight holes now at 16 and 17, and also to bring the new 18th green closer to the clubhouse terrace.
The club has maintained a mix of challenging and more risk-reward holes on the 6,300 metre par-72 layout, and golfers have to exercise strategy and good course management. However, the course is still a delight for players of all abilities.
The second, third and fourth holes are situated around Laguna Bintan's 3km private beach before wrapping around the lagoons of holes six to eight.
The par-4 ninth plays uphill towards the clubhouse, before holes 10 to 15 which play through lush jungle and unique rock formations. Holes 16 and 17 are definitely two of the course highlights. The long par-4 hole 16 plays through the jungle and back towards the sea, while the stunning signature hole 17 challenges golfers to tee off from a spectacular natural rock formation perched high above the sea.
The reshaping and reduction in bunkers has improved playability and visual appearance around the golf course. In addition, all rough areas are now woodchip (vs long grass) which makes finding golf balls much easier and has also aided the pace of play. The club has also made a point of reintroducing native landscape areas planted with native ferns, grasses and plants, and in a "go green" effort, the trees cleared are used to build steps, benches, tables, wood chip for the rough areas and course signage.
Explains Paul Wilson, group director of golf for Laguna Golf: "The layout of our course in Laguna Bintan is remarkably strong in terms of design and playability. Our main focus of this project has been restoring the green complexes to their original size and structure while giving emphasis to the enhancement of the natural surroundings such as highlighting the beachfront, and accentuating the natural rock formations and dense jungle."
Facilities at the club include clubhouse, driving range and practice area. The stay and play packages at Banyan Tree Bintan and Angsana Bintan resorts, where there are a variety of villas and rooms, are also worth checking out.