After the debacle at Frasers, we weren’t quite sure what to expect from the golf course in Camerons. While the Frasers Course was named something cryptic like FHDC, Camerons course has a more imaginative name, “Padang Golf”, or translated, Golf Field. The only other time I’ve encountered such remarkably creative naming is at UPM, a university course that have actual cows as hazards. Needless to say, I hope that I never have to step foot on that course ever again, unless under compulsion of a 9mm Beretta Handgun.
But Cameron Highlands deserve a chance. We already stated the great benefits of playing in the highlands. With the thinner air, your drives can really be ridiculously far, thus giving us the illusion of greatness. I can’t wait till the day we are smart enough to build a golf course on the moon, and find a way there. The travel will definitely suck, but think of the distance you get with the driver!
And of course, more realistically, since we never really got a feel at Frasers, Camerons was the next in line as a highland course.
If you had trouble getting up to Frasers, there’s news for you.
This is worse.
There used to be one way up to Camerons, and that’s via the old Tapah road. Basically, turn off at Tapah from the North South Highway and just follow the signs. Now, there’s a new road up, turn off at Simpang Pulai, turn right at the traffic lights and you’ll be on the old Ipoh road. Watch out for huge Cameron Highlands signs and there will be a right turn eventually. You won’t miss the signs, so do yourself a favour and follow them!
Frankly, both ways are just as bad. The Tapah route is shorter, but if you end up behind a bus and lorry, woe to you, you’re screwed. There’s hardly any way to overtake, so be prepared for a long journey. The Simpang Pulai way is a lot wider, but the turn off is much farther down the highway. Also, the road is longer than using the old way. Still, it could be a better idea since you can still overtake that accursed lorry hogging up the whole road. Basically, you taking a big U-turn to approach Camerons from the ‘back route’.
Frankly, I prefer the old road coming down. It’s very fun, if you can take the twists and turns, dropping of gears, racing with other drivers and avoiding the occasional falling boulder from crushing your vehicle. I don’t recommend to beginners who like to brake and take it slow, or people who tend to enjoy vomiting; but if you’re with your golf mates, there’s a good chance they are naturally resistant to nausea. (We are usually only nauseated by one thing – the dreaded shank.), so go ahead and drift down the old road. Just be careful of oncoming buses and lorries. You can likely make it all the way down to Tapah in about 45 minutes to an hour from Camerons, mileage may vary depending on level of sanity.
For weekdays, it’s similar to Frasers, in fact, better, since it’s 18 holes. You pay only 26.50RM to get a voucher that enables you to play the whole day. That’s really excellent, in fact, I think I’ll lower Fraser’s ratings. The only thing against Camerons was the weekend rate is ridiculous at RM84. RM84??! I can play in a whole lot of better courses with that kind of money paid!
I tried talking to the lady there to allow me in for the weekend at weekday rate, but even in this part of the world, they are quite strict about freeloaders like me. She has probably been briefed to avoid all eye contact with Chinese ah peks like me who likes to bargain anything and everything, from golf fee to underwear prices. If the ah pek continues to bargain, pretend to be mute and deaf or fake epilepsy. If all else fails, spray ah pek with mace and beat him senseless with the handy 7-iron.
The course always looked more appealing to me than Frasers, because here, we actually have proper fairways and such. There are holes that resemble a golf course, unlike the Frasers course, where it is a jumbled mess, with holes far apart from each other and looked to be patched up randomly, and holes dug from the ground by gophers, and a flag accidentally placed in there.
Here, we have the 10th fairway, with the 18th fairway parallel, so if you do hook the ball or whatever, you can still play it off the other fairway. There’s a wider area for a golf course, which generally means that they did plan to have a course here, not as if they had a small piece of land and was deciding between a parking lot, an amusement park, or building a mansion for one of the government officials. Clean money of course, how dare we think of corruption in our lovely land?
My last view of this was from a bungalow overlooking the course, and Camerons is not a jungle course; it has wider landing areas and gives more opportunities to play golf, instead of hacking and cursing like the other highland course that we’ve rated as the lowest of the low.
I was actually up in Camerons for a company team building exercise and didn’t really expect to have time for golf. I brought my set up just in case, and reaching Camerons in the late evening, we had about an hour or so to kill before the bus ferrying most of my colleagues were to arrive. The plan was to head to the range with two more guys (non golfers who just want to learn) and kill time there.
There was obviously no space consideration for a range, you dimwit.
Feeling defeated, I was planning to trudge back to join a few others in the night market; but finding out that the weekend rate was so high the next day (I was there on a Friday), I decided to pay RM26.50 and see how many holes I can finish before the sun gave out on me. Mind you, no buggy, so it’s all walking. Bring up a trolley, it will infinitely help you instead of lugging your bag around.
I had one hour of sunlight left; and the reception lady gave me a small shake of her head, saying I can probably finish 3 holes before calling it a day.
She obviously have not heard of run and gun golfing.
The only problem is that I didn’t have a camera, so the photos you see is due to me using my lousy phone camera, not a drastic drop in my already limited photography skills.
I didn’t really expect a lot from this club, honestly. Drainage is a drag for highland courses, due to the amount of water from rain, clouds, dew and what not. And there were no pleasant surprises here either. My first tee shot predictably hooked left, but not so hard that it couldn’t be salvaged. It was on the other fairway but try as I might I couldn’t find it at all. The ball just went right into the ground, never to see the light of day again. Drainage wasn’t as bad as Frasers (I’ll keep bringing up that defilement of a course because that’s the only comparative reference we have so far), but I could still see puddles of water around, and my shoes were like combat gear at the end of the round.
I hit a few good shots that I completely lost, perhaps due to the added distance and subsequently wrong estimation, but also due in part to plugging into the fairway. The rule for all highland courses apply here: Bring loads of balls, and finish up your old ones.
I was quite surprised at the green; it was pressed down and kept reasonably well, given the conditions. There’s obviously people to maintain the course here, and the roll was quite tricky; a few birdie putts I had just got turned away at the last minute. I think it’s commendable that the grass is kept short, and the wild boars kept at bay from digging extra holes on the green ( I will not name which course has this).
The rough is extremely tough. Not because the grass is long, but the ball is hard to find. Also, the fact that I’m playing nearly without light doesn’t help anything. And the fact that I am running between shots and not spending more than 10 seconds to look for a ball really doesn’t give me the right to have a fair judgement on it. All I’m saying is that, if you think the ball is good, look properly. A few holes had fairways that dropped off into drains and ditches and if your ball is not plugged, God help you as you try to retrieve it from the rough.
If we were to take a gigantic wok chan and dig up the whole course and put it somewhere in the lowlands or Klang Valley, I’d probably give it a 1 or something lower. There really isn’t much memorable holes here, except for maybe the Par 5 15th, that has a drastic change in elevation. It also gets pretty confusing. While not as bad as Frasers where balls are flying all over you due to the shared fairways and all, there are instances here, such as the 12th, where there are two fairways, borrowing with the 17th. Then after the drive, I saw a green maybe 200 metres away and went for it. After that I realized that I was hitting to the par 3 13th green, where we would tee off above the 12th green, only about 50 meters from where I was. The course itself is quite bare, so there’s nothing really special or scenic about it, but you cannot beat the weather here. Cooling, breezy, it’s a course where you can play 36 holes without any issues at all. It can turn out chilly or have sudden showers, so make sure you have an umbrella handy.
Fun Factor (2/5)
It’s hard to rate something as fun when you are running around between every shots and taking just 5 seconds to address and hit. I managed to complete 9 holes in 1 hour or so, but skipping one hole. I had two non-golfers tagging around, but aside from butchering the 1st and 3rd hole I played (I teed up from the back), I played pretty decent, with 2 sand saves, a birdie miss, a few good flops with my new Cleveland RTG+ and a monster drive on the 14th that reached the fringe about 280 metres away. I nearly birdied the 17th after a flop over the bunker to 5 feet but missed the darn putt, in the dark.
We reached the 18th tee and there were sparse lighting for the final hole. Very sparse. Anyway, we proceeded to use the hole as our driving range as I taught the other two some basics; hitting balls into the fairway. Suddenly the lights were switched off and we were left looking for our balls in pitch blackness, with only the moon and our handphone lights to illuminate the way. Out of 10 balls, I lost only one.
Camerons plays much much better than Fraser’s Hill, so if it’s a toss between these two places, Camerons is way better. The problem is the traveling. It’s even more difficult to access and I’m not sure if it’s entirely worth it to drive all the way up there when you can just spend the extra cash and play in Awana or Bukit Tinggi. By all means, if you’re up there, play and take advantage of the weather and the fixed price per entry, but forget about the weekend rates; it’s way over priced and it’s not worth it, unless they offer free scones, strawberries and a glass of Chateau Blanc at every teebox for free.
The good: Superb weather, thin air makes you look like a professional when you hit it flush, wide greens and receptive and reasonably maintained, great price for weekdays, no red tape: you can play in your underwear if you wish.
The bad: Bad drainage on the fairways, constantly plug up balls and make them unfindable, no driving range, too expensive over the weekend, rough makes the ball simply disappear, bland hole designs, difficult drive there, no-bargaining with ah peks policy.
The skinny: 17 of 40 divots (42.5%). If you’re willing to take the nauseating drive to Camerons and want to experience the thin-air phenomena on your golf balls, and too cheapskate to pay for Awana or Bukit Tinggi, then this course is for you.
Cameron Highlands Information
P.O Box 66
39007 Tanah Rata
Pahang Darul Makmur