Gunung Raya was a recommended course by the Langkawi locals for us. Most likely because we’re local, hence the local sentiment is that we are probably caddies looking to play with our masters golf clubs. Probably also we look like young punks and lack the required class usually attached to golfers around this area. We were supposed to choose between GR and Datai Bay for our Langkawi golf experience and have a practice round at the Langkawi Golf Club (a lower class club likely reserved for caddies like us), but since the entrance of the Langkawi Club brought memories of the Land of the Dead 2, we decided to go with GR and the next day, tee it up at Datai Bay.
It gets a 3/5 simply because it’s in Langkawi, and it’s a plane away. But once there, it’s easy to get around. Get a map once you reach Langkawi and just follow it. You can’t get lost, it’s just a circle around the island. You obviously require a car, and car rentals are pretty reasonable. The one advice is, pay for a good car. At least one with airbags. Forget about Protons and Peroduas no matter how attractive they want to trick you with the price. In Langkawi, you’ll have cows randomly traipsing across the roads and if you do hit one, you’ll wish you paid that extra cash for a better car than the junk called Proton. We nearly hit two during our stay there, and I wish I was driving a tank to run these suckers over with.
The advertised price was 240RM, but we got in for 120RM, because they were sanding the greens. There are no weekend rates in Langkawi, nor any packages. Their mentality is that all days are weekends and packages are only for stingy caddies flying in from KL, hence they do not cater for our kind. No, you don’t even get a water bottle. Just play your golf and drive your Proton out of here while we cleanse the club of your presence.
As we entered the club, we were greeted by two dilapidated huts we thought were the clubhouses. I’m not sure what the purpose of these huts are for, but we drove on and were soon greeted by the better looking, real clubhouse.
Gunung Raya means Celebration Mountain, although I’m not sure what we are celebrating about when we proceeded to duff our way around the first hole. It’s has a nice elevated tee, slight dogleg right, a great view of the distant mountains and a preview of the whole course we would soon embark on.
From off the 1st tee, you will notice one thing about this course.
It’s one of those immature courses with very little shade and high exposure to the sun. This plus the fact we teed off about 11 am in the morning made us wish we woke up earlier to play. By the time we reached the 4th hole, we were halfway through our water supply and we felt like we registered for the foreign legion. By the 6th, we had mirages of hole in ones, pirate ships and John Daly ambling the fairway in a tutu.
The fairways are wide, and I worked my way around mainly with my trusty 5 wood. As you will see later, it’s risky taking out the Big Dog. But traveling all the way to Langkawi and not hit your Big Dog? Man, what a waste.
The 10th hole is a beautiful hole, a dogleg right par 5, with water on the left, and a generous green to receive your approach shots.
I have no idea how the service is, since I did not see any other human beings (my friend checked us in while I changed in the parking lot). But they are honest because they slashed their rates and told us the green was being sanded, so they get 3 of 5 divots.
This gets 3/5 divots. Fairways here are very generous. You’ll need to be half blind to miss them (which we did, so we are half blind after all). The turf is Bermuda, and your ball sits nicely, waiting to be hit. There’s not much OB or hazard here, but you still need a generous amount of balls if you constantly hit into the rough. The back nine has more water and more foliage, which was a welcomed sight for us, as we were already half cooked by the time we made the turn. You could hear our skin sizzle.
OK, they were sanding the greens, but they get 1 of 5 divots for sanding both nines so we had a lousy putting experience in the course. In fact, the ball would squiggle and bounced anywhere except the hole. I might as well be putting in the bunker. They should either:
1) Make the hole like 3 times bigger.
2) Make like 5 or 6 holes on the green so we can put to the hole closest to our ball.
Why do they actually need so much freaking sand on the green anyway?!?
I don’t mind roughs that are tough to hit from since it is supposed to penalize bad shots. What I can’t accept are roughs that eat up your ball and swallow it. It’s like the twilight zone, the Living Rough, where it gleefully awaits wayward drives. Did it land here? No, I can’t find it, it’s gone. I saw it bounce! No, it’s gone. Now go back and tee your ball again, you lousy cock-eyed driver.
It’s partly due to bad irrigation around the course, as there were places in the rough that were soggy and likely plugged up the ball to oblivion. It doesn’t make sense, while the weather is so hot, that there are spots around the course that’s soggy. What’s going on? Is there some kind of secret stream running underground that sucks everything in? Come on, there has gotta be Rules of Engagement between us and the course in any golf game. How do I play if I can’t find a ball that was only a few metres off from the fairway? Why can’t we all just get along?
Gunung Raya is one of those courses where initially it entrances you. It’s like a beautiful girl you meet in a club, under the neon lights and find out tomorrow the girl is actually a guy. Well, ok, not that bad, but you get the idea.
The first tee box is like, wow, what a view, what a sight! Distant mountains, rolling fairways etc. At the final tee box, it’s like, how many years have I been messing around this course already, am I finally out?
When we descend on the course, and halfway through it, we wonder, is there a hint of water around here? Being baked in sun, the course plays hard, and you’ll need all the energy you can get. Ice packs, 100 plus, a portable air cond, anything.
It’s a nice course, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just too darn hot to think about anything except going home and lying in the pool and drinking a Pina Colada. When you get golfers (especially us) thinking about that halfway through, you know that the course needs some serious shade out there. An ice cream vendor will make millions if he had followed us in our round.
In terms of memorable holes, none really stood out. Most of the holes were more or less the same, dogleg or straight, water here and there, coconut trees and oh yeah, sand greens and The Living Rough. Bollocks.
Fun Factor (2/5)
I really wanted to give this course a chance and tried to maintain the enjoyment, but after the first nine, it became more of a combat course than anything else. It’s hard to have fun in a course that at times resembles the Sahara, in both the greens and weather. When we just want to pack up and go, the fun factor really didn’t quite take off.
All in all, a nice course, but it gets a hit because for the normal price of RM240, it ain’t worth it. It reminds me of Kinrara, where there’s no shade and you come out of that sauna 10 pounds lighter. It would be reasonable to charge maybe RM140 as a normal price, and half that for sanded greens. It plays similar to a lot of other open courses like Beruntung, Kinrara and Bukit Unggul, and none of those courses will charge RM240 to tee up on a weekday, heck no. The much advertised view is quite grand, but it’s not enough to compensate for that much of moolahs we are coughing up. Heck, we’ll need personal waitresses serving us Doms on every hole to fully compensate for dehydration, near death experience and mirages of John Daly in a tutu.
The good: Open fairways are generous, nice view, course is generally forgiving if we stay out of the rough.
The bad: Horrendous greens (sanded), ultra hot without any shade, too expensive for a course set up like local courses we have back home.
The skinny: 16 of 40 divots (40%). There’s not much of a wow factor, and definitely not worth paying so much for. Then again, this is Langkawi, so get ready to be ripped.
Gunung Raya Scorecard