Royal Perak Golf Club



I chanced upon this golf course by accident. I was on the way to play at Clearwater Sanctuary during my short trip to Ipoh, but it was already around 3.30 pm (we had a long lunch…it’s IPOH, how can you miss the food??!), and halfway to Clearwater, I decided to swing to Royal Perak Golf Club (which on Google Map is strangely marked as Ipoh Royal Golf Club – I suppose their old name).

As with all ‘Royal’ golf courses, I would expect some sort of tradition, and some old clubhouse, expensive fees and not so great course – see the review on Royal Johor golf course as a perfect example.

As I rolled into the Royal Perak, the clubhouse was surprisingly new and looked almost grand. I was accosted by the very serious guard outside who sternly told me to park at the visitor car park – which is probably a good 200 meters away from the clubhouse. I was fine, of course, but I did see some cars (non-members presumably) clamped at the members parking so they really take rules very seriously here.

Apparently, this used to be a pretty busy tournament course, hosting many events in its heydays. Since then however, it had sort of not gone with the times and hadn’t made much improvement, and not many big tournaments are held here anymore – instead at ClearWater Sanctuary. It’s a pity, because this is a really conveniently located golf course.

Travel ( 5/5)

Compared to the awful travel time for Clearwater Sanctuary, we stayed at the Weil Hotel – and from there to Royal Perak was a breeze. Literally, only 4 km away, around 8 minutes drive. Problem is, what if you don’t stay at the Weil? Well, Ipoh is a very small town, so if you aren’t at the Weil, you’re probably at Syuen, which is right next door to Weil and also around 5 km away from the club.


This is like KGNS or Royal Selangor Golf Club – it’s in the heart of the city and you don’t get much better than travel for this.

Price ( 1/5)

Right after the great travel, I was rudely brought down to earth by the pricing of this club. Now I know you used the word ‘ROYAL’, but it doesn’t mean you have to charge fees that are reserved for ‘ROYALTY’ only! I mean, here’s the price list:

A Weekday WALK-IN is RM180++. ++ here denotes caddies and also buggy. The buggy fee is RM80. And caddy fee, I don’t know – around RM40, plus maybe RM40 tips. So if say, there are two of you, you are paying around RM260 with tax for a weekday game. If let’s say you are alone, like me, it would be a stratospheric 360+ with tax. Weekday.

Now would I have played there just to write one stupid review? Nope. But thankfully I had reciprocal with my KGNS membership and only had to pay buggy fee (I begged the lady to not have a caddy), and ended up with RM92 all in (buggy is forced) with tax.

Now for RM92, it’s definitely a worthwhile jaunt. For RM260 – RM360 for a weekday spot, and based on the course value? No, of course not. It’s way too expensive.

I do have a feeling that, it’s purposely set up like this to make it exclusive to members or members guest and avoid itinerant Gilagolfers from coming in and reviewing and hacking the crap out of their Royal Fairways.

First thoughts

Not that impressed, unfortunately. The problem with these city golf courses (and I’m saying it even for Royal Selangor), is that terrain is pretty bland. Most of it is flat, with just features on the greens like tabletop etc. Elevation is minimal, and although RSGC makes up for it with a great course design and devilish greens, Royal Perak doesn’t seem to hold that much beauty.

Also, cowgrass seems to be the choice for most Royal Courses. Since most of these courses are very old (this was built in the 1930s), they shared the course with grazing cattle, hence the name cow-grass. This is of course based on historical analysis from our Gilagolf archives, that has a historical accuracy of around 2.5%.

What I am saying here is that, on the first tee, a ho-hum par 5 with a nice broad fairway, we don’t get too much excitement from it. Obviously with the tee off only 10 meters away from the payment counter, you might be still jittered over the exorbitant sum you paid to play here.

Service (3/5)

There’s really nothing much to say on the service as the only experience I had was the counter lady who was friendly enough and who listened to my begging her not to give me a caddy so I can save money. I rushed off after the game so I didn’t experience any of the royal toilets with the royal flushes.

Fairways (3/5)

Cowgrass fairways was generally OK. Quite well maintained although nothing compared to the Palm Gardens or Mines back home. There is minimum undulation, but the course is devilishly tight. After the first hole, basically, everything gets kind of cramped in. Also, many holes have suspicious doglegs where a member might be able to navigate based on familiarity, but for a first timer like me, I got caught out a lot. Like Hole 2. I watched everyone tee off with an iron for some reason. Then it said 192 meters there is a drain. I’m like OK, let’s tee up with a 7-wood then. I flew the drain like 10 meters. The yardage isn’t exactly right then. If I had clobbered my driver, it would have been way across.

The narrowness of some fairways places premium on your drive. I was carrying an awful hook all day and it was expected that I struggled mightily to a 93. Most of my drives ended left in the woods. And in Royal Perak, like KGNS and other matured courses, woods = bad. Most of the time I was killing trees trying to get out with my ball.

Greens (1/5)

For the price paid, awful. The first nine, all nine holes were being sanded. I know there should be some maintenance done now and then, but I am in the school of thought whereby if you do maintenance, you should inform the customer or at least discount the pricing a little. It’s a fact. If I were to rent you a car with a punctured tyre, wouldn’t I discount a little so you could change the tyre yourself or at least inform you about it?

The greens got better in the back nine, but still, it wasn’t amazing and I was already mightily put off by the front nine greens, some of which was unputtable.

Rough (2/5)

The rough was typically cowgrass rough, the type you generally will see in courses like Bukit Beruntung, or what comes to my mind is Kundang Lakes, for some reason. It’s deceptively difficult to find the ball. One – because of the maturity of the course, leaves are all over the rough and also the trees are thick in some areas. You think it went in, but it bounded out. Another reason is that you will spend a lot of time in the rough due to the narrow fairways and the subtle doglegs. From the score card, it looks like it plays straight but it doesn’t, the course generally meanders here and there and if you overkill your drive, you end up with a visual like the one below.

Aesthetics (2/5)

There’s just nothing much to root for. The visuals are ho-hum at best, and the only pleasing sight is the distant mountain range on the back 9 first hole and Hole 14. The thing about Ipoh is, I suppose why many Ipohians love it – is that the mountains make it look as if you are in another country. This should be exploited as much as possible, but unfortunately the front nine was devoid of the ranges, and in the back nine, only a few holes had a peek of it.

An interesting par 4 Hole 12 had an extreme turtleback green. I had the misfortune of landing my second shot very short right at the bottom of the hill and struggled to a double bogey there.

Besides that, the rest of the holes are generic looking, without much attraction like the ones we are used to at Palm Garden or even the Mines.

Fun Factor (2/5)

If you had the misfortune of being stuck behind a VERY.SLOW.FLIGHT like me, all Fun is basically out the window. The front 9 I thought I had an open field to myself. I teed off a very good first shot, and saw in the distance a group putting out on the green. I thought this might be a fast group. I hit a great 3 wood, but duffed by 60 degree into the bunker. From there, I managed a double bogey and…wait, the group in front of me were STILL hitting their second shot only! I caught up already with that group.

The problem was, the group in front of them were also slow, so from the second hole onwards, I was waiting and waiting. To give an idea, I teed up around 3.45 pm. I only managed to finish the 18th at around 7.15 pm. Now I know it’s not anyone’s fault, but it still doesn’t make it more fun. It’s a full walking course for members – hence all members will obviously walk, and it seems like a perfect course for walking. Not much incline or steep slopes and holes clustered close together. But see, they force guests to take the buggy. I would prefer walking so that everyone can be at the same pace – but I ended up playing so fast, and there was no one I could bypass the group in front because all the groups were clustered together — I ended playing Chor Tai Di on my phone for the good part of the 4 hours on course.

My point is – if the groups are clustered together, at least let the reciprocal member have the option to walk – it would have been so much better.

I do put a 2 here because around hole 15, 2 members from the front flight left – so I immediately asked to join them and they agreed. From there, I shot bogey, par, par and double bogey. The final hole was just a small mistake — over clubbing at 90 meters – with a 60 degree. The yardage is just off. I couldn’t get out the bunker. But once I joined them, I suddenly started playing better. I wasn’t waiting anymore and it helped that the members were really friendly. Over 4 holes, we bonded quite a bit and I can just imagine if I had a full 18 with them.


Royal Perak wasn’t as bad as Royal Johor – but nowhere close to Royal Selangor. So it’s kind of in between. The course is actually quite functional and the proximity to the city is just unbeatable. The course is deceivingly hard. The members I played with said, “This course sure very easy for you one!” once they found I was a KGNS and KRPM member and playing around 17 there. But I disagree. At 6376 meters, it’s easily one of the longest 18 holes I’ve played. Comparably to the ridiculously long ClearWater which is at 6462m or Cobra Saujana at 6610 meters. It’s definitely not a pushover like Bangi, which plays almost a kilometer shorter.

Furthermore, the course rating is at 73.6. That’s worse than Saujana Cobra or Bunga Raya and higher even than KRPM Championship. KGNS championship sits at 72.90. Of ALL the courses, only the crazy Seri Selangor is harder, at 73.7. But the slope for Royal Perak is at 136, compared to Seri Selangor’s 131.  Anything over 130 for slope is generally on the harder side of playing. So Royal Perak is definitely statistically one of the harder courses a hacker can play on. Gilagolfers beware.

So I didn’t really feel that bad with my scores at the end. I did struggle with all the waiting, but at least I improved my Chor Tai Di skills.

The good: The location is unbeatable in Ipoh, compared to the harder to access Clearwater Sanctuary or even Meru; the toughness of the course is challenging and puts a lot of pressure on good drives which should make you appreciate the subtlety of the course; the members are very friendly and accessible – try to join up with a flight there and your fun factor should be multiplied.

The bad: Unless you are a member or reciprocal, I don’t see why anyone would pay so much for a course like this; aesthetics are generic at best and mundane at worst; the fairways and rough is reminiscent of courses like Kundang but the price is reminiscent of courses like Palm Garden.

The skinny: 17 of 40 divots (42.5%). Royal Perak is a go for Gilagolf because of its location and a reciprocal at KGNS. If you are a non-member or reciprocal, I think other things can be more worthwhile than spending that much money on a course like this. Clearwater is even cheaper than this and its championship material. The thing is, I doubt Royal Perak actually gives a crap about non-members (evidence by the 1000 mile hike to your car after the game), so there won’t be any changes anytime soon.

Royal Perak Golf Club Scorecard


Damai Laut GCC


Wow, it’s been some time since we reviewed a course, and even longer that we’ve gone out of KL! So the opportunity came to play at Damai Laut GCC in Lumut, Perak, we snapped it up. Being the city brats we are, we have absolutely no idea where on earth is this Damai Laut located, but being the gila golfers, we readily took the challenge to go and hack it. Also, the hole 15, their signature hole. We like to play at courses that people talk about, and in this case, the course had quite a lot of prestigious sounding awards:

  1. 3rd most scenic course by Golf Malaysia 2005/2006.
  2. Hole #15 – second most scenic hole in Malaysia
  3. Hole #13 – third in Par Golf Super 18 Malysia Award.

With pedigree like that, you can’t go wrong can you? Damai Laut we go!!

Travel (2/5)

Now, let’s make this clear. Traveling to Damai Laut is SHEER TORTURE. But this is really a difficult category to judge because it’s very subjective how we view traveling individually. How did we give Datai Bay 3, when we had to take a bloody flight and drive halfway across the island? We measured it from where we were staying. Likewise, we’ll need to be fair in this. Nobody in their right mind will travel all the way to Damai Laut, play golf, and come back. We need to measure it from where we stayed, at Swiss Garden. In this case, it was right next door, but we’ll refrain from giving it a 5 because the resort is so ridiculously out of the way, it’s as if the hotel management wanted to start their own little country at the edge of Perak.

In fact the instructions to get to this forsaken place is so darn long, it warrants its own page for you to get through , and hopefully without falling asleep.

Driving from South Malaysia:

Driving from North Malaysia:

Crazy. Here’s the map.

We took the Bidor exit, but there are several ways to get there. The stupid thing is that there’s a place called Damar Laut. I think it’s a fake copy of the real Damai Laut. It’s unbelievable that there would be people out there that think this is a great idea. It’s like calling your son Tiger Wooks and get him to pose in red shirt and Nike Cap, and paint his face black. What’s the idea? If you ain’t Woods, you ain’t him! Damar Laut folks, what’s the deal??!

Unless you are a crazy person, refrain from driving there, play golf and coming back. From PJ, it took us 5 hours to get there. Umm, ok, we stopped and ate. A lot. Who cares? It’s a freaking long trip!

Price (3/5)

Unlike the published rates on the website, they gave us RM150 for all in, because we were guests at the Swiss Garden Resort, and because (we suspect), they have only gerbils to entertain the staff for the past 6 months. The course was like walking into a post apocalyptic world, like “I am Legend”. Beautiful, yet hauntingly empty.

We like the fact that even though it was quite a lot to pay for the weekday, at least they refrained from cutting our throats. They could have charged RM200 and we would have been forced to play, having traveled so far.

First thoughts

We packed 4 flights and zoomed off for an afternoon tee off, under the blazing hot sun. But being at the coast, a nice wind came up and it was certainly very, very refreshing to stand on the first tee, a blind hole that drops to the green, and even more so, when my first ball carved into a nice draw and rolled 250 meters down the fairway.

Damai Laut is HOT, not in the wow, she’s hot HOT, but the darn, I think I am gonna die, HOT. We played the first 9 as dry as dry can be and that’s why we were blasting our tee shots prodigiously. The turn, rain set in, and the wind whipped up so it was quite a good experience, to play Damai Laut dry, and then in British Open condition.

Service (1/5)

Now, I know they don’t really have a lot of guest that will come all the way to play the course, which makes it even more important to service us! We arrived at the club house, we had to take our bags from the car, and after waiting a while at the front and it became evident no living thing will greet us and take our bags in for us, we lugged our stuff all the way in. Come on, Damai Laut, you can do better than this. If you advertised your great service, how about giving us some respect and helping us out? At least in Datai, they really made you feel as if you are the king of the world (or the king of stupidity to pay RM350 for a game), but hey, at least. This gets a stingy 1 from gilagolf, because of their stingy service.

Fairways (4/5)

Like we mentioned earlier, we had a chance to test the course on both conditions: extremely dry and windy wet. I obviously preferred playing it dry because the ball runs and never stops. In my first 9, for those shots that caught the fairway, I never had a drive under 250 meters. It was highly entertaining. The fairways were a little patchy in some parts, but overall it played very very well. And even when wet, drainage was good, and it held up very well. Again, it’s a little short of perfect because the maintenance wasn’t as pristine as say Datai or Tropicana, but it’s among the best we played.

Greens (2/5)

Unfortunately the good feeling didn’t last, and we watched in dismay as Damai Laut’s greens fell hopelessly short of the condition expected in a premium course. Even on the first hole, one of my partners remarked with obvious distaste, “Why so sandy one?!?!”. It wasn’t as bad as Selesa (which to us is not a golf course, but a pile of junk that makes us prefer to eat live cockroaches than to play there again), but as one of the premier courses in Malaysia, we expect at least a little consistency in its greens. Nope what we had was sandy greens and in one hole, the par 5 5th, I had to almost chip with my putter to coax the ball uphill across the green with the amount of sand. A very disappointing 2.

Rough (3/5)

The rough wasn’t that much better. Several times I went into the rough and it’s not difficult enough to hit it out. Instead, a few times, the rough was so forgiving, it sat up like on a tee, allowing me to scramble for par the 2 times I missed the fairway on my front nine. We’re a strange breed. We complain that the rough is too tough and the rough is not too enough. The second 9 played slightly harder because as the rain came, our ball settled easier into the rough and boy, we struggled a bit.

Aesthetics (3/5)

OK, this is where we have the MOST gripe about. For the 3rd most scenic course in Malaysia, we’ll have to conclude that whoever did the poll was either secretly blind, or he was treated to 10 years free massage in Swiss Garden Resort. Because it’s nowhere near as pretty as Datai, or even Impiana or Meru. It’s probably thereabouts with Tiara Melaka or something, but there was just no wow factor, that made us go, well, WOW! We all expected the next hole to be better, and then the next hole, and then the next hole. But as we went along, it was evident, this was no Pebble Beach or Pinehurst. Being a coastal golf course, we expected a lot more. Even the darn scorecard promised a beautiful scenery and we all thought, ok, Hole #15 is simply going to blow our minds away.

We finally reached hole #15 and I went, “This can’t be right.” The tee box was next to the lake, which is green like milk tea, and all I saw was a dogleg right and some kids playing. That’s right. Kids. They just popped up from no where and played this signature hole and disappeared later. So we waited and mulled, “Is this the legendary 2nd most scenic hole in Malaysia?” “Are we too stupid to appreciate it?” From there, a hooked drive caused my ball to jump into the left rough and as we drove nearer, the beauty slowly unfolded.

It’s no big deal.

One, the picture on the scorecard is fake. The ocean is photoshopped into the card. The real hole #15 is nothing like it. The hole drops drastically to the green, but it’s not something we’ve never seen before. The sea is behind the green, but it’s not the open sea, it has Pangkor island listlessly sitting in the background. A ship was docked near the bay, blocking whatever beauty that was left, and adding to the disappointment of it all.

Golf Malaysia really screwed up on this one. I think they didn’t even come here to play. I think they were just sent a photoshopped picture, or the scorecard and in the letter told, “Nice hole, free massage for good reviews.”. In fact, we preferred the Hole #13 par 3, surrounded by bunkers.

We were so disappointed with this mythical 2nd most scenic hole, we played 4-5 balls each from the top of the hill into the green, like a driving range.

Fun Factor (4/5)

Despite Damai Laut’s fading into mediocrity, and the obvious disappointment of us all, that we drove all the way to play a course that resembles Nilai Springs or something, we still managed to have fun. One playing partner birdied the 2nd and did a jig that must be censored for the innocence of our sight. Perhaps we were all in a relaxed holiday mood and the weather was nice for the first 9. Whatever the reason, I went into a hot streak parring my first 6 holes, before dropping one at the 7th. On the 8th, I hit one of my best drive ever that hit the hill and rolled to about 30 meters away from the green, a 320 meter drive. Being so full of myself, I stupidly duffed my pitch, hit an embrassing chip and humiliated myself by missing my par putt.

On the very next hole, the 9th, it’s a drivable par 4 at 280 meters. You had to carry about 200 meters of water uphill, and on top of that, navigate your shot over the trees. The bail out was on the left, but already boiling over my previous hole, I hit another cracker that missed the trees by a few millimeters and flew long and straight to the fringe of the green. Again, full of myself, I proceeded to run my eagle putt 6-7 feet by and miss the come back putt. At that time, I was ready to dunk my whole head into the ball cleaner in the buggy. It’s a cool thing, it cleans your dirty balls. Golf balls, that is.

I scored a 38, that could have been a 36. Could have, would have should have. I’ve hit all except 2 fairways, 4 greens in regulations, drove the green at number nine and playing superbly. This was my day to break 80 and celebrate the milestone.

Back 9, I started with a par, and then it all unraveled. I started hooking, I started dunking my balls in the water, I started to three putt. As good as my front 9 was, I played like a cow on the back 9. At 42, it’s actually a good score, but here was my stats: 3 3-putts that could have got me pars, 0 fairways hit. Bogey after bogey, until I needed a birdie to break 80 on the index 2 last hole, a snaky par 5 at 520 meters. My drive borrowed fairway of the next hole, but I recovered to have a 10 foot try for birdie.

It turned at the last moment agonizingly and I settled for an 80, my best score ever, but like all golf scores, a story of missed opportunities. Every dog will have its day, and my day will come.


Damai Laut is really a nice course. That’s it. It’s not supposed to be a nice course. With so many awards, we were expecting this baby to break into the DAGTH category but instead, watched its stock fall lower and lower to a disappointing 60%. Will we play it again? Sure, if they transport the whole dang course to somewhere more accessible! For now, the staff will be stuck with their gerbils until the next batch of tourist golfers come by the resort.

The good: Easy drive from the resort; well conditioned fairways; interesting holes (9th, 13th); reachable par 5s and par 4s for one ons; able to get a crack at your best scores here due to forgiveness.

The bad: Hellish drive from anywhere else; service non existent, unless you are a gerbil; disappointing greens and rough; by far, the hole #15 is more disappointing than seeing the most beautiful girl in your high school turn into a pimply dumpling at the reunion.

The skinny: 24 of 40 divots (60%). We will definitely play again if we ever end up in Swiss Garden Resort, which is as much a certainty as seeing a pack of hyenas do a cha-cha with a herd of winged zebras that has a single horn on their head (why do they call it unicorn and not uniHorn?). Recommended only for resort folks on a holiday.

Damai Laut Scorecard

Damai Laut GCC Information


Damai Laut Golf & Country Club

Hala Damai 2, Jalan Damai Laut, Off Jalan Teluk Senangin,

32200 Lumut,

Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia.

Contact: +605-6859330

Fax: +605-6181018



Meru Valley GCC

Meru Valley is a course we sort of stumbled upon. We were so disillusioned with Clearwater that we decided to have another round in Ipoh area in another course. We almost ended up in Kinta Golf Course, but thank God they were closed for maintenance. Asking some locals, including the local police, they pointed us to Meru Valley Golf Course. We thought, why not? Let’s just get rid of the Clearwater aftertaste, right?

Travel (2/5)
Frankly, since we were driving around I can’t say for sure. It’s about half hour away from Clearwater, take the trunk road to Pusing and head towards Jelapang. It’s a slight challenge since we need to take trunk roads and not as easily accessible as Clearwater. There will eventually be signs pointing to the golf course. Ask around, people are helpful in this area.

Price (3/5)
It’s about 70 RM on weekdays for green fees, about 50 RM for buggy. For some reason, when I asked whether Rahman Putra was affliated, the receptionist said no, but she would give me a cheaper price since I was from Rahman Putra. I don’t know what that is all about, but I thought it was a good deal.

First thoughts
There’s 27 holes, and we played 3rd nine and 1st nine. As a rule, try to avoid playing 3rd nines. It’s always lousier than 1st and 2nd nine. It didn’t occur to me till I was standing over the tee on the 19th hole.

Playing at Meru was like coming home. It was like Bangi all over again. Nice and broad fairways, accessible greens, open concept for our borrow fairway strategy.

The 3rd nine was not so good, flat boring greens, recently sanded, boring hole layouts, not much doglegs, not much features. But it’s the 3rd nine. It’s like the disappointing child in every family who prefers to spend time goofing around golf courses and writing pointless reviews.

Once we made the turn, Meru turned on her beauty.

Set in a valley, the mountains looming in the background, framing perfect greens, that checked our ball and spun it. Rolling fairways made one of my drives roll almost 280 metres down.

Especially as the sun was setting beyond the hills and long shadows stretched the valley, it more than compensated for the lack of beauty in Clearwater.

Service (2/5)
The service gets 2/5 divots. I liked the nice lady at the counter who gave me a discount. But other than that, the service kind of sucked. First the guy who was supposed to take our bags from the car trunk just sat there picking his nose and watching us take out our bags on our own. Then the changing room personnel insisted on taking our 10RM deposit when they gave us their towels. What, we don’t have towels at home? And some of the lockers couldn’t open…or at least, weren’t idiot proof for a guy like me. Get to the course!

Fairways (3/5)
This gets 3/5 divots. Even the 3rd nine fairways were well kept. There were minimal bald spots, and once playing on the 1st nine, it had a huge amount of roll to it. It’s undulating, but it offers a lot of challenges. Forget about the 3rd nine. Get your money’s worth and go for 1st and 2nd. Hold them hostages if they insist on you teeing up on the third.

Greens (5/5)
I’m going to discount the sandy greens on the 3rd nine and judge solely on the 1st nine. Wow. This is the kind of greens I want to take home and sleep on. One approach shot spun so much it was dancing around the cup like a drunk Oompah Loompah. It made us look good because we were bombing putts in, and getting our fist pumps all ready for any 5-10 feet par save putts.

Rough (3/5)
The rough sits down pretty well but you can still hit it , unlike the pitbull grass in Clearwater. And you can afford to fly the ball all over since you just shout fore and hit it from the next fairway. There’s not much penalty in whacking the ball into the rough.

Aesthetics (4/5)
The first hole treats us to a beautiful scene of mountains beyond, cascading down into the valley. It’s on an elevated tee, so you can actually see the entire course. Except for the humidity, I can almost imagine Julie Andrews springing around the corner singing before we crack her head with our tee shot. Don’t boom your tee shot too hard though, because it funnels down to a stream about 270 – 280 m away.

The fourth hole is an absolute cracker. It’s like Augusta 12th, water fronting the green, just about 130 metres from elevated tee box. I hit a PW and pushed it slightly right, and it went into the water. My drop shot also went in and I signed off for a triple, and destroyed a round of 9 over after 12 holes at that point.

The signature hole is the 6th. There’s an opening in the foliage for us to peek through to see the par 3 green guarded by water in the front.

The course plays much shorter than Clearwater, mainly due to it being a resort course, and not a course intent on beating the barnacles out of the players. It’s a nice course for our self esteem and the greens are absolutely a delight to putt on. This, plus the fact that the course is really a beautiful course, gets it 4 of 5 divots.

Fun Factor (4/5)
It’s really hard to maintain your spirits when you’ve trudged through 34 holes of golf in a day. But I must say, Meru really gave our spirits a lift. Perhaps the scenery made us more alive, or simply we were playing better, or maybe it was just shorter and easier to handle, but at the end of the 18th hole, we were talking about coming back again. The only let down was the Mickey Mouse 3rd nine that was just an insult to our already embarrassing skills.

We traveled north to play Clearwater but ended up enjoying Meru a lot more. Perhaps Clearwater and our high expectations did not coincide, whereas we didn’t have any expectations heading to Meru. Heck, if you gave us a course filled with cows and we had to hit over a chicken coop to the green, we wouldn’t know better. But the main thing was, it played a lot easier for hackers like us. Some people might find it not as challenging, but if we put head to head, I’d say the holes in Meru are more memorable, the greens in much better condition, the scenery a lot more beautiful and the experience more exhilarating. The shorter course made it easier for us to putt for pars, instead of saving bogeys. I know you’re saying, just improve your golf, instead of blaming the course: but here’s our skills, here’s how we experience the courses, and we say Meru is a better course than Clearwater.

Plus, we might catch Julie Andrews prancing around the hills and take a shot at her.

The good: Superb scenery, magnificent greens on the 1st nine, undulating fairways provide a good challenge, elevated tees provide a great view of the holes, lots of memorable holes, drivable par 4s and eagle-able par 5s.

The bad: Crappy service, a disastrous 3rd nine (please avoid it at all cost!!), short holes might not be challenging to some, rough is a little mickey mouse as in not penalizing enough, parallel fairways makes it easy to get hit by stray balls. And Meru folks never apologise for a wayward shot, nor shout fore.

The skinny: 26 of 40 divots (65%). A little inflated since we had no expectations. But we had heaps of fun.

Meru Valley Scorecard

Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort


We’ve been talking about Clearwater Sanctuary and how super the golf course is for ages. Magazines lauded it, golfers talk about it, mothers fuss about it. OK, maybe not the last bit but it has gained an impressive reputation of being the best of the best in West Malaysia, synonymous to the most pleasurable golf experience of your life, the most memorable course you will ever play in, indeed you would wish to relocate to sleepy Ipoh just to play this course.

So me and my mates decided to experience it.

Travel (3/5)
Despite our initial fears, Clearwater is actually quite accessible so it gets 3 divots from 5. It’s about 1 and a half hours away from KL, depending on how fast you drive. Either turn off at Simpang Pulai or Gopeng Interchange and take the road heading to Batu Gajah passing Kellie’s Castle. There are plenty of signs, so you won’t miss it.

You probably want to eat breakfast before the interchange, because townspeople here only start work at like 12 noon or something. Not one coffee shop was opened and we ended having breakfast at a malay stall about 300 metres down the road from ClearWater entrance.

Price (5/5)
Drive up to the clubhouse and enter the pro shop to register. We were charged 70 RM for walk in, all inclusive of the buggy and insurance. I had an affiliate with KRPM and ended up paying RM50 for a buggy!! So the 70RM package was a heck of a deal. The greens were being sanded we were told but who cares? We were playing in the second best course in Malaysia! Excellent bargain here!

First thoughts
Right on the first tee, we were staring at a dogleg left tight fairway, the sprinklers still turned on. A maintenance guy slowly rode his scooter to turn the sprinklers off as we waited, and when we were ready, we predictably screwed up our first tee shot.

Double bogey.

2nd tee was a lot more promising, a 5 wood found the fairway. Second shot using a 4w hybrid pushed right. Bye bye. This would eventually be the norm for the day.

Clearwater is extremely unforgiving, especially to weekend hackers like us. Now it’s important to understand that this is from the perspective of hackers.

Clearwater isn’t that great.

I mean, for a course rated as number 2 in Malayisa, we kinda expected a course that blew us away. Well, actually, it did blow us away – our scores that is. But in terms of scenery, fun, playability and such, we give it a ‘so-so’ shake of our hands.

We don’t mind if the course kills us. I mean, Datai Bay killed us, but we had a lot of fun getting killed. Face it, most courses out there (except for maybe a Mickey Mouse par 3 pitch and putt) will be killing us anyway. But Datai Bay made us go away talking about coming back again. We went to each hole like kids waking up on Christmas to find presents under the tree. Clearwater just got us talking about going away.

Service (2/5)
The service gets 2/5 divots. I liked the fact that they sold sharpies at the counter. Sharpies makes us look like pros, as if we have lots of fans who needs our autograph, or we would mark our ball with a special sign. The fact is, we have 0 fans except for the occasional maintenance guys waiting for us to clear the green, and we definitely don’t hold on to a single ball long enough to bother marking it.

What bugged me was the fact that they had the sprinklers turned on for the first tee, as if they did not expect us to tee up at, like what, 9 am??! And they had sprinklers turned on at the 18th, as if they can’t wait to get rid of us. I mean what is that about? I proceeded to duff my SW approach on the wet fairway. I would have holed an eagle if not for that sprinkler!!

Fairways (3/5)
This gets 3/5 divots. It’s nice and well maintained but had splotchy grass here and there, and uneven on some holes. Of course the random sprinkling also made the fairways a little inconsistent. The fact that it’s number 2 in Malaysia goes against it. I expected immaculate fairways, and tiny Oompah-Loompahs running around sprinkling magic seeds to make the grass even.

Greens (2/5)
To be fair, we were warned that the greens were being sanded. So it wasn’t tip top condition but I am going to blast it anyway. Number 2 in Malaysia, I expect the greens to perform better than Impiana, I expect my shots to spin back, I expect it to be consistent in speed and roll. I expect the greens to be so good I’d want it to be my bed at home.

We played to an extremely SLOW green. I mean, it almost looked as if we were putting a bowling ball or something. We needed a hammer to hit the ball forward. There were some dead patches here and there. I’m not good enough to explain if it affected my roll, but I give it a 2/5 because I three putted like half a dozen holes. Rats!!

Rough (4/5)
The rough does what its supposed to do, it eats up your ball. It just sinks in. There’s no way you can ply it out without a shovel. I don’t know what kind of grass it is, but I will name it Pitbull grass, because once it gets hold of your balls, it ain’t letting go. Of your golfballs, that is.

Aesthetics (3/5)
If there was a signature hole, it’s the 18th. It’s a hard dogleg left par 5, about 170 m to cut the dogleg and carry the water. There’s an annoying tree in the middle to eat your balls. In fact, CW has loads of holes that allow you to cut the doglegs with a good drive. The fact that there’s water all over the place, it’s a swashbuckling grip and rip it mentality vs wimpy, gutless 5 wood to fairway and long approaches. Guess which approach we took? Just bring loads of golf balls because you’re gonna lose them.

The holes in CW are long. You either get better with your driver or be prepared for 170m plus approach shots into the green. And if you miss the greens, you’re either in the water, sand trap or a monitor lizard will be chomping on your balls. Golfballs.

Fun Factor (2/5)
I am really reminded of the time when I went to watch Star Wars Episode 1. You really want to enjoy yourself, and you really want the movie to be good because of the tradition surrounding it. Face it. Star Wars 1,2 and 3 sucked. I hated the movies and signed up on the diejarjarbinks petition. Anything without Han Solo and Donut hair Princess Leia in a golden bikini is not gonna cut it.

Likewise, I really wanted us to have fun in Clearwater. But as we approached the last hole and the sprinklers turned on, I shrugged. We had a bit of fun, but really the whole experience was a little bit of a letdown. 2 of 5 divots.

The purists will like the fact that holes are long, par 5s are not reachable in 2, water is all over the place and there’s nobody in the halfway huts to sell drinks. Purists are also known as crazy people who likes to feel pain. I forgot the scientific term to it.

For us hackers who like to enjoy golf, Clearwater is a reasonably good course, but as number 2 in Malaysia and the fact we had to wake up at 5:30 am to drive up north for 2 hours, we expected more. On the 15th hole we were like, we drove all the way for THIS??!?

And another thing that bugged us. The name. Like, why do you call it “clear water” when the water isn’t even clear? I see some websites talking about the shimmering lakes like it was a feature of Rivendell in Lord of the Rings. Are they intoxicated with Ipoh white coffee? Have they even been there? We just saw mining pools. Where’s the shimmer? Where’s Galadriel, Elrond and the gay hobbits?!?

It’s like me calling my son Tiger Eldrick Woods and find out he prefers to be professional ballet dancer when he grows up. It’s just too much pressure in the name, you know.

The good: Few people, good rewards vs risks, well designed holes, some nice wildlife, Pitbull grass makes you really want to hit the fairway.

The bad: Overrated scenery, Pitbull grass makes you regret you suck at your driver, so-so greens, no Oompah-Loompahs on the fairway, deserted drink huts, holes might be too long for a hacker. And badly behaved sprinkler systems. And no Galadriel.

The skinny: 24 of 40 divots (60%). Number 2 in Malaysia? Don’t think so. Disappointing.

Clearwater Scorecard