Rahman Putra Golf Club

Introduction

Rahman Putra or KRPM as it is known, has a reputation. It goes like this:

Foursome chit chatting at the first tee while waiting for the fairway to clear.

“So which club do you play at?”

“Rahman Putra.”

“Waahhh. You must be really good.”

I have no idea where that came about because I’m a KRPM member and have been playing there for years and I still am a hacker. The name KRPM invokes respect, fear and awe from other golfers, like how Godzilla used to before a million stuffed toys turned it into a cheap competitor of Barney the purple dinosaur. Is the reputation justifiable?

Yes and no.

KRPM is a tough course because there’s a heck lot of water. And it’s not like drains and stuff, its like ponds and lakes, that houses plesiosauruses and gobble up your golf balls. The famed ending holes on the back nine, 16,17 and 18th plays index 6, 2 and 8 and needs a carry over water for 2nd shots. We call it the Amen Ending (a ‘la the Amen Corner), but most of the words that come from the mouth during the final stretch are definitely not yes and amen.

But if you compare KRPM to the other courses, you see statistically it’s quite mediocre. It plays to 6130 m, about 700 metres longer than Bangi, but falls short of Clearwater’s monster 6482 m. It’s 71.9 course rating is less than Clearwater’s 74 and slope of 129, less than 135 of Clearwater.

No wonder we were struggling like twits playing in Clearwater!!

Travel (3/5)

KRPM used to have a travel rating of -100, as one of the ways was to go through the Sungai Buloh trunk road, pass Sierramas and Valencia, or take the NKVE and turn off at Sg. Buloh. I used to push off at 12 noon to reach there for a 2 pm tee off, and that too after running over a few motorbikes on the way.

They have finished the new freeway and now traveling is cut down to hardly 30 minutes. The road condition is still bad, since heavy lorries still ply that route and you’ll get potholes and an occasional falling boulder from the truck, but otherwise, its accessible now.

Price (3/5)

KRPM has a lot of generous packages. It’s a ‘package’ course. They’ll package in a meal, or an early tee off, or half price off the buggy, or women’s day, or happy hour, or senior citizen package…everything you can shake a stick at, KRPM has done it. It’s reasonable, but it loses points for weekend rates. It’s good for members like us, but the problem is that its too expensive to invite people to play over the weekend, guest have to fork out close to RM200 for a weekend flight. It’s a nice course, but its still cowgrass and its not a brilliant experience.

First thoughts

Newcomers to the course will be shocked at the opening tee. Both 1st and 10th tee requires a carry over hazard. Long drivers can bomb it but they will soon find out that KRPM rewards the placement players in most of the holes, and have trees blocking even on the fairway.

The shorter hitters sometimes resort to a 7-iron tee off which will usually find the fairway but they will forever be classified as wimpy mama boys who can’t handle their big stick (or lacks a big stick), which brings forth a thousand connotations that the person might not be able to live with. It’s better to hit a driver into OB and say, “It’s hard to control my big stick,” or into the pond and say, “What to do, my big stick always finds the wet places.”

Both jokes and several thousands similar are common on the golf course, and it seems bad taste jokes are generally accepted as the norm here. The problem is when golfers come out into society with the same tastless jokes and expect a laugh, instead procuring a glare, a slap or a well deserved kick in the nuts by the more genteel gender.

KRPM is a matured course, therefore you’ll find plenty of shade. However, carts are not allowed to roam on the fairways and because the setup is that we have parallel fairways, the strategy of borrowing fairways come in play here. So there’s quite a long walk from the cart over to the next fairway. This can slow down the game considerably.

Balls can fly all over like WWII as well. There are many blind spots aside from parallel fairway, and in some occasions I’ve seen balls zoom over my head and we’ll be hitting the ground.

Service (5/5)

The service is generally very good. Reception staff is friendly and they know me by my name, which means either I am a lifeless golf nut or they are very good at remembering people. The food there is very good, surprising for a golf club. The members generally have quite a lot of clout in the club and we can submit complaints over almost anything from fixing the darn drainage to wearing turtle necks to play. The only minus is that they force guests to have caddies, which I think is just silly. The caddies are new, so they don’t really add any value to my game. They can’t really contribute much in terms of course design or strategy, because I’ve probably played there longer than them and you don’t really lose too many balls in KRPM due to the lack of OB in most holes.

But there’s one person in KRPM that perhaps is the most important individual and best friend in your golf career. He’s the ball seller found at the green on the par 5 3rd/tee box on the 4th. He sells all balls flat at RM1, which is about 0.3 USD. I get ALL my Maxfli Blackmax there. I know a person who buys all his PRO-V1s there and these balls are generally 8/10 or above in terms of condition. Very well cleaned, looks very new and an honest chap who gives free balls for every 10 you buy. I even have his mobile number to place orders. He’s the best of the best in terms of deals.

Fairways (3/5)

The fairways are not Bermuda. It’s what we call cowgrass. There’s a reason it’s called cowgrass. These are the grass cows eat. It’s tough and it doesn’t sit your ball up like Bermuda or twiff. In fact, some people will find cowgrass harder to hit on than real cows. It catches your club if you dig too much, resulting in fat shots, too much divot and you might break your wrist. Take too little and you might skull it into one of the waiting ponds. In fact, standing over your ball with a 180 m carry over water for second shot can be downright diabolical. It’s not uncommon for golfers to break down weeping after depositing ten balls into the lake. They usually have to be carried away by the marshals and then the group behind can pass through.

Fairways in KRPM are undulating, you’ll be hitting balls below, above your feet on down slopes, up slopes. Any sort of position except straight and flat. So get ready to compensate for slices, hooks and the omnipresent duff.

Greens (3/5)

The greens are usually what KRPM-ers are really proud of. Like the fairways, the greens are undulating, hilly and have like 20 breaks before reaching the hole. In fact, the 18th green has such a slope that a ball landing at the back of the green can funnel all the way down and off the green. Putting can be downright painful. In fact, it’s better to play short and chip and putt as opposed to hitting in regulation with a 40 footer. Generally, the greens are slow, but some are inconsistent. It doesn’t catches the ball the way Meru or Impiana green does, so approach shots must come in high. For golfers with lower trajectory like mine, expect the ball to fly off tabletop greens, or roll into the bunker after hitting what you think is a good shot. I’ve never seen a ball spin on KRPM and there are some bald patches here and there. It’s not bad, but not something I’ll shout about. I like the undulation but the inconsistency throws me off.

Rough (4/5)

Ah, the famed KRPM rough. Hit into one of these and that’s it. You’ll be lucky if it sits up. In fact you’ll be lucky if you can find it! It really puts a premium for fairway hits. In the rough, it sinks in and I’ve found many lost balls while looking for mine. There are also natural elements that makes it harder, like fire-ants that crawls up your pants. There are no giant lizards, hardly any snakes, but those ants are devilish. Great care needs to be taken as you enter into the trees to punch the ball out, because when they bite, you better wish it ain’t where the sun don’t shine.

Aesthetics (2/5)

KRPM is a course built from palm oil plantation. It’s like a wizened woman past her prime, but would still punish you for all your wayward drives and lackadaisical approach shots. There’s nothing really beautiful about this course, it’s functional, its tough, its challenging, it’s like a 40 year old marriage. It’s not a course I’d bring my investors or customers to, let’s put it this way, but it’s a course I’d go play alone to get better at golf. It gets a low grade also due to the lack of wildlife except for fire ants and stray dogs running around the fairways. Ever heard of ball in a foot print in the sand? Well, we’ve got dogs sleeping in the bunker and creating a crater for our ball to land on!

Fun Factor (2/5)

Perhaps it’s because I’ve played it so many times over the past years that the fun factor is simply no longer there. I do recall the first time I played there, I was so frustrated with the course, I vow I would never come back again. I obviously did, but I can’t recall a time I had total fun on the course. Most of the time was functional golf, getting better, putting better, but not going crazy like what we did in Datai Bay.

Conclusion

There’s really nothing much to complain about this course. It’s not as long, but it does take some strategizing because of the amount of water that comes in play. Long drives are sometimes rewarded with a splash, or you’re swinging like a baseball batter at some holes with the ball so much above your feet.

Even though its shaded, you’ll go through your water, because you’ll likely be walking a lot to your ball. Also, traffic over the weekend is crazy. We need to have at least 5 hours to finish 18 if we’re lucky. Booking for the weekend is impossible if you call too late on a Monday. Because it’s accessible, the course can get pretty hacked up, that’s why maintenance is very much vital in this course. The people here are generally friendly and would invite you to join, if you can play a decent game.

Just keep the golf jokes to yourself.

The good: Greens are good challenges, food is superb, best deal in used golfballs in the world found here, the rough really punishes, walk in rates reasonable on week days, 36 holes allow each nine to be maintained and recovered.

The bad: Not a very pretty course, parallel fairways makes it dangerous to hit and be hit by stray balls, table top greens hard to hold and inconsistent, fairway cow grass tough to hit and predict, weekend rates are inhuman, too many people on the weekends, hard to find a flight time and long wait between shots.

The skinny: 25 of 40 divots (62.5%). Functional and challenging course, not much of a wow factor.

Rahman Putra Score Card

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Datai Bay Golf Club

Introduction

Datai Bay. We’ve been hearing people telling us different things about Datai. It’s a beautiful course. It’s a links course. It’s next to the ocean. It’s in the jungle. It’s in the mountains. It’s like Pebble Beach. It’s crap. It’s overrated, so on and so on and so on. We know it will cost us a lot, but since we are irresponsible, unaccountable gentlemen of this prestigious, money sucking game called golf, we were ready for the damage.

Travel (3/5)

Like Gunung Raya, once you get to Langkawi, everything is pretty much accessible. Datai is a bit out of the way though, but the trip there is through some of the most scenic parts of Langkawi. It’s a nice drive, just watch out for the darn cows.

Price (1/5)

I know it sounds crazy to rate 3/5 for a course that cost RM340 just to tee up a ball, but the fact is, we felt it was money well spent, as later it will show. It wasn’t going to be cheap, but was it worth it? Lets put it this way, I rather put 340 RM in Datai than to pay RM140 for Gunung Raya. It’s not the best deal in the world, but quality has a price so for once, stop being so cheapskate in your golf!!

First thoughts

You feel as if you are part of royalty when you get into the club. They really treat you well, from registration till the time you tee it up.

Standing on the first tee (we teed up from back 9), one thought comes:

I’m gonna lose a lot of balls.

It’s a jungle course. Don’t let the ‘Bay’ in the name fool you. The only Bay we get to see is on the 19th signature hole. Other than that, it’s trees, jungles, monkeys and baboons as your fans.

Not to say it’s like KGPA quality jungle. Somehow, even the jungle has an air of class. I half expect a baboon to be sitting on a branch smoking a cigar and saying, “Jolly good shot, old fellow,” on the first tee. The course is deceivingly long. It’s doesn’t look long on paper, but perhaps the air is heavier, or simply because of the jungle framing the sides, and the fact that 5-wood comes in the tee off, makes my approach with 7-irons or 4w a lot more difficult. It’s quite intimidating to have trees all around you. There were a few holes where a tantalizingly super shot was on its merry way to the green only to have one rogue branch deflecting it into oblivion.

Interaction with wild life was great. I felt like I was part of the Animal Planet series. There was a hole where 5 feet long lizard was ambling its way about 3-4 feet from my ball. Play as it lies? It might think I was going to 9-iron his egg and start attacking me. A few holes we had to chase away monkeys from invading our buggy. We would be lining up to putt when suddenly one of us would be whooping and screaming and running towards the buggy flailing our putter like a mace while the monkey scampers away chattering. The smaller ones are fine. It’s those big black monkeys with white tipped arses, sitting ominously and staring at us silently that scares the dickens out of me. Ever watched the show Congo?

Never bring food in a plastic and leave it in the buggy. Most monkeys will go for that, and some might even collaborate and drive away leaving you to walk back to the clubhouse alone. It’s considered very embarrassing to lose your buggy to monkeys, so be careful!! Either plant a plastic explosive in a bag or purchase a putter that can be changed into a 12 gauge shotgun, to blow these mammals back to Monkey Heaven.

Above all, if you’re terrified of lizards, it’s best you stay out of the rough and be prepared to start screaming.

Service (5/5)

From the time they took our bags, the service was top class. Registration was a breeze.They gave us drinks , bright smiles and sent us off to the first tee, like seeing their children off the first day of school. We didn’t have time to check out the changing room but I’m sure there’s an OSIM chair for us and a masseur at hand. It’s a 5 of 5 also because we have staff/marshals driving around the course, looking for things left behind. My camera case and cap was retrieved like 4 holes after I lost it by one of the marshals. When we finished, they would clean our clubs and shoes and not beg for tips, (unlike those hooligans at Bangi), and they would send us off by breaking into the song, “So Long, Farewell” a’la the von Trapp family. You don’t get any better than this.

Fairways (4/5)

This gets 4/5 divots. The turf here is even and a delight to hit from. Diggers like me tend to struggle a bit, but it sits up and there’s a premium hitting from the fairway. The toughest part is actually finding the blasted fairway! It’s narrow, challenging and really gives you the go for broke-easier approach or play it safe-long approach tradeoff. I tried the latter approach but when your 5 wood is hooking, you might as well gun with the Big Dog. Pars are not as easy as it looks, and its imperative that you are playing fairways on this course. The drainage is generally good, but the natural undulation makes it really challenging to play your approaches.

Course management is also essential. Because it’s a jungle course, a good tee off too far might have one of those blasted trees blocking your approach. Plot your landing areas, as there are many blind spots that you’ll need to hook or slice your way around.

Greens (3/5)

Perhaps the only poor quality of Datai are the greens. I would have liked the greens to be smoother and more spinnable. Perhaps it’s the salt air or the soil that makes it harder to have closely compacted greens but it was generally not pristine. It wasn’t bad or anything but because we paid so much to play, the measurement standards are always higher, and in that respect, the greens in Datai were a little disappointing.

Rough (5/5)

The rough was an adventure to be in. There’s a meandering stream that snakes its way through the course that gobbles up your shots when you think you’ve hit it flush. The rough snatches your ball, even on the first cut, and be prepared to hit hooks out of the rough. The grass really catches your club so grip it hard to open it and not turn over. It adds a lot of good elements in the game and severely punishes wayward drives. It also adds the danger of a monitor lizard chomping off your leg or a hoard of monkeys holding you hostage with your shotgun putter.

Aesthetics (5/5)

What can I say? The scenery is absolutely fantastic. But it’s the par 3s of Datai that really take your breath away. One of the holes I liked was the par 3 15th, an elevated tee shot through jungle foliage to a small green 140 m down, fronted by still lakes and framed by jungle. Most of the holes are crafted around the contours of the jungle, so you hardly get parallel greens running together, and each hole seemed to have its own personality, its distinct character. You don’t get the feeling you’re in a golf course, because every hole is self contained, in its own drama, in its own adventure, its own story to tell. There are holes that dares you to gun for it like the 18th with a fairway so broad you can land a Boeing 777 on it, and which I proceeded to triple bogeyed it. There are holes with narrow fairways but rewards high risks drives, like the 9th, which I also proceeded to triple bogey it.

Of course, the famous hole 19th is not part of the course (well, you can play it as 17th) but most of us KL people would play both 17th and 19th. When you finish 17th, track back across the road to the 19th hole BEFORE you tee up for 18th. Be prepared to lose your flight spot but you won’t regret the 19th.

It’s to a small green, carrying about 170 m of the Andaman Sea. To your right, the waves lap the base of the tee box, and in the distance, mountain peaks from the other islands stands as your gallery, bearing testimonies of horrendous golfers all over the world. The scenery can’t be explained, but it just blows you away, I guarantee it. Standing there, you feel that this could be the most exhilarating golfing moment of your life.

Fun Factor (5/5)
A course that gives you 19 holes instead of 18? Hey you cant beat that. We were running around like kids in a candy store, every hole was greeted with “Wow”, “Super!” or “Oh, I am so screwed”. The wow factor was off the charts. The fact was we played at Gunung Raya the day before and almost passed out dehydrated. In Datai, the jungle is so cooling, you think you’re playing somewhere in England or something. We were shooting pictures everywhere, and it was a little disappointing as we came to the last hole and had to finish our round there.

Conclusion
Datai Bay is the best course I’ve ever played on. Of course I haven’t played yet in a lot of courses but in terms of challenge, hole design, scenery, overall fun factor. Everything is excellent, except the exorbitant price. I would think it caters towards tourists who earns in US and who looks at us with impunity. It’s cooling, it’s challenging and it’s not short like resort courses. The 19th hole is a must play. It’s like Pebble Beach 17th, one of the most famous holes in the world. We can’t get Pebble Beach (as a note, there IS a Pebble Beach in Langkawi, but it’s a beach filled with…yep, pebbles, literally), so Datai 19th is as good as it can get. If no one pressures you from the back, feel free to whack 3 – 4 balls in there. We spent almost 20 minutes around the 19th hole just fooling around, hitting multiple shots and donating balls to the Andaman. After all, when would be the next time we come back?

The good: Super scenery and hole design, challenging layout, well cared for and undulating, natural fairway, cooling jungle environment, interaction with Wildlife, signature 19th is a must play, and staffs that really treats you like family.

The bad: Greens are disappointing for a premier course, price sets you back to eat Maggi noodles for a month, watch out for snakes in the rough, Monkeys are aggressive and intimidating, especially the ones with the white tipped arse.

The skinny: 31 of 40 divots (77.5%). One of the best course out there. Dig into your pockets and spend on it if you call yourself a golfer.

Datai Bay Scorecard

Gunung Raya Golf Resort

Introduction
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.

Travel (3/5)
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.

Price (1/5)
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.

First thoughts
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 hot.

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.

Service (3/5)

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.

Fairways (3/5)

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.

Greens (1/5)

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?!?

Rough (2/5)

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?

Aesthetics (2/5)

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.

Conclusion

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

Meru Valley GCC

Introduction
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.

Conclusion
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

 

Introduction
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.

Conclusion
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