Golf Courses in Penang, Perak & Kedah
Course-by-Course Introduction to Golf in Penang, Perak, Kedah & the Northern States of West Malaysia
Relatively speaking, the Penang Island is a prosperous one. Located south of Phuket, Thailand, in the Straits of Malacca, it is just over half the size of the former but much more developed and certainly has a higher population density. Back in the days when tin-mining ruled the economy of the day, it was the pivotal apex of business activities and cultural exchanges with the other two cities, Phuket and Medan in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, making up the triangle. The tradition appears to have continued to these days.
It is for this reason perhaps land prices continue to climb on this increasingly land-tight island. Of late, the Pearl Island Golf & Country Club had been converted for luxury housing development leaving the island with only two golf courses. There are however some other courses in Province Wellesley which is the other half of the Penang State on the mainland connected by the Penang Bridge.
Typically, if you come on a golf tour package in Penang, you’d likely be accommodated either at the beach front of the touristy Batu Feringghi Beach, which is fully lined with hotels of international brand names or George Town, which is the city center of the island and which has of late been added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Cities. Your golf package would likely involve short travelling to the other courses on the mainland.
And, if you stay longer and wishing to play more rounds on different courses, you’d be taken a little further in the northern states of the peninsula. With the good roads in place, a day of golf in these golf courses gives you the opportunity for a golf-cum-sightseeing tour of the north. And, if you are keen, there’s even a ferry to take you to another island further north, the Island of Langkawi, for a couple of rounds there (read about the courses there under ‘Kedah’) as well with a throw-in of the Tour de Langkawi if your timing is right!
Penang Golf Resort of Bertam, Seberang Perai, Penang – Penang Golf Resort, or simply Bertam to most locals, is actually located on the more land-free mainland section of the State of Penang. Taking the Penang Bridge, it can be reached in less than an hour on normal traffic. This 36-hole course is a ‘Thinking Man’ Graham Marsh-designed course for, well, thinking men palying golf! Built on a sprawling 200 hactares of relatively flat land, it offers generous and neatly tree-lined fairways. While water hazards and fairway bunkers are common feature on a layout like this, it is the overhead wind, often in uncertain directions, that determines the outcome of the game played here.
The 151-meter Par-3 Hole#3 should be a fun hit. With the wide green coming downhill from the back, it tests control on use of club to counter the gradient. A scoring hit requires a higher level of skill to produce effective ‘roll-on’s especially if using longer iron clubs. Determination of landing spot is another great test on slope familiarity, green speed and experience in general. The 471-meter Par-4 Hole#7 is another kettle of fish. The length of the hole and the two mild dog-legs left, together with the water hazard immediately on tee-off provide not only a challenge to all but also an opportunity for the more capable to practise good decision making and build courage as well as confidence. The layout offers a safer 3-on approach while the green tempts accurate big hitters with a 2-on. You just might find ‘yourself’here!
Bukit Jawi Golf Resort of Seberang Perai, Penang – A 36-hole golfers’ paradise spreads over a spectacular 315 acres of swaying palms, sand dunes and coolly contoured lakes; tests your skills for both hilly terrain as well as open play with lots of water hazards. The Hill Course is an 18-hole par-72 championship course playing to 6,385 meters in length. The long and undulating fairways together with strategically placed hazards present a challenge to stroke accuracy and good course management. The Lake Course is also an 18-hole par-72 course but 6,163 meters in length. The holes are shorter and fairways more open to view but there are more water hazards and sand bunkers protecting the greens. This course emphasizes on shot accuracy and good short game. The signature hole is the Par-3 165m island-green Hole#15.
Penang Golf Club (formerly Bukit Jambul Golf & Country Club) of Penang – Apparently Robert Trent Jones Jr. ‘chiselled’ out from 130 acres of hilly jungle terrain and crags and designed this course in 1984, and those were some years when the area was considered the ‘out-back’ of the Penang Island proper. Today it sits off the coast amidst high rise apartment, luxurious housing and top class hotels. The course is short but rather famed for its tightness and toughness. From some vantage points along the course, it provides some captivating and panoramic views of the island.
Update 2013: This golf club is now officially known as Penang Golf Club; mention the old name, you’ll get there all the same.
Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort of Ipoh, Perak – Clearwater Sanctuary is one of the most beautiful golf courses in South East Asia. The main features are stretches of greens lined with verdant raintrees undulate around several huge lakes. It is where golf takes a natural course… or is it a course of nature?
The Raintree Nine (of a total of 27 holes) features an abundance of majestic raintrees, a hazard in itself, while water hazards are in store at the Lake Nine. The Wetlands Nine is a Par-3 only course well liked by those seeking a thrilling, short and Hole#19-decisive game.
Damai Laut Golf & Country Club of Lumut, Perak – Damai Laut Golf & Country Club nestles at the confluence of the Dinding and Sempit Rivers just off the quaint town of Lumut. Overlooking Pangkor Island from the mainland, it enjoys a reputation as a perfect combination of exciting golfing pleasures and fine resort living. Apart from golf, there is also a whole host of other activities like health spa, water sport, jungle trekking, fishing and camping trip, river cruising and other organized activities for groups and family outings.
Meru Valley Golf & Country Club of Ipoh, Perak – Meru Valley Golf & Country Club is nestled amongst the rolling foothills of the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve. It is conveniently located approximately 10 minutes from Ipoh City and is easily accessible from the North-South Highway.The 27-hole (Valley Nine 3,200m, Waterfall Nine 3,232m and River Nine 3,062m) Championship Course offers spectacular scenery as the fairways wander deep into two valleys and back to the domed shaped clubhouse which has panoramic views of the three finishing holes.
Royal Perak Golf Club of Ipoh, Perak – Royal Perak Golf Club (RPGC) was formerly known as the Ipoh Golf Club. This 18-hole Par-72 6,214m course was built before the end of the 20th Century and is among the oldest golf clubs in the country. In 1974 the Malaysian Open Golf Championship was held here and it was the first time the championship was held outside Kuala Lumpur. In 1990 the club once again played host to the championship. RPGC is an axclusive club however non-members are permitted to play on weekdays with the approval of the management. Handicap enforced here.
The Els Club Teluk Datai – Langkawi of Kedah – This is the make-over from the former The Datai to add to another of Ernie Els’ Els Club series in Malaysia (The other two are in the state of Johor, directly opposite Singapore). About an hour from the town of the island, Kuah, The Els Club Teluk Datai retains the orginal vegetation of age-old rain forest that stretches from Mount Mat Cincang at the back all the way down to the Andaman Sea. A wide array of natural flora and fauna can be found along the course including tropical hardwoods, bougainvillea, palms, ferns, parasitic vines and broad-leafed plants while monkeys and other native animals live around the course.
Opened in April 2014, this 18-hole Par-72 6,752-yard course opens up in-between walls of the original matured tall trees retained as clear borders, or better call it the real trouble areas of the fairways, never mind if one of the distinct features of this course is actually that there are no bunkers to be found, natural vegetation and river streams act as replacement obstacles.
Apart from the natural undulation of the ground from the mount to the sea, the tall trees appear the main stumbling block to making good scores. To compensate, the fairways are amply wide to make the many dog-legged fairways more forgiving as in Hole-16 Par-4 409-yard with a right-angled turn!
If you are playing alone and somewhat in a meditative mood (Because of the tall trees-enclosed surrounding), amid high humidity, you will find serenity. For all the trepidations, if any, 5 holes will lead you out to the great ocean of the Andaman Sea with survival perhaps hinges on Hole-17 Par-3 162-yard where the ball will have to fly along the Andaman Sea-edge!
The Golf Club – Datai Bay (Morphed into The Els Club Teluk Datai – see above) The Datai, as it is popularly known, is located at the north-west part of Langkawi Island. It is a resort with a golf course. The views from some points on the course are stunning; some over-looking the islands of the Andaman Sea and some having the majestic Gunung Mat Cincang, the highest peak of Pulau Langkawi, as the backdrop. Many varieties of trees and plants can be found here. They include tropical hardwood like Meranti and the ever-blossoming bougainvillea. Palm trees, ferns, parasitic vines and broad-leafed plants in every imaginable shade of green and other colours as well grow freely along the fairways and around the greens. Some golfers find it hard to tell where the course ends and the forest begins.
Set at the foothills of Gunung Mat Cincang, this 5,994 meter Par-72 course has been voted ‘The Most Scenic Golf Course in Malaysia’ and nominated as one of the best golf resorts in Asia. The fairways are covered with Bermuda while the greens, Tifdwarf.
Gunung Raya Golf Club of Langkawi, Kedah – Relatively new, Gunung Raya Golf Club sits snugly at the foot of Mount Raya which is hardly 20 minutes’ drive from Kuah, the landing town on the Island of Langkawi. Ideally located inland and easily accessible from all the popular resort hotels along the coast, this 120-hactare 18-hole Par-72 of former rubber estate-turned golf course was designed and built by Max Wexler. Measuring 6,377 meters it features rolling hills with panoramic view of the island at some tee-boxes while water hazards abound.
If you are still grappling with your fairway woods, the 366-meter Par-4 Hole#13 is the hole to test your achievement so far. With the border fence on the right as a natural psychological barrier to your tee-off shot, the course slopes steeply left before curving right and around water hazards to the green. ‘No alignment is a straight alignment’ here. You need the distance (and hence your fairway wood) and yet judgement and accuracy are paramount. The other memorable hole is the 500-meter Par-5 Hole#10 confidence trickster. It may be the longest on the course but it certainly is not necessarily the most intimidating as the index seems to suggest. The layout is a normal dog-leg right heavily bunkered on the fairway right and water lines the other side all the way to a relatively easy flat and wide green. The trick to this hole is to assess and ‘see’ clearly what the hazards are on both sides and a clear middle path will naturally emerge. Call it Course Management if you like, a layout of this nature is simply a test for a clear mind.
Kulim Golf & Country Resort of Kedah – This golf resort is part of the huge Kulim Hi-Tech Park officially launched in 1996 to promote high value-added industrialisation as well as research and development. Not surprisingly the clientele of the club includes an array of foreigners and out-of-towners whose factories and offices dot the rest of the park area. Ask the officials, you would be gladly informed ‘The World Has Come to Kulim’!
Surrounded by oil palm plantations, it covers a sprawling 435 acres for its 27-hole international championship course. Built in 1998, it was designed by the JMP Golf Design Group. The course consists of three 9-hole courses, namely the North course (6,400m), the West Course (6,470m) and the East Course (6,385m). Confusing? Not really when you finally got to the treacherous and steeply back-sloping green of Hole#9 of the North Course where you could enjoy a panoramic view of the area. But otherwise, this course is truly one for all levels.
(Note: Where the course is used to be where the editor went camping, hiking, jungle-biking and swimming in the streams yonks ago. Today, he could still be spotted around occassionally; albeit involving himself in some more ‘gentlemanly’ sport. If you must watch your ball rolling remorsely back to the fairway from the steep green of Hole#9, watch for him on the annexed practice green a slight level up. You are most welcome to join him on Hole#19.)