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LANGKAWI GOLFING by Teviot Fairservis
by Teviot Fairservis
A legend often told on the island of Langkawi is that two giants wrestled in a fierce battle that lasted for days. To put an end to their brawl, they were turned to stone by a sorceress. Now they stare at each other from either end of the island. In the south, near to the town of Kuah, stands the taller giant, the mountain known as Gunung Raya. Near the far northwest tip, stands his rival: GunungMatcincang.
Flying over the island, you would see large green lawns near the base of each mountain – there are three golf courses on Langkawi: the Gunung Raya Golf Club on that mountain’s east face; the 99 East Golf Club to the west of Gunung Raya overlooking Kuah Bay; and the Golf Club Datai, part of the 5-star luxury resort complex on Datai Bay at the base of GunungMatcincang.
Long-time Langkawi expat Robin Gent of Distant Greens Golf Tours tells me that by 2012 -- with 3 excellent 18-hole golf courses open for business -- Langkawi will be on its way to become one of the top golf tour destinations on the planet. In this coming year, the Golf Club Datai is about to do major renovations;Gunung Raya has just added a new clubhouse; and 99 East Golf Club has recently opened on the old Langkawi Golf Club property. By next year, Langkawi can expect the wealthy European and Middle Eastern businessmen to choose the island to spend their holidays golfing. This should provide a good boost to the island’s economy as, according to studies by international tour operators, typically golf tourists spend 4 to 5 times as much as the average tourist during their stay.
Datai Golf Club is closed from Nov. 2011 until 2nd quarter of 2013
See information at bottom of page.
99 East Golf Club
Google “golf, Langkawi” and up will pop the “Langkawi Golf Club,” yet residents here know that course has been closed for some years. Luckily, there’s a new kid near town: the 99 East Golf Club, located just minutes from downtown Kuah. As I look out over the dramatic landscape of rolling hills and vistas of Kuah Bay, I realize that the old has been made new – the Langkawi Golf Club has been reborn as “99 East.”
I rode up to visit the course and was met by British PGA golf pro James Slade. He and his family moved to Langkawijust a few months ago, coming directly from Beijing to serve as Golf Operations onsite manager of the course. He explained that the golf club is part of the “99 East” residential resort which has ambitious plans for luxury housing and resort facilities designed with ecological sustainability in mind and built around the golf course. Millions of tons of earth were moved and hundreds of new plants and trees rooted to realize the new design by Australian golf course architect, Ross Watson. The new course is the first in Malaysia to be managed by Troon Golf, known for its standards of excellence managing the world’s best courses in 25 countries.Troon Golf will ensure that the club maintains world class standards for years to come.
With a total distance of 7,330 yards off the back tees planned, 9-holes opened in June and another 3 will be added this winter. By next summer, all 18-holes should be playable. The new electric buggies just arrived in the last week of August, and “Mr. James” as the friendly staff calls him, tells me that golfers will have both options: to ride or to walk this lovely landscape. I definitely plan to return soon if only to meet a friend for lunch or tea at the “Yard Arm” café to enjoy the views and very reasonable prices. To reach “99 East,” head out of Kuah towards PantaiCenang (Rte. 112); the entrance will be on your left past the Langkawi Hospital, just before the Ulu Melaka junction (Rte. 118).
Gunung Raya Golf Resort
If you are a golfer and you live in Kuah, theGunung Raya Golf Clubis your second home. About 3 – 400 locals play this course regularly of which perhaps 80% are Muslim, 15% Chinese, and the rest foreign visitors from all over the world. In August, the course was nearly deserted except for foreigners due to the fasting month of Ramadhan, but except during tournaments, friends tell me that the spacious course offers a leisurely experience with no pressure from crowds.
This venerable institution preserves the dignity and beauty of the original design made by world famous golf designer, Max Wexler, whichfirst opened some 13 years ago. As you enter the atrium enroute to the airy and light-filled Clubhouse restaurant, notice the delicate watercolors of the original designs hanging to your left. Then go out on the course and observe how those views have been faithfully cultivated in the mature landscaping. To your right in the gallery, you will also see photographs from the many tournaments and events that have made their home here, including the annual September event honoring and hosted by Malaysian royalty, the “PialalMu’adzam Shah Golf Tournament.”
Constant renovation keeps the course in good order and almost everywhere there are signs of on-going maintenance. I am taken on a buggy ride tour on the cement paths and ‘off-road’ past yellow trumpet flowers and wild grasses. As we pass the markers telling the Hole number, Par, Index, and Distance, I ask about the most challenging hole to play. My buggy driver, the charming “Mr. Man,” points to the marker for Hole 9. At 351 meters, this is Gunung Raya’s longest distance and a very scenic view of rolling hills and vivid green lawns. The mountain giant must be proud of how beautifully his slopes are cared for by the staff of the Gunung Raya Golf Resort.
The Golf Club at Datai Bay
GunungMatcincang, at the northern end of the island, looms over the exquisite Golf Club at Datai Bay. Rated one of the six best golf courses in the Asia Pacific Region by Hertz International, American Golf Digest ranked it #3 in Malaysia. Local golfers tell me that playing at the Datai is a special experience and call it one of the most beautiful places to play in the world. Flanked by GunungMatcincang to the east, the course leads down to the Andaman Sea and the private white sand beach of the Datai hotel complex.
Surrounded by tropical vegetation and with a stream running through it, each hole provides a new vista of mountain, sea, and jungle.This championship 18-hole golf course measures 5994 meters, Par 72 and was opened in 1992. Years of excellent maintenance have gone into the fine Tifdwarf and Bermuda grasses that cover the landscape. A challenging course, it can be difficult to avoid losing balls into the trees or to negotiate the narrow spaces between water and forest. Still, even the beginning golfer will have an exceptional day spotting monkeys, deer, and the island’s unique species of tropical birds.
At the Datai, you experience both extremes of old and new. The resort stands in the midst of a virgin geoforest dating back a thousand years or more. Look up at the mountainside and you are looking at ancient history – Langkawi has been designated by UNESCO as a “Geopark” for its 400 million year old ancient rock formations.
The resort complex itself is considered by many to be the ultimate in luxury. Golf is not the only pleasure to be found here on Datai Bay. The Datai Bay Resort with its world class hotels, restaurants, spas and health club facilities, and 5-star service consistently ranks as one of the top 100 luxury resorts in the world.
SIDEBAR: Hours, prices, etc. for the 3 clubs - click here