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Malaysia: A long way but worth the trip!

Malaysia for golf!! Put it on your bucket list or whatever list you may have of things you want to do.
Yes, for Canadians it is a long way to go (about 22 hours flying time from Toronto through Vancouver and Taipei) just to chase that dimpled ball up and down fairways. But it is a part of a world that offers an intriguing brush with different cultures, varied histories and some mouthwatering experiences with fabulous food that reflect the Malay, Indian and Chinese peoples that make up the major population in this country.
Now, is Malaysia a hard core golf destination? I would have to say no if you compare it to the Carolinas or Arizona or Scotland. But it does have several good, even outstanding golf courses. In fact, Malaysia has close to 200 courses scattered throughout the country so you could definitely play several excellent designs in a week or two if golf was your main focus.
But if you do plan to play a lot of golf and you haven’t been in this type of climate before, then a just a word to the wise. It’s hot and humid all the time. Not that this kind of weather is a deterrent, not at all. You just have to be prepared to keep those liquids flowing through your system.
I managed to get in a few games while there recently and here is a short synopsis of those courses.
Just over an hour’s drive from our hotel, the Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur, is Glenmarie Golf and Country Club (www.glenmarie.com.my). There are actually two, 18-hole courses at this club, the Garden, which is slightly longer than the Valley course.
We played the Garden which is just over 6,400 metres from the tips (add about 10% to get yards). Designed by Max Wexler, an American who has done a lot of work in Asia, this is a good course to shake off the stiffness after several hours of travel.
The course, which is lighted for night play, has some water on the front side but for the most part is fairly wide open, a treat for the long hitters with plenty of room if you have a tendency to spray the ball off the tee.
There are some hilly sections but nothing drastic. There is a full service and attractive clubhouse with all the amenities.
The A’Famosa Resort (www.afamosa.com) in Melaka State, has three distinct nines in its golf offering – the Rocky Nine, Palm Nine and Crocodile Nine.
We played the Palm and Rocky nines and found the course to be a very strong layout. The fairways were rolling and tight with very defined landing areas off the tee. There is lots of mounding along the fairways which has a tendency to kick the ball back toward the centre. On the Rocky nine the bunkering was very dominant with some cross-bunkering which dictated how you played your shot off the tee.
The Palm course was highlighted by coconut palms and of course the Rocky course has large rock outcroppings.
The golf at A’Famosa is part of a family-styled resort that offers other attractions such as a cowboy village, safari, go-karts and so on, plus a variety of rental accommodations.
By far the strongest course we played was at Tiara Melaka Golf and Country Club (www.lion.com.my). The club featured three nines – Lake course, Meadow and Woodland and we played the Lake and Meadow nines.
Positional play is a must on both nines. Every hole seemed to be strong and distinctive and on the Lake course, in particular, holes 8 and 9 featured water along the tight and bending fairways.
The two nines together played just over 6,500 yards from the blues but seemed to play longer in the heavy humid air.
This golf course is one of the best in the country and is consistently rated in the top 10 courses in Malaysia by Golf Malaysia and Golf Digest Malaysia.
A point of information, the capital of Melaka State is Melaka City, a UNESCO Heritage Site, and a very interesting place to spend some time.
Another solid track was Gunung Raya Golf Club (www.golfgr.com.my) on the island if Langkawi, just a short flight from the mainland. This 18-hole track, another Max Wexler design, is spread over 300 acres of land formerly a rubber plantation. It is cut through a valley and surrounded by hills and lush forests and other vegetation.
The front nine was hilly with second and third shots into small greens. Again accuracy was the name of the game. The back nine was a bit flatter but still required positional play.
This was a very golfer friendly and playable course with everything set in front of you. There were no surprises.
If you have some concerns about clubhouse facilities this isn’t an issue. The clubhouses at the courses we played all had full facilities and quite modern. Green fees seemed to range $65 and $85 Cdn but most likely would be less than that through a golf package.
A few things you might want to keep in mind while playing here. If your ball goes into a hazard, bushes or water, you are better off to take a drop. There are snakes you really don’t want to tangle with. Also, watch out for packs of roaming monkeys. They won’t hurt you but they like to steal stuff from your golf cart. –end-

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Tom Peters

Tom Peters is a freelance writer based in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, a suburb of Halifax. In December 2009 he retired after 41 years with The Halifax Chronicle Herald. He covered competitive golf regionally for the paper in his early days as reporter and over the years has freelanced golf travel articles to a number of major golf and business publications. He is a member and a director of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada.

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