Mysteriously, Manila isn’t a popular choice for Hong Kongers when it comes to golfing getaways. Rather, it is places like Bangkok, Hainan Island and Kunming that tend to top peoples’ wish lists. But the fact remains that the courses in and around this most colourful of cities, just a two-hour hop away, are astonishingly good and remarkably diverse. Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better quality golf in any of Asia’s major business hubs. That so few people travel there specifically for golf is probably more a reflection of the Philippines’ lack of tourism marketing clout than anything else.
The vast majority of visitors—for business or leisure—stay at one of the many international hotels in Makati, the financial and commercial hub of the city, a thirty minute taxi ride from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Although Manila’s notorious traffic congestion has improved in recent times, it is absolutely crucial to avoid travelling to and from courses during the morning and early evening rush hours. Taxi drivers are generally open to negotiation when it comes to fares for longer journeys, although for peace of mind it’s worth hiring a car and driver from your hotel.
WHERE TO PLAY
WACK WACK GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB (East Course) ****
The most convenient of all Manila’s premier courses to get to, tradition-rich Wack Wack—the name derives from the squawk of black crows known locally as Uwak Uwak—is one of the oldest clubs in Manila, founded in 1930 by prominent American resident William J. Shaw. The famed East Course here, which has hosted the Philippine Open more than any other in the country, is a magnificent parkland-style layout that, were in not for the skyscrapers of Mandaluyong City that loom into view on several holes, wouldn’t look out of place in the English Home Counties. The par-3 8th, with its inverted saucer green and formidable bunkering will delight and frustrate in equal measure, while the 18th, a meaty par-4 laced with water and excellent fairway bunkering, is a candidate for the finest home hole in Asian golf. The other course at Wack Wack is the decade-old West Course, an all-weather IMG design that although not as fun to play as the East, is a little kinder on the wayward and copes with the frequent summer downpours better.
Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City, Manila
Architect: Jim Black. Yardage: 7,053. Par: 72.
Greens Fee: US$100-US$140 Contact: +63-2/723-0665; wackwack.com
Reciprocal clubs include Discovery Bay and Chung Shan Hot Spring
Getting There: 20mins from Makati.
SHERWOOD HILLS GOLF CLUB ****1/2
The Golden Bear has designed dozens of courses in Asia, but it’s his gem at Sherwood Hills that he talks about with most fondness. This rugged, almost links-like layout thunders across rolling terrain and is characterized by generous landing areas flanked by unforgiving cogon grass and golf ball-hungry ravines. Although the course measures in at a hefty 6,800+ yards from the members’ blue tees, it plays a lot shorter thanks to firm, springy turf. The small, often angled greens complexes provide arguably the course’s biggest defence, meaning accurate iron players and those who posses a deft short game should come up trumps. Because the club seems resolutely adverse to self-promotion (they don’t even have a website!), few outside the Philippines has even heard of it, although this is starting to change after Golf Digest ranked it as the eighth best course in Asia (behind mainly Japanese and Korean designs). The open-air dining terrace at the Mission-style clubhouse is the perfect place to kick back with a plate of gambas and a few San Miguels after your round. Sherwood is situated only ten minutes from Eagle Ridge Golf & Country Club (+63-2/742-4265; eagle-ridge.com.ph), the archipelago’s largest golf facility, with four courses designed by Faldo, Norman, Andy Dye and Isao Aoki.
Trece Martires, Cavite, Manila.
Architect: Jack Nicklaus. Yardage: 7,265. Par: 72.
Greens Fee: US$85-US$134. Contact: +63-46/419-2841.
Getting There: 1hr from Makati.
Best of the Rest
For something completely different, try Club Intramuros (Bonifacio Drive cor. Aduana St. Port Area; +63-2/527-6613; 20mins from Makati, close to Manila Hotel), a petite but challenging par-66 public layout that snakes its way around the ancient walls of this once mighty fortified city. The course features an island green at the short par-3 10th and is floodlit to allow for night golf. Two very fine palm-fringed Nicklaus courses can be found at Manila Southwoods Golf & Country Club (Carmona, Cavite; +63-46/430-0260; manilasouthwoods.com; 40mins from Makati), which allows visitors from Tuesday to Friday after 10am, while nearby Canlubang Golf & Country Club (Canlugbang, Laguna; +63-49/549-7201), is home to two rollicking Trent Jones, Jr.-designed courses hewn out of a coconut plantation.
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