"Golf Course of the Year" by Business Mirror
By Mike Besa /Images of Manila Southwoods by Marty Ilagan
In the first part of the process of divining the golf course of the year, we first discussed the criteria by which the choice would be made. The criteria dealt with the golfing experience only; service and the other facilities of the club were of no consequence.
Then we named what we felt were the four courses most deserving of the distinction and they are, in alphabetical order:
Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club—The centerpiece of Ayala Land Premier's portfolio is a charming mountain/seaside track that clambers up and down the mountains of Morong, Bataan. It's an enjoyable track that offers spectacular views of the bay.
Hacienda Luisita Golf and Country Club—A gem. A Robert Trent Jones Sr. design; the only one in Asia. Recently acquired by Martin Lorenzo, the golf course has blossomed under his watch. The work on the course has been threefold. The condition of the golf course was priority one. Then focus shifted to the original look and feel of the golf course and finding a bit more length to make it more resistant to scoring. It’s a classic parkland layout.
Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club Masters Course—The Masters is a Jack Nicklaus masterpiece. Looking at it now, you'd be hard-pressed to remember the property as a former rice field. This is a design that’s been tested against the best in the world and it has held its own.
Wack Wack Golf and Country Club East Course—The beast. One of the most difficult tracks in the country, the East Course is the home of the Philippine Open. The par-3 eighth hole is possibly the most difficult in Asia. The resistance to scoring here is off the charts.
Anvaya is the newest kid on the block and it’s a knockout. It's the first of the new breed of golf course that uses as much endemic flora as it can to reduce its carbon footprint. Only the greens and a few ornamentals are not native to the Philippines. If it has one flaw (and we are nitpicking here), it’s that the 10th isn’t quite up to the standard of the other holes.
Luisita has made giant strides in the last two years. The course is gorgeous and demands the golfer have command of his golf ball to score. The move to restore the original look of the course is an unqualified success. Luisita isn’t as resistant to scoring as it once was (although this is currently being addressed), and its conditioning isn’t quite up to the standard of the others on this list.
Wack Wack's East Course is a brute of a golf course and the winner of Golf Digest's architectural award last year. It is a heritage course and a model of sustainability. It did have some issues with its greens this year and that took away points for conditioning. The club was quick to address the issue and by the end of the first quarter of next year, the greens should be back to normal.
Which leaves us with Manila Southwoods Masters Course. Try as we might, we could find no flaws. It is a course that truly appeals to golfers of all handicaps (provided you play the appropriate set of tees). Played in summer in windy conditions, there are few courses that are tougher. It is always in superb condition but John Cope, VP of Grounds at Southwoods, seems to have found another gear this year because the greens are simply fabulous.
The Masters is a sophisticated course. It might be tough but it's also subtle and it is in the manner that these subtleties are dealt with that yields a good score. The Masters was the unanimous choice of our panel and a worthy winner of the BusinessMirror Golf's Golf Course of the Year.
Based on our discussions, the Masters was the most balanced design. Nicklaus seemed to use the prevailing wind as a primary defense for par. The Masters Course twists and turns into the wind; the wind’s impact is different on each and must be accounted for while deciding which club to hit and where to place the ball.
All the greens sit at angles to the fairway, which puts tremendous pressure on the shot into the green. Distance control and direction are of paramount importance here. The bunkering is sublime and the ones that see the most play are extremely well-conditioned. The greens themselves are relatively small, adding to the degree of difficulty they present. Once on, though, they roll fast and true and will reward a well-struck approach.
The golf course is beautiful. Southwoods Chairman Robert John Sobrepeña and his team planted a veritable forest and was one of the first golf courses in the country to apply for and receive Audobon certification as a wildlife sanctuary. Each hole is beautifully laid out and picture-perfect. Each could be the course's signature hole, but in our considered opinion, that honor belongs to the 10th hole.
Ten is a long, majestic par four. A creek begins from the right side of the tee box, bisects fairway, then runs up the left side where it empties into a small pond that defends the green. The green sits at an angle to the fairway and provides a tantalizingly small target for the approach shot. Par here is a very good score.
You can't ask more from the closing corner and the 18th, in particular, has figured in some truly epic battles over the years. This year, the Masters Course is as close to perfect as a golf course gets, and we’re happy to bestow our highest esteem on it.
Congratulations then to the management and staff of the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club for the work and passion that you put into caring for the best golf course in the land.
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