May 28, 2024

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The best Asian ‘stay and play’ golf resorts this winter

The best Asian ‘stay and play’ golf resorts this winter

The Els Club, Teluk Datai, Langkawi, Malaysia

Yes, the hallowed crests and vales of St. Andrews at Scotland are still the holiest grail. True, the links courses in Ireland are still the true test of any semblance of mastery over this fickle, cruel and magnificent game. But there’s a whole new set of experiences out there for golf nuts—from multiple-course repasts in Mauritius, Thailand and Delhi to tropical gems in Langkawi and Mauritius. Gather your clubs, lie through your teeth to your better-halves, and slink away with your golfing buddies to indulge your greatest vice, at some of the finest golf resorts in Asia.

Black Mountain Golf Club, Hua Hin, Thailand

Golfers are confronted with a surfeit of golf courses in Hua Hin—as many as ten championship layouts—but most make a beeline for the top-rated Black Mountain Golf Club, designed by Australian Phil Ryan and the venue for numerous Asian Tour events. Set in the shadow of the Black Mountain, and dominated by rocky outcrop, Black Mountain is a modern layout characterised by large greens and peppered with bunkers (highlighted by red pampas grass, very common on courses in Thailand). Among Black Mountain’s features are rock faces set into the mountains and natural creeks that run through the course. The par-3 11th is Ryan’s signature hole: it has a green cradled by a wall of white stones and protected by an expanse of water. The course also has dramatic elevation changes which make for interesting tee shots, none more so than on the downhill par-5 sixth hole, with its twin fairways. Not surprisingly, Black Mountain has become a winter home for a bunch of Swedish golf pros, including the likes of Johan Edfors (who owns a villa here) and Henrik Stenson.

Travel desk: Hua Hin is a five-six-hour drive from the Thai capital. Visa-on-arrival is available for Indian citizens. Hang your hat at the two-bedroom villa, or a three-bedroom villa if you’re travelling with your fourball. Pay and stay packages start from THB 7,995 per person (Three rounds; 2 nights) and THB 14,995 (six rounds; six nights).

Classic Golf & Country Club (ITC Grand Bharat), NCR, India

Classic Golf & Country Club (ITC Grand Bharat), NCR, India

First there was a standalone 27-hole golf course, and now there’s a resort; so superlative that it makes the three nines look like complements to the property, rather than the other way around. It’s hard to overstate the sybaritic allure of the ITC Grand Bharat: an all-suite extravaganza of gastronomic indulgence, wellness and supremely deluxe habitation that would make a regular five-star property look and feel like a slummy hole-in-the-wall.

Jack Nicklaus designs’ original three Nines—Canyon, Ridge and Valley—present as much of a golfing challenge as they did when built (1998). This is a fun golf course to play; if you’re not having fun then do yourself a favour and move to the blue tees, or even the whites. Instantly the course changes in character.

No longer a leviathan, it rewards precision placement, strategy and a sound short game.
For that reason alone, players irrespective of abilities will enjoy playing from different tees on subsequent rounds just to get an insight into Nicklaus’ golf-course-design genius. Shorter isn’t necessarily easier—often it requires a completely different strategy.

Travel desk: The ITC Grand Bharat’s acreage spans over a 100 suites (which come either with a semi-private pool or a terrace); top-notch restaurants serving up everything from traditional Mewati to European cuisine; a 35,000-square-foot spa (which offers a couple of golf-specific therapies) that could, hypothetically speaking, keep the missus in good humour; and a host of outdoorsy activities—which you’re likely to spurn to get in another round—but which might interest the kids. All in all, it’s a picture of familial bliss on a staycation that incidentally happens to involve 27 holes of golf.

Bali National Golf Club, Bali, Indonesia

Everyone understands that you’re likely to be hung-over in Bali. And that’s why none of the three courses on this island of idyll penalises itinerant swingers for missing their tee times. Am or Pm is all you’re likely to be held to, and as long as you lurch to the tee in the vicinity of those hours, no one will deny you a game. Bali National’s new avatar—the course re-opened in 2013 after major renovations—has brought the oldest layout on the island up at par with the newer Kuta Golf Club and the spectacular par-3 ‘championship’ Bukit Pandawa Golf Club. More so, Bali National has managed to conserve its old-world colonial vibe and the high-ceilinged clubhouse and restaurants exude an elegance that is almost exclusively the preserve of historical golf clubs. The layout with its newly sodded fairways and lightning-fast greens, is still ensconced within a lush tropical forest and coconut groves set against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean on one side and the imposing Gunung Apang mountain. Bali National captures the best of both worlds.

Travel desk: Consider a stop-over in Bangkok to catch a few rounds of golf before heading to Bali. Indian citizens don’t need to a visa for a 30-day-stay in Bali. Bali National has a selection of two-bedroom (IDR 90,00,000 per day) and three-bedroom villas (IDR 115,00,000) for guests, all with private pools and personal butler service. Stay-and-play packages begin from IDR 116,00,000 for two rounds and a night stay. The Club is situated in Nusa Dua literally within walking distance of a number of five-star properties. Golf in Bali is not cheap: one round at Bali National will set you back by IDR 22,00,000. IDR 2,50,000 is an acceptable caddy tip.

The Els Club, Teluk Datai, Langkawi, Malaysia

Ranked 84th in ‘Golf Digest’s Top 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the World’, the Els Club Teluk Datai is by far one the finest golf courses in Asia. Set amidst a million-year-old rainforest and abutted by the ocean, the course has an abundance of 100 feet high trees, an assortment of local wildlife and stupendous vistas of the ocean. The course underwent significant redesign and renovation a few years back at a time when it was already considered one of the best courses in the region. The unique thing about the new course is a complete absence of bunkers ostensibly to account for the heavy rain that Langkawi receives; but the impenetrable forest on the side-lines and liberal water hazards make the Datai a formidable challenge, especially from the tips. That said, playing this course is more about the stunning views more than the golf itself.

Travel desk: Langkawi is a mere 40 minutes flying time from KL. Indian citizens need to acquire a Malaysian visa before embarking to the country. The Rainforest Course is accompanied by two luxury resorts; The Datai and The Andaman that offer a smorgasbord of lodging options for itinerant golfers. Stay-and-Play packages begin from RM 4480+ (One round; three days and two nights at The Andaman)

Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius

Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius

With a choice of two—The Legend and The Links layouts, which are attached to the Constance Belle Mare Plage hotel, this resort is the hub of golfing action on this tropical atoll nation. Host of the Mauritian Open and a European Senior Tour event, The Legend is the older and tougher of the two—with punishing thickets running along the fairways, a surfeit of water inlets, lakes and even an open lagoon to add to the challenge. There are quite a few spectacular holes, the pick of which is, unquestionably, the 152 m par-3 17th, which involves a daunting wedge (or even a 7-iron depending on which way the wind is blowing) over the lagoon to a tricky green. The more modern-feel The Links’ layout is the easier of the two, although it’s no walk in the park either. The fairways are more open, and there are fewer water hazards, but the greens are much more undulating and quicker. There are a number of unsettling blind shots and it’s a good idea to pick up the detailed course guide from the start if you’re not taking a caddy.

Travel desk: With more of an emphasis on fun, entertainment and food (rather than solitude), the sprawling Belle Mare Plage, replete with five pools, two spas (including a dedicated shisiedo spa) sits right across the road from the Legend Golf Course. The hotel has a wide range of meticulously appointed lodgings and the golf is free for guests.

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