Sunday July 8, 2012
Tee off in the highlands
By WONG SAI WAN
Cool weather and great scenery more than make up for the three difficult golf courses in Pahang.
PAHANG is not well known as a golfing state but when it comes to highland golf then it’s a different story because all the hilltop courses seem to be found in Pahang, as far as the peninsula is concerned.
When one mentions highland golf courses, one thinks of Awana Golf & Country Club in Genting Highlands, the Royal Fraser Hill Golf Club and the one in Cameron Highlands.
The 18-hole Awana GCC was designed by famed golf architect Ronald Fream, who has built courses in more than 60 countries. It is, of course, Genting Highlands’ very own golf course.
It is well known as a “ball swallower” because of the tight fairways and jungle hazards that are the common features of many hill courses around the world.
Another feature of this course, located some 1,000 metres above sea level, are the multi-tiered greens.
The one at Fraser Hill, is the country’s only genuine public golf course where there is no membership. Only a nine-hole course, its biggest advantage is that it is in the centre of town.
One of the oldest golf courses in the country, it was designed by Frank Hemmant and built in 1925. Hemmant also designed the New Course at the Royal Selangor Golf Club.
It is a short but tricky course with no realistic par-5s, but out-of-bounds are all over the place.
Its first hole is a straightforward test, except that the tee-box is next to the spot where all the tourist buses stop.
If you are not a gallery player, then the RFHGC, which is operated by the Fraser Hill Development Authority, is not for you – but the green fees are cheap at a rate RM30 on weekdays and RM40 on weekends and public holidays. Caddy fees are RM10 per round of nine holes.
There used to be a newer 18-hole golf course built in the 1980s in Fraser Hill but it closed down due to a lack of business and development issues.
As for the Cameron Highlands course, it is located in the town of Brinchang and is probably the highest one on the peninsula with an elevation of more than 1,500m.
Now known as the Sultan Ahmad Shah Golf Club, the 18-hole, par-71 course is quite challenging with tricky greens, undulating fairways, thick rough, meandering streams and fine sand bunkers.
A new clubhouse has been built and the course is also being renovated.
The Tourism Ministry has allocated RM15mil to improve the golf facilities in Cameron Highlands.
The renovation work, which includes returfing of fairways and greens, as well as some reshaping of the second nine, has already started and is expected to be completed in the near future.
Work will then move to the first nine and the entire improvement is expected to be completed next year.
The present course measures 6,101 metres from the blue tees and like most hilltop courses, a sturdy pair of legs to climb up and down is needed because it is a walking course.
I have had the pleasure of playing these three courses (as well as the closed one in Fraser Hill) several times and have always enjoyed my time there.
It was in Fraser Hill that I played my first golf game in Malaysia and teeing off to a gallery of Taiwanese tourists was frightening.
But the cool fresh air, plus picture perfect views at all three courses, makes golfing a pleasure and yes, the game seems to take longer to complete.
This is not only because of the tight and narrow fairways, but also because players tends to take their time playing so as to take in the views as well as the fresh air.
I am glad to see the Tourism Ministry spending money to improve the one at Cameron Highlands while the Genting Group has always looked after Awana pretty well.
I now hope they give same attention to the quaint one at Fraser Hill.
Till next month, take a drive up these hills.