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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Friday, March 10, 2000



Enjoy the ride on
Filipino courses

MAYBE it's not the best-kept secret, but if you're interested in playing golf in Asia, you might seriously consider the Philippines, not Japan or South Korea.

Especially if you're like me or Casey Martin and need a golf cart to get around.

You can ride and not have to walk, if you prefer, unlike the latter two countries, where golf carts are as rare as double eagles.

In the Philippines, you have the option to ride or walk. That's why it seems to me that tourists might find the golf courses around Manila more to their liking than those in Japan and South Korea.

The Filipino courses are not as expensive, either, even with cart rental. Caddies are mandatory, even if you use a cart. Guess it's sort of a make-work policy to help the economy.

I had a chance to play at six different courses in seven days - Riviera, Manila Southwoods, Mount Malarayat, Orchard, Mimosa and the ultra exclusive Manila Golf & Country Club, right in the heart of the city.

All of them had elaborate clubhouses, complete with all the amenities. They all had armed security guards, too, which proved unnerving, especially at Southwoods, with its rifle-toting patrols at two of its river holes.

The informal guide of our eightsome was Kerry Ahn, financial officer for Belt-Collins, which is involved in 13 golf projects in the Philippines, including three courses that we played - Riviera, Southwoods and Mimosa.

MIMOSA, a two-hour drive north of Manila and located on the grounds of the former Clark Field U.S. Air Force Base, was designed by Robin Nelson, whose courses in Hawaii include Mauna Lani, Coral Creek, Ewa International, West Loch, Sandalwood and, most recently, Maui Dunes and Grove Farm on Kauai.

The Filipinos, though, must be designer-conscious.

We played Riviera's 18-hole course designed by Fred Couples. The club's other 18 was designed by Bernhard Langer.

At Manila Southwoods, whose 36 holes were designed by Jack Nicklaus, our group played his "Legends" course. The other 18, the "Masters," was the site of the Asian Tour's Philippines' stop the week before.

Orchard's two 18-hole courses were designed by Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. We played Palmer's.

My favorite of the six courses was Southwoods legends, probably because it was the most suited for my bump-and-run game. Maybe that's why I love courses in Scotland the best.

The others opted for Malarayat, which featured elevated and well-bunkered greens.

NOT surprisingly, in a country in which you're either rich or poor, golf is a luxury. That's why the majority, if not all, of the courses are private country clubs, catering to wealthy residents and their guests.

As a result, visiting tourist guests can readily play at most of them. Most of the private clubs, though, require that they play with a member. Still, there are ways to get around that.

But at Manila Golf - the most exclusive and expensive (membership is $1 million American) - an invitation by a member, who must accompany his guests during the round, is necessary.

We were privileged to play the course. One of our players, Dr. Paul Sunahara, had arranged to meet his former University of Wisconsin classmate, Rod Feliciano, who happened to belong to the club.

Happily, Feliciano's also in charge of the National Golf Association of the Philippines, and filled me about the sport in his country.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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