Re­dis­cov­er­ing De­saru

The new Val­ley Course at The Els Club De­saru Coast

Golf Asia (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - STORY BY KEN LYE PHOTOS BY NATASHA WONG AND THE ELS CLUB DE­SARU COAST

When you have two mul­ti­ple-Ma­jor cham­pi­ons collaborating on any­thing golf, you know it’s go­ing to be spe­cial. And so it is with the re­cently opened Val­ley Course of The Els Club De­saru Coast. This 18-hole par-72 cham­pi­onship course is a col­lab­o­ra­tive de­sign be­tween Ernie Els and his long­stand­ing friend and tour ri­val Vi­jay Singh.

Not to be mis­taken with the 27-hole Ocean Course, which opened for play at The Els Club De­saru Coast in Septem­ber 2016, the new Val­ley Course has sharper teeth than its sis­ter course with its dra­matic el­e­va­tion changes and well-pro­tected greens. In his prime, Vi­jay Singh was known for his stel­lar bunker play, con­sis­tently ranked high on the sand save sta­tis­tics. Un­sur­pris­ingly, strate­gi­cally placed bunkers are strongly fea­tured through­out the Val­ley Course, 178 bunkers to be ex­act. That’s av­er­ag­ing close to 10 bunkers each hole. Al­though it sounds in­tim­i­dat­ing, the course is well laid out to suit golfers of all abilities with gen­er­ous driv­ing and lay up ar­eas, plus 4 tee boxes to choose from.

The course de­mands your un­di­vided at­ten­tion right from the start, with the 1st

Hole par 4 that fea­tures a nar­row fair­way

guarded by wa­ter all down the left, and strate­gi­cally placed bunkers on the right. At 347m off the Sil­ver Tees, this hole warms you up nicely for the course ahead. The 2nd Hole is a lovely short par 3 over wa­ter that’s guarded by 3 bunkers on the front and 2 more at the back. Play­ing to 139m from the Sil­ver Tees, a well-struck tee shot here could yield a nice birdie chance.

The course gears up in ex­cite­ment as you get to the 3rd Hole par 4, where you tee off down­hill from a se­verely el­e­vated tee box. Given the dra­matic nat­u­ral un­du­la­tions of this ter­rain, many of the holes en­joy el­e­va­tion changes, and ris­ing and fall­ing mounds through­out the course. The sig­na­ture par 4 11th Hole, is a favourite with the tee box perched on the high­est point of the course. From here, a re­splen­dent view of the South China Sea in the back­ground frames this hole beau­ti­fully. The lay­out of the hole is

not just beau­ti­ful, but also in­tim­i­dat­ing. Await­ing you is a creek down the right side and sev­eral bunkers guard­ing the end of the fair­way with a lake be­yond should you over­shoot the bunkers. This same lake also guards the small raised green that is set off to the right slightly, and - you guessed it - more bunkers. To make things just a lit­tle tougher, the green slopes slightly down­hill at the back of the green to­wards the lake. While an ap­proach to the right mid­dle of the green is the best op­tion here, we all know that golfers rarely ex­e­cute the right shots un­der pres­sure which could bring trou­ble into play.

The 13th Hole is a spec­tac­u­lar par 3, an­other of our favourites. The sec­ond long­est par 3 on the course at 182m from the Sil­ver Tees, this hole is a ver­i­ta­ble chal­lenge with a nar­row kid­ney shaped green that is pro­tected by a lake all down the left and bunkers on the right of the green. The hole is fairly in­tim­i­dat­ing to most. The chal­lenge is fur­ther height­ened when the pin is cut at the front, pre­sent­ing lit­tle room for er­ror side­ways. As a tes­ti­mony to the fair­ness of the course de­sign, those who pre­fer not to take on this front pin, can play to­wards the gen­er­ous bail out area short right of the green.

As we made our way through the course, we found that it pre­sented golfers with a good com­bi­na­tion of strat­egy and club se­lec­tion choices for their shots. There is a good mix of tight driv­ing holes, and many gen­er­ous driv­ing ar­eas where you can blast a drive. The key to scor­ing well in the Val­ley Course is your ap­proach shot. Al­most all the greens here are raised greens with clever slop­ing and fall out ar­eas that make for a very testy up and down should you miss on the wrong side of the green. With fast but true rolling greens - and not for­get­ting the 178 bunkers, the chal­lenge of mak­ing an up and down save is am­pli­fied. This un­der­scores how you can quickly lose a cou­ple of shots around the greens on this course with er­rant play.

On the fin­ish­ing stretch, the course ends with a very good tough fin­ish­ing hole. Wor­thy of its in­dex 2 rat­ing, it is the long­est par 4 on the course at about 437m from the Sil­ver Tees. The hole pro­vides a very stern but fair test to close out your day with its el­e­vated tee box and wide fair­way on the left to avoid the bunkers on the right. Once again, good club and shot se­lec­tion is needed to reach the green that sits up­hill with the club­house beck­on­ing be­hind. Prob­a­bly the high­est raised green on the course guarded with bunkers all around, you have to pull out one more good ap­proach shot to earn the cold drink wait­ing in the club­house.

This course cer­tainly has hit the right notes with its well-placed bunker­ing, raised greens and mostly gen­er­ous fairways. At about 6,153m off the Sil­ver

Tees (equiv­a­lent to the Blue Tees for most clubs in Sin­ga­pore), the course presents a man­age­able chal­lenge for most golfers. How­ever, the longer hit­ters off this tee would prob­a­bly find more of the bunkers com­ing into play. For the golfers who seek an ad­ven­ture, they may want to try the 6,463m Black Tees which could turn the course into a bit of a brute.

With 45 holes to play, a won­der­ful grass range, top-class in­struc­tion fa­cil­i­ties with launch mon­i­tors, a SAM Putting Lab, a well-de­signed 9-hole par 3 course and

great short game prac­tice ar­eas, The Els Club De­saru Coast could also pro­vide a won­der­ful train­ing ground for keen se­ri­ous golfers. Th­ese fa­cil­i­ties com­bined along­side qual­ity teach­ing pro­fes­sion­als from the Els Per­for­mance Golf Academy, pro­vide an all en­com­pass­ing-holis­tic ap­proach to hon­ing a se­ri­ous golfer’s game.

In the near fu­ture, pos­si­bly in 2018, the area will boast sev­eral lux­ury ho­tels and re­sorts built around the coast­line and the golf course. When The Westin De­saru Re­sort, Aman Re­sorts & Vil­las, Anan­tara De­saru Re­sort and Hard Rock Ho­tel

De­saru Coast opens then, golfers will be spoilt for choice for ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions for their week­end golf get­away. Cou­pled with a fu­ture wa­ter-park and quaint river­side shop­ping, there will be plenty to of­fer for golfers with kids as well. All th­ese, and with the open­ing of the new Val­ley Course on 31 March, the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of The Els Club De­saru Coast as the next ex­cit­ing week­end get­away is shap­ing up very nicely.

Vi­jay and Ernie have mapped a se­ries of stand out bunker­ing that will shape how golfers ap­proach the Val­ley Course

Val­ley Course - Well Stocked Pro Shop

Ocean Lo­ca­tion - Ridge Nine - 4th Hole

Val­ley Course - El­e­va­tion changes are a fea­ture of The Val­ley Course giv­ing it a unique vis­ual and playable ap­peal

Els Club De­saru Coast - Try­ing out the SAM Putting Lab at the Train­ing Fa­cil­ity

Ocean Lo­ca­tion - Coast Nine 3rd Hole

Val­ley Course Sig­na­ture Hole - 11th Hole

Sand & San­dals Re­sort Fam­ily Suite

Ocean Course Club­house Con­gres­sional VIP Room

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