Perhaps you have played golf at all the usual suspects – the British Isles, Hawaii, Australia, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and maybe even New Zealand. Perhaps you want to combine some terrific new cultural experiences with some great scenic golfing tests? Well, if so, I have an exciting venue you should consider – exotic Malaysia!
Okay, Malaysia may not have been on your golfing horizon, but if you have any golfing curiosity and enjoy savoring the diverse and friendly cultures of Southeast Asia, Malaysia should jump right into prime consideration. Did you know that the country boasts over 200 courses in a variety of different beautiful locations with golf dating back there more than a century? Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to briefly preview golf in Malaysia and now I definitely want to return for more.
First of all, I was surprised to discover that Malaysia is far more modern than I had anticipated. It is not the “third-world country” that I had imagined, but a clean, safe place inhabited by modern high-rise buildings, late model cars, luxurious hotels, and a diverse, friendly population. High tech manufacturing and energy are but two of the ingredients driving their economy.
Beyond the golf, there is so much to absorb. Malaysia is a young country having just gained its independence from the British in 1957. Primarily a mixture of Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures, the Malaysians have been visited and influenced by many that include: the Dutch, Portuguese, and English for starters. As such, you will discover their influence in the architecture, food, and traditions, not to mention the descendants as well. Muslim is the official state religion, but you are as apt to find a Hindu or Buddhist temple or a Roman Catholic Church. The largest and the gateway city is Kuala Lumpur that boasts dozens upon dozens of skyscrapers with the Petronas Twin Towers among the world’s most beautiful, and the KL Tower, with its revolving restaurant, a perfect vantage place to survey the amazing landscape. There is scant little poverty and Malaysia’s impressive modern government/capital area is less than a dozen years old.
Leave the hustle of Kuala Lumpur, and you will encounter laid back beaches to the east, as well as mountainous areas and primitive rainforests that include Borneo, and historic shipping ports such as Melaka. Nature and outdoor aficionados of all sorts will love Malaysia, but so may golfers!
While I didn’t scratch the surface in surveying the golf courses, there are many opportunities to entice you there. While I need to conduct more research to be able to pinpoint specific golf courses, here is what you might expect for golf in Malaysia. Big-name course architects familiar to American golfers such as Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Ron Fream, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Peter Thomson, Graham Marsh, and the Arnold Palmer organization have lent their talents to designing area courses. The terrain is interesting, and in cases, magnificent, making for many engaging layouts. The populated area of Kuala Lumpur could easily satisfy all the golf you could want with many sporty courses there, but if you travel beyond, you will encounter breathtaking scenery.
The layouts have all the look and muscle of their American counterparts, and what’s more, you are likely to see monkeys – lots of them. In fact, the caddies are sometimes used to shield monkeys from your equipment as the crafty ones have been known to open golf bags to take the contents, never mind your food or cell phone. The conditioning by American standards runs the gamut of very good to average, but the cost is typically modest to average, and the scenery excellent. Forecaddies were required at the five clubs I played, but the fees were included in the green fees with tipping optional. Just be aware that Malaysia is hot and humid – “Florida on steroids”. Wear light clothing, drink lots of water, and liberally apply sun protection.
It is recommended that for any golf trip to Malaysia, you hire or work through a golf tour organizer who has a first-hand golf background of the country. First, they can arrange for your ground transportation. While English is spoken here, traffic signs are not in English, and they drive on the left side of the road. With traffic congestion especially in the urban areas, driving your own vehicle can be particularly confusing. Secondly, there is a definite disconnect between the golf industry and tourism in Malaysia. Most courses like to claim that they are private, but are, in essence, open to tourists at appropriate times or through certain hotels. An experienced operator can help you obtain tee times at the courses, lodging, and special attractions that meet your criteria, and also arrange for the all-important logistics. Here are three operators I am familiar with that you might want to consult: Paula Mullins-Worster (800-433-5052 firstname.lastname@example.org), Rich Golisch (866-825-4653 email@example.com), or Joan Holliday (858-715-0092 firstname.lastname@example.org). Each is a California-based travel agent and has first-hand golf knowledge of Malaysia.
For some good general information, visit www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my and click on “activities” and “golf” for a comprehensive overview of golf in Malaysia. You can also call the Tourism Malaysia office in Los Angeles at 1-800-336-6842 to request the 80-page brochure “Malaysia, Your Golfing Paradise.”
As for me, I have just whetted my golfing appetite. With 200 more courses to play encompassing a variety of scenic sites, together with good food, friendly folks, and interesting diversions, I hope to soon return to Malaysia. Within the next year, I just might be able to provide you with the complete guide to Malaysian golf. That said, don’t wait for me, experience the exotic golf there yourself right now!