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GOLF ATRAVEL Player’s Guide


Sensation Duncan Forgan reports on the opening of Anvaya Cove, a Kevin Ramsay-designed course that is setting the bar high for golf in the Philippines. Photography by Tom Breazeale

Sunset over Anvaya Cove, which overlooks the West Philippine Sea, just over two hours from Makati in central Manila 68






L Clockwise from above: a look up the ninth fairway back towards the state-ofthe-art clubhouse; as well as magnificent coastal holes, Anvaya boasts wonderful inland holes too, here with a view of the mountains; the author’s favourite – the 446-yard 12th that plays down to a green protected by the ocean 70


i ke it s equa l ly seduct ive neighbors around Southeast Asia, the Philippines is not short on alluring attractions. From hiking in the towering Cordillera Mountains of Luzon to lazing on the powder-white beaches of the Visayas Islands, there’s no lack of evidence to support the country’s tourist board’s contention that it’s ‘more fun in the Philippines’. For Golfplan designer Kevin Ramsay, however, a tract of untamed coastal real estate that sprawled by the shores of Subic Bay in western Luzon was the Philippine sweetheart that seduced him over eight years ago. “I will never forget my first visit to Anvaya Cove,” he says of the site that is now home to the Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club, one of the most exciting new challenges in both the Philippines and indeed the region as a whole. “The site’s developers took me to a viewing area that overlooked the whole complex. The land featured some incredible elevation changes, it was home to some stunning vegetation and it had both mountain and sea views. Simply put, it

had everything a golf course designer needed to make a sensational golf course.” Having been fortunate enough to participate in the grand unveiling of the layout last December, I can confirm that Ramsay has put this prime raw material to the very best of use. Around 130km from Manila, Subic Bay was once site of a major US Naval Base. The base was closed back in 1991, but the area still attracts a healthy foreign presence due to its proximity to the capital and also its tremendous possibilities for scuba diving. Now the opening of Anvaya Cove represents another prestigious addition to the range of leisure activities available in the vicinity of Subic Bay. A mid-morning tee-off time necessitated an uncomfortably early departure from our Manila hotel. As the urban sprawl of the city softened into coconut palm-studded rice fields and then into the dramatic mountains-meet-ocean tableaux of Subic Bay, however, the effort began to feel more worthwhile. By the time a rare competent drive and approach shot had secured par at the first and the azure expanse of the West Philippine Sea had come into view on the second tee, all memory of the early morning blues had faded into complete insignificance. One of the things our group liked most about the course was the sheer variety of terrain and experiences it offers over the 18-holes. While sections of Anvaya Cove are played inland through funnels of massive trees, other holes – especially the stunning stretch from 11-13 – are more coastal in character and utilize the course’s stunning location to full show-stopping effect. Ramsay himself is uncomfortable with the idea of focus being placed on one section of the course. Certainly fantastic holes such as the ninth, a three-shot par-5, and the 18th, an uphill par-4 with a creek-fronted green, are spread evenly throughout the scorecard. However, consensus opinion among those who have played the course points to the aforementioned run of holes on the back nine being the highlight of the golfing experience at Anvaya Cove. The first of the three, the 11th, has the distinction being Ramsay’s own personal favorite hole on the course. “I don’t like the expression ‘signature hole’,” says Ramsay. “Because I think golf course architects should aim to make every hole dramatic, enjoyable and memorable. But if you twisted my arm I’d tell you that the 11th makes me smile more than any other hole. It is a short, cliff-top par-4 that tempts longer hitters to pull out a driver and go for the green. “I like reachable par-4s like this because they offer so much reward for taking a risk. HKGOLFER.COM

Undoubtedly, the sensible play here is to hit an iron to the right side of the fairway and then a pitching wedge in, but that is easier said than done. Whenever I step on this tee a little voice in my head whispers ‘go on Kevin, if you hit a really good drive then it could feed down onto the green, making eagle a possibility’. “Conversely, of course, if you hit a bad one, you’ll find yourself in the West Philippine Sea and it is pretty much impossible to make par from there.” Ramsay’s pick is certainly justified. There are plenty, however, who would plump for the 12th as being the pick of the bunch – I among them. Eschewing the flat-out risk/reward philosophy of the previous hole, the 446-yard beauty possesses more epic qualities than its predecessor. The elevated tee boxes high on a bluff reveal a fairway that plays downhill to a green nestled right on the beach itself, with another verdant bluff framing the entire tableau at right. The risk/reward element is not completely absent here as a creek crosses the fairway at 300 yards, complicating decision-making off the tee. A treacherous Pebble Beach-style short hole towards the ocean rounds off the “Amen Corner” of Anvaya Cove. However, as Ramsay says, the course is not lacking in overall quality aside from its most eye-catching stretch of holes. W hat ’s more w it h a state- of-t he-a r t clubhouse, a well-stocked professional’s shop, luxurious locker rooms and extensive accommodations on site, the new course appears to have all the elements in place in order to host a prestigious amateur or professional event. “Given the quality of some of the holes, the dramatic scenery and the early reviews, I think there is every possibility that Anvaya Cove HKGOLFER.COM

could be considered as a venue for major events here in Asia,” says Ramsay. “I also think it has every chance to be ranked as one of the Top 100 Courses in the World, but we’ll have to see what happens over the next few years. “For now I’m just happy that the course is open and golfers are walking off smiling.”

TRIP PLANNER Anvaya Cove is located two and a half hours from Manila International Airport and an hour and twenty minutes from Clark International Airport. Both gateways are served by regular direct flights from Hong Kong. While Anvaya Cove is currently operating on a members’ only basis – memberships, which allows bookings at the on-site accommodations, is priced at approximately US$30,000 – the club will soon announce an arrangement with major Manila hotels whereby guests can arrange tee times. For more information, visit