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Golf in Singapore: A round up of South East Asia’s best golf courses

We asked some golfing enthusiasts about their own form on the golf course and their favourite places in the Singapore region to play 18 holes.


Approximate number of courses: 230

Golfer of note: Danny Chia


Course: Desaru Golf and Country Resort, Johor

Recommended by: Chris Jones, Singapore

Years in Singapore: 29

Years playing golf:

I had my first game about 15 years ago, when I hung up my cricket boots. My golf game was, and probably still is, more like my cricket style. My golfing pals claim that I hit “very long and sometimes straight as well”, which is probably a fair comment!
How often do you play?

I try to play a couple of times a month. I’m a member of Keppel, and in order to book an early tee time for a Saturday, you have to go in person to the club by 5am or 5.30am on the preceding Monday morning. If you miss out, it means playing in the heat of the day and returning home exhausted, particularly if the 19th hole comes into play!

Favourite course in Singapore or elsewhere in Southeast Asia?

I really enjoy Keppel: it’s narrow and challenging. They say if you can play well at Keppel, you can play well anywhere, but I guess I must be the exception! My real favourite is Desaru in Malaysia. The course is a combination of jungle and sea, with no traffic noise and heaps of wildlife – monkeys and the occasional tapir and wild pig. Some years ago, there was a car ferry from Singapore to a harbour near the course, but since that service was discontinued, the long journey has put me off a tad.

Describe the first hole for us.

Desaru was designed by Robert Trent Jones (no relation!), and the first hole is a rather cheeky par 4, about 330m. A dogleg to the right, after about 200m, means that if you smash a drive you will surely go into the jungle. There are also bunkers at the elbow of the dogleg, so it’s advisable to use a 5 or 6 iron off the tee and pray you hit straight! You can then use an easy 7 or 8 to the green.
Golfer you most admire and why?

In spite of his success, Lee Westwood seems to have remained very level-headed. A friend of mine in the UK met him in the clubhouse of his local course and said he was very chatty; he had a beer with him and he was a very regular guy indeed – exactly the sort of image he portrays on the telly. He was also very willing to give golf tips to my pal, in this case: “Why don’t you think about playing Snakes & Ladders instead?”



Course: Palm Resort Golf & Country Club, Johor

Recommended by: Neil Penny, Australia  

Years in Singapore: 18

Years playing golf: 7

How often do you play?

Once every six months now. (Got the deep sea fishing bug at the moment.)
Favourite course?

I like Sentosa in Singapore; in the region, I like Palm Resort in Johor.
What do you like most about Palm Resort?

The only time I ever shot under 100 was at this course.

Describe the first hole for us.

A long drive to an open fairway, minimal hazards – a nice, forgiving first hole.

Best or worst part of your game?

Best: Short game, pitching. Worst: Course management.

Golfer you most admire and why?

Seve Ballesteros, who passed away recently. He was exciting when he was on, and he wasn’t afraid of taking a risk. He was the original excitement machine.


Course: Hornbill Golf & Jungle Club, Kuching, Serawak

Recommended by: Geoffrey Shutie, UK

Years in Singapore: 20

Years playing golf: 10
How often do you play?

Once a week.
Favourite course?

Hornbill in Sarawak. (I also like Ria Bintan, and in Singapore, Sentosa Serapong.)
What do you like most about Hornbill?

It’s picturesque.
Describe the first hole for us.

First at Hornbill is an uphill with a pond in front, large rocks to the left and right and jungle both sides of that.

Golfer you most admire and why?

Luke Donald, because he’s number 1.




Approximate number of courses: 150

Golfer of note: Rory Hie

Course: Ria Bintan Golf Club, Bintan

Recommended by: Mark Bufton, UK

Years in Singapore: 3.5

Years playing golf: Since the age of 6.
How often do you play?

Once a week, if I can.
What do you like most about Ria Bintan?

I have just joined as a member there. It’s always in great condition, it’s challenging, and the staff and general atmosphere are friendly.
Describe some of the holes for us.

The signature holes are 7, 8 and 9 – undoubtedly three of the best golf holes in Asia. The 7th is a Par 5, slight dogleg right, tight tee shot to land in the middle of the fairway. If you hit a good one, the green is reachable in two; but it’s surrounded by bunkers and water, so you have to be confident! Large green with some tricky slopes. The 8th is virtually a 90-degree dogleg left. Positioning off the tee is vital – normally a 3 iron for me. Second shot is all downhill with a stunning view of the ocean behind the green. The 9th hole is very well known (described by many as the best Par 3 in Asia). It plays about 150m, hitting over rocks with the ocean view to your left – very picturesque!

Golfer you most admire and why?

Nick Faldo will always be an old favourite of mine – hugely competitive with a great golf swing. Nowadays I most enjoy watching Rory McIlroy for his raw talent; he clearly has a big future!


Course: Nirwana Bali Golf Club, Bali

Recommended by: Luke Moffat, Australia

Years in Singapore: 3

Years playing golf: 25

How often do you play?

Once a week.
What do you like most about Nirwana?

It’s picturesque and quite tough.

Describe the first hole for us.

The first isn’t a world-beater, but there’s a hole on the back nine where massive waves crash against the rocks and cliffs. In the distance is the famous temple, Tanah Lot, which is the backdrop. The hole is a mid-distance Par 3, but when the westerly winds are blowing it becomes a monster – you have to aim out into the ocean and into the face of that westerly and hope the ball will fade back onto the green and not into one of the many bunkers protecting it. Into this wind from the back blocks, it will take a 4 iron or even a hybrid to get it there. I imagine that there would be two million Titleist Pro Vs sitting at the bottom of the ocean.
Best or worst part of your game?

Best? Not too sure. Worst: bunkers, putting and general ball striking (pretty much everything).

Golfer you most admire and why?

Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey – he must have a hide like a rhinoceros in order to play with two gloves and with such an awful swing, but he still gets the job done.





Approximate number of courses: 250

Golfer of note: Thongchai Jaidee


Course: Red Mountain Golf Club, Phuket

Recommended by: Phil Empey, Australia

Years in Singapore: 5.5

Years playing golf: 25

How often do you play?

Once a month
What do you like most about Red Mountain, Phuket?

It’s picturesque, challenging and high quality.
Describe the first hole for us.

A tight first hole requiring accuracy off the tee as the jungle is impenetrable.

Best or worst part of your game?

Best: driving. Worst: putting.

Which golfer do you most admire and why?

Tiger Woods, because he dominated in his sport.



Approximate number of courses: 20


Golfer of note: Lam Chih Bing

Course: Marina Bay Golf Course

Recommended by: Constance Hsia, US

Years in Singapore: 5

Years playing golf: 4
How often do you play?

Not enough! Once a week on average.
Favourite course in Singapore or elsewhere in Southeast Asia?

I like Ria Bintan in Indonesia. In Singapore, I like Marina Bay Golf Course.
What do you like most about the course?

It’s the only 18-hole public course in Singapore, and it has challenging “bucket” bunkers and a gorgeous cityscape view. The grass is always well maintained (Bermuda, I think?) and the staff is efficient and friendly. They also offer night golf, which is a plus if you hate sun. Sometimes you can see the fireworks display in Marina Bay. They have a good Japanese restaurant, too.

Describe the first hole for us.

The first hole is nothing special, but it’s got 6 or 7 deeeeeeep bunkers on the right. So deep that golfers disappear in them. It’s a real nightmare if you cut a good slice like I always do. Tip: hit backwards to get out!

Best or worst part of your game?

There is no “best part” of my game. I’m good at marking my ball I suppose. I’m also a good golf shopper – I own eight pairs of golf shoes! The worst part of my game is finding the fairway or avoiding traps. On average I lose 4 to 8 balls every round. It’s disgraceful.

Golfer you most admire and why?

I like Paula Creamer because she’s got great drives and lots of style. She brings glamour to the game and is fun to watch. She’s also a really sweet girl. Always smiling! Among the men, I like Phil Mickelson. He’s got great personality and sportsmanship. I’m also impressed because he’s a lefty, and lefties – especially ladies – have a harder time finding clubs. I know a left-handed lady who plays golf right-handed to get around the issue.