In the mid-1990s, several like-minded individuals had the vision to see that a tract of scrubland scarred by deep gullies to the south of Manila might just, with the right architect in place, make a good golf course.
Tom Weiskopf was the man entrusted to transform the land into one of the best golfing layouts in the country and he duly accomplished the task in some style a couple of years later, routing the fairways around the natural contours of the terrain.
The Country Club is a very private facility that’s a training base for the Philippine golf teams and they put their home advantage to good use when the course was used as the venue for the golf tournament of the 2005 Southeast Asian Games. After all the scorecards were tallied up, the host nation claimed individual and team gold medals in the men’s competition and individual and team silver medals in the women’s event.
In 2014, The Country Club hosted the Solaire Open, an Asian Tour event, which Canada’s Richard T. Lee won by one shot from Plaphol Chawalit of Thailand. Two years later, the Philippine Open, one of the oldest golf tournaments in the world, was held at the club for the first time, with Steve Lewton from England winning the event by one shot, posting a winning score of 287, one under par for four rounds.
The Country Club, Philippines, is a very challenging championship course on a gently rolling hill. The routing is unique where the front 9 goes out and comes back in the same relatively narrow terrain in the same way that classic links courses a routed “going out, coming in” for 18 holes, while the back 9 meanders through the other property and only two holes 12th and 13th move in the same direction with the other seven holes change directions each time. After two years of extensive remodeling which started in 2013, the distance is increased by nearly 500 yards to over 7,700 yards, but Weiskopf's original routing was retained. Weiskopf took advantage of the natural flow of the land and cleverly routed the course, taking advantage of major terrain features, without cutting or digging the terrain of the former sugar cane fields. Regarding the normally prevailing wind direction, 1st and 9th have diagonal cross winds, 2nd to 5th is set upwind, 6th to 8th downwind, and for 10th to 18th the wind directions change on almost every hole.
The course crosses deep ravines on six holes, the Diezumo River and lakes come into play on seven holes, and the river and a creek crosses three fairways. The Diezumo River forms a formidable hazard and surrounds many of the front 9 holes. Nine greens are guarded by three to five bunkers, and some of them are as large as the green. The greens are joy to putt on. Though occasionally severely contoured, they are fair and can have multiple pin positions. The front 9 demands a lot of distance and accuracy. The fairways narrow as you approach the greens. On headwind holes, a fade or a draw can easily turn into a slice or a hook that finds itself in the hazard. The front is harder than the back 9, and is the hardest 9-hole stretch in the Philippines. The back 9, on the other hand, has a more open feeling, and the fairways are wider. Though well treed, there is a minimum of obstructive and annoying landscaping. The general feeling is one of wide, almost links-like open space. However, the testy nature of the 9 holes remains the same. The conditioning of both greens and fairways is immaculate, and one of the best of Southeast Asian courses. The Country Club hosted the Philippine Open for three consecutive years from 2017 to 2019.
The par 5 558-yard 8th slightly doglegs to the right, and is an excellent “risk & reward” hole. The Diezumo River flows to the right off the tee as well as on the second shot, and the fairway bunkers are strategically positioned. The green is two-tiered with a decent elevation difference, and is guarded by a large & deep bunker on the right. A long hitter, who can drive beyond a big Acacia tree on the right and two bunkers on the left off the tee shot, has a chance to get on the green in two shots, but there is a risk because the right side faces the river.
The par 4 476-yard 18th is a signature hole with a dogleg to the right. For the tee shot, a huge bunker like a beach bunker on the right side comes into play. A long drive that cuts the dogleg challenging both bunker and water all along the right side is necessary. The approach shot is over water onto the green facing the lake on the right and the right back. The green is two-tiered and is protected by the lake on the right and four bunkers around it. It will be more difficult when the pin is placed on the back tier. When you bail out left off the tee, a lay-up is in order. In that case, your third shot must be precise too, especially if the pin in located on the top tier. To read more about the course at The Country Club GC, click here to visit my website.
The second iteration of the ultra-exclusive Country Club has officially made it the longest course in the country. Playing 7,650 yards from the champion tees, this beast was commissioned in order to host the 2017 Philippine Open and maybe a future PGA event. It is by far the hardest course I have ever played from the tips.
The wind here blows hard, links level despite being quite a way from the nearest sea. The greens are typically large, elevated, hard as rock, and putt fairly level. Fairways are wide, rolling and cut tight, and the bunkering is extensive both around the fairways and greens. It is not the prettiest course in town with a few views of the nearby industrial area and residential housing, but there are some scenic holes that would want to make you bring out your camera.
For me the best thing about the Country Club is its exclusivity. If you can get on, you will have a very good chance of having the course and maybe even the entire clubhouse all to yourself. The weekday average is 3-4 groups per day and less than 8 groups per day for the weekends.
Green fees are 3k for weekdays and 5k for the weekend. Caddies mandatory, as are with most courses in the Philippines. Playing with a member is the only way for non-members get on.