Formed in 1901, Manila Golf & Country Club hosted the Philippine Open, Asia’s oldest national golf tournament, during the first twenty years of its existence, beginning in 1913.
The club moved to its present site, which is close to the centre of the capital city, in 1948 and the course is now hemmed in by housing on all three sides of a triangular-shaped property.
After decades of relative neglect, the layout was in dire need of an overhaul and so Bob Moore of JMP Design was engaged by the club to redesign the course in 2006.
Such was the quality of the revamp that the course was given the accolade of “International golf renovation of the year” by one of the monthly golf magazines in 2009.
Architect Bob Moore kindly wrote the following exclusive article:
“Manila Golf is a landlocked golf course sited on a small land area. We did lengthen the golf course slightly, but the land area simply would not allow a significant increase in length. It is truly an "inner-city members’ course". It does not have the length to accommodate professional tournaments, nor do I believe the members would want to host professional tournaments. It has plenty of length to provide a great challenge to the members.
About the specifics of the renovation, we essentially constructed a brand new golf course. We worked very hard to save the historic specimen trees, which are the only preserved element of the original course. Four holes were re-routed. A new irrigation lake was constructed at the lowest point of the site (hole 14) to capture all runoff and storm drainage on the property.
The native soil is adobe clay which is one of the poorest draining soils in the world. The course was often closed during the rainy season due to poor drainage. We capped the entire course with 30 cm of sand to create a golf course that can be played year-round.
Although the course is primarily a walking course, we added paths to eliminate the wear patterns from maintenance equipment and provide some limited buggy usage. All bridges, rain shelters and tea houses were reconstructed with a consistent design style. Greens were turfed with Sea Isle Supreme paspalum and the remainder of the course was turfed in Salam Paspalum.
The signature hole at 16 is a nice hole, a par three of good length with a forced carry over water. The tee was originally a long runway tee box in the old Trent Jones Senior style. The small lake was located in close proximity to the green but was not visible from the middle or back tees. Because of the length of the hole and the location of the lake, some of the senior and women golfers would play a lay-up from the tee.To improve the hole we staggered the tee boxes from right to left and then reconfigured the lake to open visibility and eliminate the long forced carry from the more forward tees. The green complex was reconstructed with a large bail-out area to the left, a narrow approach on the centerline and a “Sunday pin position” to the back right.”
Manila Golf is the most prestigious club in the Philippines. It is situated in one of the nicest residential areas in Manila, and is only a few minutes to the heart of the business district. Strictly members only so I would encourage one to drop whatever they're doing and play here if invited.
The layout has been recently renovated to make it more challenging, but due to space constraints, it still plays as a short inner city course. All par 5s are reachable, with a sprinkling of shortish tricky par 4s and only one long par 3 (about 210 yards from the tips) on the back 9. Lot of OBs and water hazards, but all in all still very friendly to play. Given the stature of the club, the entire facility is very well maintained, and there is still a palpable air of old school golf club decorum.
All in all it is a very enjoyable track, but not excellent due to the lack of length and challenge even from the tips. Great senior's course.