A good distance away from Manila, Mount Malarayat Golf & Country Club is much more peaceful than some of its peer courses closer to the capital which are blighted by the toxic smell of pollution. On the other hand, it is a bit of a drive for a day trip from Manila, so you are advised to arrange some local accommodation.
The JMP Golf Design Group is an American partnership formed in 1985 by Brian Costello, Mark Hollinger and Bob Moore. Collectively they have completed projects in a number of countries and their Asian portfolio has been bulging with Chinese, Thai and Korean commissions as well as Mount Malarayat in the Philippines.
The severe tiering of the greens is a major feature of the Mount Malarayat golf course. There are not just single, but double and triple tiers and sometimes the tiers work sideways rather than head-on. On the par three 8th of the Mount Lobo nine, the middle tier of this three-tiered green lies several feet below the front and back tiers, which are level with one another. From the tee it appears that there is a chasm in the middle of the green and the tiering works to reduce the size of the green by two-thirds, a great example of how contour and slope can be used as a hazard even within the confines of a putting surface. This is not the only unusual golf hole; earlier in the nine there is a par three where you play between a lake and a hill to a green so long as to permit multiple club differences.
Also worth mentioning are the bunker settings. The bunkers are laid out creatively. Some fill the conventional purpose of protecting the greens and fairways, others have a more general aesthetic role. The architects have worked in plenty of variation in the arrangements of the bunkers – we see cross bunkering as well as more linear arrangements. This is a good driving course but first time players are well advised to pay attention to the caddy's tips.
The two most striking holes on the course are the 7th on the Mount Makulot nine and the 9th on the Mount Lobo nine. The 7th on the Makulot 9 is somewhat famous as it features in Golf Digest's Best 500 Holes in the World. You drive downhill to a well-bunkered fairway that verges left to right. Once you round the gentle corner which is framed by brown rushes, the lake and green come into view. Even from a good drive the option to take on the green is an ambitious one. A conservative second, though, needs to be threaded to avoid bunkers. The 9th on the Lobo is a more angled hole, effectively a double dogleg – a left-right, right-left configuration. The impulse to take on the corner from the tee is interfered with by a well-located tree with broad and gathering boughs. Most will choose to play toward the directional bunker. Once again the straight shot to a green protected by water, sand and rocks is a very ambitious option. That said, even from the ideal approach area the third shot is no pushover. From the fairway below, the green appears very narrow. This green is located in front of the clubhouse so is the ideal finishing hole. As such the designers have attempted to incorporate a sense of occasion with the sculptured rock garden and waterfall.
While Mount Malarayat Golf & Country Club is quite a long way from Manila for a day trip, you are unlikely to experience the congestion common to the country clubs closer to Manila, and the environment is very pleasant. Carts are optional which is a good thing as this is a very nice course to walk.
Reproduced with kind permission from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia & Australasia by James Spence.
This is one of the quirkiest courses in the country. It has strangely shaped multi-tiered greens, double fairways, and uncommon flora. Very scenic and tranquil, and consistently a few degrees cooler than stuffy Metro Manila.
Conditions are generally good, although greens can get a bit slow especially during off season. Layout is also good, with some uniquely laid out holes. Not gimmicky at all IMO.
Day trips are possible (2 hours from Manila), but also consider staying in their hotel and playing another round before you head out to experience all three 9s.