The Makiling course at Sta. Elena Golf Club is my favourite Robert Trent Jones Jnr course in Asia and pips Navatanee in Thailand and the Lake Course at Spring City in China to that honour. Writes James Spence in his book The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia.
The relaxed air of this private members’ club belies the seriousness with which the management and staff clearly cherish their club and course. The club has taken the lead within the Philippines for course maintenance and indeed are beginning to take on contracts to maintain other courses in the country. Sta. Elena is the happy combination of lush tropical environment and the intellectual and physical rigours of a Trent Jones course. The course is certainly up with its near neighbour Manila Southwoods in terms of conditioning, presentation and challenge.
The course is one of the best driving courses in Asia with a good balance of safety and danger from the tee. The landing areas are large enough to accommodate the near miss at a 250 to 300-yard range while still prejudicing the golfer with his second shot.
There’s a good mix of holes here. From the blue tees at which the course measures 6.617 yards, the longest par three is 196 yards and the longest par five measures at 535 yards. This is a golf course with a tremendous sense of both balance and flow and its pleasures are subtle in this respect.
This is a private club so you will have to be accompanied by a member. One of the best courses in the country. A definite must play if you can. Conditions are second to none with manicured fairways and fast, receptive greens. The 3 nines were laid out in a lovely and natural manner and are all very scenic. Course is of moderate difficulty from the regular tees but can get monstrous from the tips. Clubhouse and lockers are tastefully done and service is impeccable. Tip: The restaurant serves the most delicious food so do plan a meal before or after your round.
The par 5 550-yard 4th is an almost straight hole with river on the right. The green is swung to the right and the river crosses in front of it. The approach shot is intimidating because at the edge of the green is a wall bordering the river. The par 3 196-yard 11th is a beautiful par 3. A bunker in front of the green comes into play. A lake and its surrounding scenery seen from the green are excellent. The par 4 420-yard 14th is a difficult and straight hole. The tee shot is intimidating because overhanging trees squeeze the right side of the fairway. The second shot is over the river and you should hit long rather than short because the front side of the green faces the water. However, if you hit over the green, the downhill approach shot is demanding because it slopes to the river. The key to success on this hole is an accurate second shot. This is a hole where you are very happy saving par. To read more about Sta. Elena Golf Club, click here to visit my website.