Loo Keng Yip takes on the recently-revamped Impian, whilst capturing its new and improved characteristics through expert lens
Impian, the Malay word for ‘dream’, was pretty much how I had filed away my memories of the Impian Golf & Country Club on the outskirts of Kajang … the town that satay built. It had been so long since I last played there it almost seems like a dream at least.
This was one of my favourite haunts. A couple of the guys in my regular weekly game back then lived in the area. The greens were as good as or better than those at any other golf course we had played. Golf has always also been about slowing down to smell the roses. This was a pretty course. Each time we came up to the signature hole, a captivating par-three across water, we took a moment to soak in the beauty. There are some technically-challenging par-fives. Played with due care, they were birdie chances for sure. There was even one, possibly two, that could be reached with just a drive and a 3- or 5-wood. This was a truly friendly course in more than one respect. A good dream.
When the opportunity to revisit Impian GCC came up recently, I jumped at the chance. It would be like catching up with an old friend.
The area around the course has changed significantly. Prime lots directly adjacent have been turned into modern multi-storey apartments joining the luxury bungalows of a gated community that have been there from the beginning. Whilst construction in the surrounding area was perhaps inevitable, the up-market residential nature of the past and present developments form a buffer of sorts ensuring that Impian remains one of the few ‘urban’ golf courses where the soothing sounds of nature aren’t drowned out by the noises of heavy industry nearby. I have always felt that there is something not quite right with the soundscape if one stands amidst lush fairways, greens and trees, and all one hears is the unrelenting roar of highway traffic or the annoying din of angle grinders from a factory just beyond the perimeter fence.
Impian is good in that regard; it is both pretty and peaceful – but nothing is absolutely perfect, of course. The school beside Hole 4 is still there. And we all know how school kids can get a bit noisy when class is not in session. Incidentally the fourth is also Impian’s Index 1 hole. A little audible distraction adding to the already tough test. Otherwise, away from the fourth, the rest of the course is practically ‘pin-drop’ serene. At 394 metres, it may be on the long side for some, but the drive should not pose too much of a problem; the challenge is about the tough approach. The fairway is very wide initially then narrows significantly towards the green. Going long, left or right of the green is a recipe for bogey or worse. The fairway now is better, more lush than I remember it being in the past.
In fact all the fairways are pretty well groomed throughout the course. Even the rough and first cut were well maintained. More so on the first nine than after the turn though. We must have played on a day between maintenance days. The greens on both nines are pretty much as I remember them, smooth and true.
The first hole is great to warm up on as the approach plays downhill all the way to the green. There’s no need to risk trying to launch a blistering drive whilst still ‘cold’ and potentially getting into slice or snap-hook trouble. Steering a smooth sweet 3-wood or hybrid off the tee will leave about 150 relatively-easy-downhill metres to a decent-sized green. This should get the heart-rate up and adequately prepare you for the first real test.
Hole 2 is a longish par-three. Then comes the first of the par-fives. Still being early in the round it is probably best to continue to play the third hole with a conservative, ‘non-attacking’ frame of mind. Laying up with a long iron or even a hybrid/metal wood from the tee will avoid running on into a stream that cuts across the fairway. Regulation three-on-the-green is not only good here, it’s the smart play. Only big hitters – really big hitters – need contemplate carrying the drain. If achieved though, ‘two on’ definitely comes into the picture.
Impian GCC presents a wonderful array of different tests in a lush garden setting, including the short 290-metre dogleg par-four sixth at which practically anyone will be able to successfully reach the green by playing just their irons.
The opening hole on the inward nine plays quite a lot easier with the benefit of local knowledge. Remember to avoid the entire right-hand side of the fairway. It looks fairly benign from the tee box but bogey and double bogey danger lurks there. Ideally stay left of centre all the way to the green and you’ll be fine.
The gently-downhill 312-metre 11th is where one can finally go into full attack mode. Driver time! Otherwise it is a straightforward; long iron off the tees and wedge into the green. This was and still is a really fun hole.
The 13th plays very similar to the 11th. Even better, the rough here has traditionally been cut low. The ball is more likely to roll down and along the slopes than hang up on them. At just 315 metres, long hitters willing to take a risk can aim for the bottom of the slopes on the left about 8/10’s the way up the fairway and with a little luck the ball could roll up very close to the green indeed. There is a shallow bunker short and left of the green designed to protect against just this sort of aggressive play but depending on your skills in sand, I for one think the risk is well worth it. And I’m not even a good bunker player. Another really fun hole.
In between the two is the 12th, the signature hole. Do yourself a favour and make an effort to take in the surroundings at this especially scenic little corner of Impian.
The 15th is the Index 2 hole. This one is a tough cookie. Downhill initially, it requires a long uphill approach to a multi-tiered green.
The par-three 16th is posted at 150 metres off the blue tees but falls away very sharply to the green. With a helping wind, using a club as ‘short’ as a pitching wedge off the tees is not entirely crazy. Alternatively you could even choke down and punch a low soft baby 6-iron out to about 100 metres and let the ball release up the fairway towards the green. Lots of options here at this Index 18 hole (ie ‘easiest’) on the course.
The short 391-metre par-five 17th is next. It’s shaped like a shallow reverse ‘S’. Aim to fly over the crest of a small hillock directly behind the fairway bunkers on the right. If the ball ends up anywhere within 20 metres off the cart path that bisects the fairway, you have a green light to go for the green in two.
Impian has won awards that placed it within the top-three for the best maintained golf course in 2011-2012 but fell away somewhat after that. In the last 12 months the club has undergone some major repairs and renovations to recapture some lost glory. They have done well.
The course seems right up to spec once again even if club manager Syed Jan humbly insists that they are perhaps only at 70 percent of where they would like to be, meaning there will be more good things to come. The swimming pool area and convention rooms have been given a new lease of life and are currently quite popular again, hosting everything from small birthday bashes to large all out wedding receptions.
The golf changing rooms? Well, they deserve special mention. Completely rebuilt, they are truly excellent. Large panel ‘rain’ shower heads and all. But even the best facilities in the world would not count for much if the people behind them were themselves not ‘up to spec’.
Many of the faces have changed since I last visited. I’m happy to note that everyone from the management right through to the shuttle driver at the car park were as welcoming and friendly as I have always remembered them to be. The course and facilities are now as good as they have ever
been and my recent visit was a bit like a much anticipated reunion with an
old friend. On top of that, it also turned out to be the making of new friends and fond new memories all rolled into one. PG