By Jonathan Ponniah
Since its opening in late 2018, Forest City Golf Resort has been the talk of the town – and indeed the entire country – with its Jack Nicklaus-designed Legacy Course attracting hordes of golfers and setting new benchmarks for course conditions and the overall golfing experience.
If there was one criticism of the layout, as superbly designed as it is from a strategic standpoint, it was that many holes looked alike with sprawling waste areas and palm trees dominating the flat, desert-like landscape. That is certainly not the case with Forest City’s second 18, the Classic Course, which opened for play last August … taking the resort’s golf inventory to 36 of the planned 54 holes.
Crafted by Chinese architect Liang Guo Kun, the par-72, 7138-yard Classic layout is also an all-Paspalum course like the Legacy. But that’s where the similarity ends – Liang, who’s also the executive director and vice president of Forest City’s Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings – has created a visually stunning and on-your-toes experience using heavy fairway mounding, huge flashed-up bunkers and severely-sloped greens.
The multi-tier greens are laced with some of the most mind-boggling breaks on either side of the Causeway, demanding accurate approach play as missing on the wrong side almost invariably results in near-impossible par-saves.
Water is a strong feature on many holes, coming into play more frequently and with greater severity than on the Legacy. A classic example – pun intended – is the dramatic par-five 18th, which ensures an exciting finish to a round, especially if the betting stakes are high. Measuring 539 yards off the blues, the Classic’s closer is lined by a lake along its entire left side and demands two water carries on the second and third shots to reach the island green in regulation.
Indeed, the Classic serves up one of the memorable finishing stretches in Malaysian golf. The 16th is a near 90-degree dogleg left par-four, where long hitters can aim to drive the green or at least get close to it by cutting across the lake. From the blues, that would demand a hefty hit to make the carry of 280 yards … but thankfully, for mere mortals like me, ample bail-out space is provided on the right.
The 17th is a pretty par three, playing just 149 yards from the blues. But with water on the right and a trio of deep bunkers before the elevated green, golfers who underestimate this hole do so at quite considerable peril.
Other holes that stand out and stick in your head include the 2nd, a brute of a par-five measuring 585 yards from the tips and lined by water on both sides, and the rather odd par-three 6th which requires a full carry to an island green framed by sand and high, grassy mounds.
Worthy of mention too are the par-four 9th which curves gently right along a lake with the water cutting in before the diabolically-sloped green, and No 11, the longest par-three on the card at 216 yards (from the gold tees) playing over a sea of sand.
Interestingly, each hole is named after a Greek god or mythological character … 17, for instance, is dubbed ‘Eros’, the Grecian God of Love … but after slicing my tee shot into the water on the right, I felt anything but affection for the hole!
At the end of a round at Forest City, it is the overall experience which stands out the most, regardless of which course you play. Where else in Malaysia can you take a lift down from your hotel room, walk through the proshop and emerge at the buggy staging area … from where it’s a short ride to the starting tees of either 18.
Add in arguably the best practice facilities in the country and the spacious rooms with views of the Forest City Golf Hotel, plus excellent F&B to boot, and you have a superb all-in-one golfing getaway. Did we mention the hotel has a spa, gym and huge swimming pool as well?
And if you get tired of staying within the vast perimeters of the Forest City project, there is a lot more to see, eat and do in the neighbouring townships of Gelang Patah and Bukit Indah … plus more great golf at the well-established Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club.
As a weekend golf getaway, Forest City is now pretty hard to beat.
A Fairer Perspective: Ida Fahany
Golf is contagious. And the fact that it has plenty of venues to play at does not help to eradicate the addiction. Moreover, the competitiveness golf can offer is tremendous. Like Michael Jordan says, “I won’t have any competitive instincts in any sports, other than golf.”
Having played there once, I dare say that Forest City Golf Resort will entice all levels of golfers with its beauty and challenges. This relatively new golf course has captured the hearts of many golfers from near and far, so much so that some say that it takes days to book a decent tee time!
For outstation groups, do not worry. Even before checking in, your golf bags will be taken care of by the kind and ever-helpful staff the moment they are bundled out of the cars. They even store them for you!
Forest City’s second 18, the Classic Course, clearly reflects its name and meaning. Off the forward tees, I found the course to be extremely playable for the average lady golfer. But just be cautious with the yardage, especially approaching the greens … never doubt your numbers for any wrong moves will see you ending up either in the lakes or bunkers.
I found myself not having to use driver off the tees on some holes. The wide fairways gave me a sense of gratitude but the challenges came when hitting into the greens, with obstacles like greenside bunkers or even water staring at you with wide smiles. In the case of the latter, unless you master the skill of skipping balls across the water, just follow the yardage and be comfortable with it.
Since Malaysia is blessed with sunny weather all year round and given the scarcity of tree cover on the course, applying a generous amount of sunscreen is essential to block the damaging UV rays.
And drink plenty of water.
All in all, lady golfers can rest assured that golfing at Forest City will be an enjoyable affair!
FOREST CITY GOLF RESORT
Address: Jalan Persiaran Golf 5, Forest City Golf Resort, 81550 Gelang Patah, Johor Bahru, Johor
Tel: Hotel – +607-535 2288 / Golf – +607-535 2359