When American rookie Trevor Simsby holed a four-foot birdie putt to beat Andrew Dodt, from Australia, in a sudden-death play-off at the Bandar Malaysian Open in March, it not only sealed his first win on Tour but the occasion also helped cement an important relationship that has lasted over two decades.
Kota Permai Golf & Country Club, the tournament’s venue, has been the proud host of events on the Asian Tour since first staging the Volvo Masters of Malaysia in 1998 – the year the club opened.
And over the past 22 years it has staged a wealth of Tour events, including: two Malaysian Opens, the Selangor Worldwide Masters twice, six Volvo Masters and a pair of World Cup Qualifiers.
It has been a special venue on Tour ‒ something that Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant will agree with having won the 2001 Volvo Masters of Malaysia and Selangor Worldwide Masters in 2012 on Kota Permai’s pristine playing surfaces.
Many will also remember American Kevin Na ‒ aged just 19-years-old ‒ winning the Volvo Masters of Asia at Kota Permai in 2002, before departing on a highly successful and lucrative career on the PGA Tour.
In August, the popular Kuala Lumpur venue took another exciting step forward with its’ Tour association by becoming part of Asian Tour Destinations – an exclusive network of world-class golf venues, with direct ties to the Tour.
The other current Destinations venues include: Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore, Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand, and the Classic Golf & Country Club in New Delhi, India. Additional world-class Destinations will be added to the network over the coming months.
The Asian Tour Destinations brand offers a wide range of benefits to its members and the Tour, helping them to achieve their commercial and strategic goals.
It provides an affiliate membership programme between the associated venues – which have a collective membership base of 7,500 golfers.
Also, being a part of the network means that each venue is certified Tour calibre and operates a comprehensive range of facilities and services to their members and guests under tournament-ready conditions all-year round.
Among the core benefits, Asian Tour members will be able to play and practice at each venue – allowing for the members at each club to enjoy direct engagement with the region’s best golfers.
“This is a very exciting development – one we have eagerly been anticipating. In terms of what we are looking forward to, it is pretty much threefold,” says Tang Meng Loon, Director of Club, Township & Property Management at Gamuda Land – the owners of Kota Permai.
“Firstly, more involvement with the Asian Tour – to be a host venue for tournaments or a platform for any programmes sanctioned by the Tour.
“Secondly, seeing Tour players here at Kota Permai away from tournaments will be amazing. We will be able to get their feedback for improvements, plus members and guests will really enjoy seeing them here, whether playing, practicing or socializing in the clubhouse. It’s going to be great to see them here and it will definitely increase interest to play here.
“Thirdly, we will be able to foster interclub relations with the management teams of the other Asian Tour Destinations’ partners, exchange advertising and promotion support, and welcome their members to Kota Permai, relishing the chance to host them.”
In addition, by aligning themselves to an even greater degree with the Asian Tour, the club are hoping to achieve one of their key objectives: to see their venue continue to rise from being one of Malaysia’s top golf club’s – a position it proudly holds today – to one of the premier golfing Destinations in the region.
“We want to provide the best possible experience to all who walk through our doors and we want to constantly improve in all areas. With Asian Tour Destinations, this is now very possible,” added Tang.
The club currently has over 4,000 members and averages 5,900 rounds a month. And it is well known for being the ultimate recreational hub, for as well as boasting an 18-hole golf course – designed by Ross Watson – it also has a pro shop, driving range, gymnasium, badminton, squash and tennis courts, swimming pools, sauna and steam baths, F&B outlets, function rooms, and a children’s playground.
Says Tang: “We have a constant drive to improve in all areas – whether it be in operations, branding, marketing, strategic partnerships, or administration.
“We are continuously working on the maintenance and upgrade of the golf course, plus the provision and upkeep of world-class club facilities and amenities that offer excellent customer service.”
This policy of progression has resulted in the club being the recipient of a host of important accolades – including the coveted “Malaysia’s Best Golf Course” award in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 at the World Golf Awards. And, it has also earned similar honours at the Asian Golf Awards over the years.
And, the club have weathered the storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic by gradually resuming business.
“As per government directives, we had to close the club and cease all operations earlier in the year. Since the beginning we have followed the strict standard operating procedures but we are delighted to say we are almost back to normal – just operating under the ‘new norm’ of things,” said Tang.
Simsby, for one, will be happy to hear that.
Said the American after his win: “I really felt good about the golf course, and was in awe of how good the condition was. It was in tremendous shape all week.”
Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul says two wins in quick succession on the Thailand PGA Tour recently were the result of a new positive mindset, as well as a little inspiration from his new paternal responsibilities.
He won the Singha-SAT Hua Hin Championship in July for his first victory in five years and then two weeks later claimed the Singha-SAT Nakhon Nayok Classic.
“I really needed a win as it had been four or five years,” said Gunn.
“So the mind set on the last day was to play my own game and just keep thinking about winning and just keep myself in the zone. Be relaxed all the time.”
He beat countryman Prom Meesawat by six strokes at Royal Hua Hin Golf Course before overcoming compatriot Nirun Sae-Ueng in a sudden-death play-off in the Nakhon Nayok Classic – played at Royal Hills Golf Resort & Spa.
“I was pretty nervous because I was playing with Prom at his home course, and he pretty much knew all the nooks and crannies of the course,” said Gunn.
“I had a five shot lead on the last day. All of Proms shots were pin high and close but I was fortunate he didn’t make any putts. But I didn’t trust myself at all because I was close to victory.
“My last victory five years ago, I finished with a bogey, or a double, and then a playoff. So it wasn’t until the last, when I had a six shot lead, that I felt confident I can take the trophy home.”
At Royal Hills, he trailed Prayad Marksaeng by three shots on the back nine and felt the legendary Thai star would run away with the tournament.
“I thought maybe finishing third would not be too bad,” said Gunn.
However, Prayad had a hiccup on 16 where he made a double before dropping a shot on 17.
“I had a 20 footer on 18 for birdie to make a play-off. But I never had a good experience when I needed to hole an important putt. So I didn’t take it that seriously and thought I would miss it. And I misread the putt but somehow I made it,” added the Thai.
Niran found water with his second when they returned to 18 for the play-off leaving Gunn in the drivers’ seat.
“I told myself just hit the green otherwise it is going to be a long day. I hit it on the green and made my birdie putt so it was all over. It was a breakthrough for me as when I lost a lead in the past I never made a comeback. So this was the first time for me. So I guess if there is a next time I can believe there is a chance I can win again,” said Gunn.
His wife Koyy gave birth to their daughter, Vera, in February and he feels that has also helped to put a better complexion on things.
He says: “It has made a big difference to my life. I don’t really have any time for myself now. All my time goes to her. I keep myself busy, doing laundry, cooking her food, doing kids club, swimming class. So it is a new experience for me. I have always been pretty introvert, just happy staying home, but now I am going out and seeing the world.
“I don’t get to practice so much but it does take my mind off the golf game a bit. If I get a chance I can check my swing in a mirror. It has really helped to relax myself a bit.”
Gunn was in brilliant form last year on the Japan Golf Tour Organization – he finished 21st on the Money List with 10 top-10s – and made an outstanding start on the Asian Tour this year: he was third in the Hong Kong Open and reached ninth place on the Order of Merit before the Tour was put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.
“My mentality before was I never really appreciated the small things in my life, but now I do and I feel very happy. And all the happy little things add up so when I am on the course I feel very relaxed. Just in my own comfort zone. To perform well, you have to find your own comfort zone, to perform at your best.”
By V.Krishnaswamy, @Swinging_Swamy
Anirban Lahiri and Arjun Atwal will tee up together in the same group at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship starting on Thursday. While Lahiri, who was T-36 at Safeway Open, makes his second start of the season, Atwal, who played four events when golf returned after the hiatus due to Covid-19, makes his first start of the new season. They are grouped together alongside David Hearn in the Dominican Republic.
There is more Indian connection, as the field also includes two-time PGA Tour winner, the Indo-Swede Daniel Chopra, a great friend of both Lahiri and Atwal. Yet another one in the field is 18-year-old left-hander Akshay Bhatia, who is of Indian origin, but was born and brought up in the United States, and is now mentored by Phil Mickelson.
Lahiri and Atwal go off together at 11.30 am local time on first day, while Daniel Chopra plays with Johnson Wagner and Seamus Power in one of the earliest groups at 6.50 am, and Akshay Bhatia plays with Ted Purdy, who an Asian Tour event in India in 1997, and Joseph Bramlett at 8 am.
The Asian Tour flag will also be flown by Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Joohyung Kim and Kurt Kitayama this week.
Lahiri was happy with his start at Safeway Open and is hoping to gain further momentum, as he makes his debut at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic.
A confident Lahiri, said, “The game feels really good at the moment. Safeway was a good confidence booster as after the bad start, I was able to finish strong which felt great.”
Playing in his sixth season on the PGA Tour, Lahiri had done well to recover from a first round 74 at Safeway to add rounds of 65, 67 and 70. It was his best finish since T30 at the Valspar Championship in March, 2019 and his second round 65 was his lowest score since shooting the same number during the second round of the John Deere Classic in July, 2019.
“I spent a lot of time during lockdown in India, where I went for Hero Indian Open (his last win came at the same event in 2015) but with it being cancelled and the lockdown happening I stayed on in India with the family. And I returned for just one event, Wyndham, in the previous season and then the Safeway. So, I rested and also worked during my downtime at home with my coach Vijay Divecha,” said Lahiri, a former two-time Presidents Cup International Team member. “We worked on various aspects, broke down everything and did a lot of work on swing and re-built it in a way.”
Lahiri, who is making his first trip to the Corales Golf Club, which has six holes that run along the Caribbean Ocean, said, “The golf course here reminds me of my days on the Asian Tour. Similar grasses and temperatures and conditions to what I played for years back home. Definitely a feeling of familiarity even though it’s my first time here.”
Atwal, India’s first and only winner to date on the PGA TOUR, is seeking a strong start to the 2020-21 season. He played in four events when golf returned to action during the pandemic. He made cuts in three of them, and missed only once in Wyndham, an event he won in 2010.
“It felt good during that stretch and playing four times in seven weeks also gave me an idea of my strength, because during practise rounds, we mostly use carts. I am proud that I held up at 47,” said Atwal with a characteristic laugh. “It will be great to play with Anirban. It is like playing at home and in a great atmosphere and the venue itself is superb. I am looking forward to this.”
The field has some familiar Asian Tour names like Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Kurt Kitayama.
The highest ranked player in the field Henrik Stenson at No. 43 and it also includes the defending champion Graeme McDowell, who while winning the 2019 edition ended a five-year-long PGA Tour title drought, though he won in February this year. He has however missed seven cuts in his last nine starts since the Tour re-started in June.
One of the most keenly watched players will be Will Zalatoris, who in his first start on PGA Tour since Wyndham 2018, finished T-6 at the US Open at Winged Foot. This Korn Ferry graduate is the one to watch for in the near future.
As if the fledgling career of Korean teenager Joohyung Kim could not get any more exciting, this week he tees-off in the Caribbean at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship – in the Dominican Republic.
And in what is only his third start on the PGA Tour, there is one thing he is focused on.
“It’s what I’ve learned from my past couple of events,” said Kim, at his first virtual press conference on the PGA Tour.
“I think that’s my goal this week, just play really smart, take advantage when you can, not to get too aggressive, just play my own game. And that’s always been me.”
In August, he made his debut on the PGA Tour at the PGA Championship – where he missed the cut in what was also his first appearance at a Major championship.
But two weeks ago at the Safeway Open – the opening event of the 2020/2021 season – impressively, he played all four rounds shooting 67, 72, 75 and 70 to finish in a tie for 67th on four under.
“Sometimes you get gnarly lies here and just tough pins, sometimes you just really have to take your medicine, just make a good bogey instead of like at the Safeway Open. I remember I shot five under the first round, gave myself a good chance, so kind of felt like I wanted to keep shooting under par. I went for a lot of pins which I shouldn’t have, I was playing really aggressive and I feel like sometimes you don’t need to do that,” added the Korean, who is just 18 years old.
“I feel like I was pushing myself a lot and I made a lot of soft bogeys and a lot of mistakes. I didn’t really have the week that I wanted. Even in the PGA Championship, I just kind of pushing too hard. And, you know, with the conditions, sometimes a soft bogey is okay.”
At the PGA Championship he shot rounds of 70 and 77 to miss the cut by six.
Last year, after earning a battlefield promotion from the Asian Development Tour by winning three events, the youngster made an instant impact by winning on just his third start on the Asian Tour at the Panasonic Open India.
That made him the second youngest professional to win on the Asian Tour at 17 years and 149 days, with countryman Seungyul Noh being the youngest when he won the 2008 Midea China Classic at the age of 17 years and 143 days.
When asked about his long-term ambitions in the game, the confident Korean did not beat around the bush.
“I really would love to be world number one. That has always been like a goal just because Tiger Woods was so dominant as world number one for so many years. So that has always been like a major thing for me.
“I would obviously love to play on the PGA Tour, win all four majors, be in the Golf Hall of Fame – just those big things I always would love.”
And when asked how his English name, which is Tom, came about, he replied: “Actually, it was actually Thomas. I got it from Thomas the Train [Thomas the Tank Engine television series] when I was young. As I grew older, some people started calling me Tom and I thought it was just shorter and just simpler. I think by the time I was like 11, I went just by Tom. My brother even calls me Tom. It was kind of natural. And my family calls me Tom as well, my friends all call me Tom, so it kind of came natural to me. It was that kind of a name. I had the whole thing, I had the lunchbox, I had the toys, yeah.”
This week, he has been paired in the first two rounds with Swede Carl Pettersson and Michael Gligic from Canada, at 1pm local time in the Dominican Republic.
Chinese Taipei’s Wang Ter-chang has achieved so much in the game, including six victories across the region, but ‘not a lot of people know that’ he also made an important contribution to Malaysian golf.
On this day 18 years ago, Danny Chia made history by becoming the first Malaysian to win on the Asian Tour – a long-awaited and monumental achievement.
He did it at the Acer Taiwan Open, played at Sunrise Golf and Country Club in the hills of Northern Taiwan, in dramatic circumstances emboldened in the annals of Asian golf.
And what role did Wang play? Well, he kindly let the young Malaysian stay at his home for the week; no small matter for Chia who was trying to find his feet on the Asian Tour – so home comforts and any edge he could get were very welcomed at the time.
Staying at the home of one of the country’s most prominent golfers is only a small part of what is an inspiring tale.
Chia had been unsuccessful in his attempt to negotiate the qualifying school that year and wrote to the organiser of Chinese Taipei’s National Open to ask for an invite.
At the age of 29 years old then, he was Malaysia’s number one golfer – and a three-time winner of the Malaysian Amateur Championship – so he was warmly welcomed to the prestigious event.
The weather, however, was not so welcoming.
“It [the weather] was like a typhoon,” says Chia, speaking to the Asian Tour from his home in Kuala Lumpur last week.
“The whole week was like a typhoon and the golf course was very exposed. The course is not difficult, it’s quite a nice golf course to play, but it’s just the wind, and we were very high up in the mountains, which affected things very much.”
Having turned professional in 1996, he had already played in a handful of events on Tour each season up until that point.
And, earlier in 2002 he produced his best finish on Tour when he claimed a sixth-place finish at the Casino Filipino Open to suggest that his fortunes might be on the up.
But after opening rounds of 76, 70 and 77 at Sunrise, he was seven behind leader Hsieh Yu-shu of Chinese Taipei, and on Sunday he was paired in the sixth last group out – with Kao Bo-song (a leading amateur who, a month later, was part of the Chinese-Taipei team that claimed the gold medal in the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea).
Chances of winning seemed very slim but the very poor weather meant Hsieh’s four-shot lead over second-placed American Andrew Pitts was very vulnerable.
“The weather was bad the whole day, whether you played early or late,” said Chia.
“The front nine I didn’t really think much about it, I was trying to enjoy it. I was hitting the ball well. I was hitting a lot of low shots because of the wind.”
And, this is where the other remarkable element to the story kicks in.
“I just went under Kel Llewellyn at that time. I had only been working with him for about one month and he taught me a lot about playing different types of shots. It really helped when I played that week.
“I was hitting well before heading there. Kel gave me a lot of new stuff to work on. A lot of breathing exercises, a lot of stretching. I used to hit a lot of draw shots, but Kel got me hitting a lot of left to right shots. We worked on the short game a lot and how to hit low ball flight shots.”
The timing of engaging one of the region’s top coaches to teach him to hit shots low could not have been better. And the breathing exercises were just as important as he started to mount a challenge.
“After the front nine, then I saw the leaderboard, and I think I was four behind. I started to get nervous and couldn’t stop looking at the leaderboard. I hit some good shots, but they didn’t quite pay off because the wind was quite strong and tricky. I didn’t hit many greens on the back nine but I had very good up-and-downs on a lot of the holes.”
Incredibly, the record will show that Chia was the only player on that final day not to drop a shot but he did conjure a succession of great saves.
Crucially, he holed a six footer for par on 16 and on the following hole he made a putt to save par from eight feet.
Then, on the par-five 18th, he said: “I think I made the biggest decision of my career”.
“It was dead into the wind. I hit a very good drive, on the left centre of the fairway. The second shot was about 200 metres to the green, but I had to hit over a pond. I was two behind at that time and I told myself ‘this is my chance to win’.
“It is a par-five and I would normally lay up because it was quite a strong headwind but I said this is my chance to win my first title on the Asian Tour and I am going to take it – no matter what the outcome is.”
He went for the green with a four wood. The wind was blowing really hard right to left into his face so he aimed about 20 yards right of the green to let the wind take it.
Rising confidently to the occasion he hit it exactly where he wanted but the wind was so strong his ball flew left of the green.
Said Chia: “But it was over the water! It was a very, very big relief when that happened. I chipped it to about eight or 10 feet short of the hole and I made the putt.”
He said he felt like he signed for a 60 as opposed to a four-under-par 68 – which gave him a four-round total of three-over-par 291.
At that moment he was tied for the lead and opted to wait in front of the leaderboard until everyone finished.
“I watched them come in one by one,” he said.
“I was kind of prepared for a play-off but if I knew then what I know now, I would have realised I had really already won because of the weather.”
Chinese Taipei’s Lin Chie-hsiang did his best to catch Chia and toured the back nine in three-under but still fell two short of the Malaysian’s winning total.
And Hsieh, battling the elements, dropped four shots in the last five holes to close with a 77 and join Lin in second place.
“I felt so bad for him [Hsieh] actually,” said Chia, who won a cheque for US$50,000 – a princely sum for a hungry young pro.
“That night I had a good dinner with Wang Ter-chang’s family, but it didn’t really hit me at that time. But at about mid-night before I slept it hit me. I started looking at the trophy and thought, oh god I have won!”
We spoke recently with our 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who shared with us how the Tour has been a springboard to success in his career. The 31-year-old Kiradech is a three-time winner on the Asian Tour and in 2019, he became the first Thai player to earn full membership on the PGA TOUR.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat may be back enjoying playing on the PGA Tour but he never forgets his roots.
“The Asian Tour is like my first school,” said the 31-year-old, the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion and three-time winner on the Tour.
“The Asian Tour opened the gate for me to play in Japan, play in Europe, play World Golf Championships and Majors, and that was the way to get to the PGA Tour,” added Kiradech, who in 2019 became the first Thai to become a member of the PGA Tour.
He played in last week’s Safeway Open – the 2020/21 season-opener on the PGA Tour – and missed the cut but it was his first event back following a long break from the game caused by Covid-19.
He had opted to skip the restart of the PGA Tour in June, having flown home to Bangkok in mid-April following the initial suspension of the Tour due to Covid-19.
He is now back at his US base in Orlando, Florida, in search of his first win on the PGA Tour.
Also a four-time winner on the European Tour and a three-time champion on the Asian Development Tour, he counts his first win on the Asian Tour – the 2011 Sail Open – as being key to his success.
“For me the first win was the most important,” said Kiradech, who turned professional in 2008.
“In that two years, it was quite tough for me, I didn’t know how to win. I was scared of winning, every time I took a lead, I had no goal, I had no target,” he said.
“The Sail Open unlocked everything. You want to count two or three, you have to count one.”
His aggressive and fearless style of play fits well with his love of fast cars.
He adds: “I am always thinking about the target. I don’t have any swing thought in my head. I just want to make sure I just hit right at the target, every single shot. I have no fear in my mind, I see the target and just commit to it.”
“I really like motor sports, every fast car. When I come back from the toughest golf event, and I feel I need to lose something and relax, I spend time with my car. You have to know the limit of the car, the limit of yourself.”
Imagine a golf course consisting of the most iconic and challenging holes on the Asian Tour.
A fictional hybrid-layout that features one of the region’s standout opening holes, one of the finest second holes and goes all the way through to an epic 18th.
A layout that would be the ultimate challenge – where breaking par is a monumental achievement.
Well, just such a virtual course now exists, as an Asian Tour panel of experts has selected the appropriate holes to make up what is the golf course of all golf courses in Asia.
With a par of 70 and length of 7,430 yards, we have appropriately named it The Asian Tour Monster.
To navigate us through The Asian Tour Monster, we asked players and experts to describe each hole – all of which have played key roles in many of the biggest tournaments on the Asian Tour.
Yardage: 339 yards
Hole scoring average: 4.34
Asian Tour event hosted: Queen’s Cup
Where better to start this iconic course than the holiday island of Koh Samui in Thailand.
But, as with all the holes on The Asian Tour Monster, it is not a hole where you can take a vacation.
Contrary to the name of the hole – which is ‘The Flat Land’ – it is a steep uphill and treacherous opening par four, also widely known as the “Beast of Samui”.
Although it only requires a long-iron or a hybrid off the tee, the precarious elevated fairway is fringed with penalty areas and rocky outcrops. Provided you manage to find the fairway, a mid-iron will then be required for your approach shot. The severe two-tier green which is also elevated will require all your attention as it will most likely yield three putts or more if you are on the wrong level with your approach shot.
The hole is normally played as the 10th by the club members.
“A tall tree is planted just right of the buggy path about 180 yards off the tee which overhangs the fairway. I have seen balls hit that tree and bounce right into the jungle; drop straight down onto the buggy path and basically roll back down to the tee (because of the massive upslope); or hit the tree and disappear altogether.
The second shot – if the fairway is successfully found – will be anywhere from 160 to 180 yards to a green 15 yards higher than the fairway. The green is two tiered – with the tier itself close to four feet.
Hit the ball on the top tier when the pin is on the lower level and players will putt the ball off the green, without a doubt. Hit the ball on the lower tier when the pin is set on the top level … well then players will feel a flex in the putter shaft because of the unusually big swing they have to make.
The placement of this hole, as the opening hole, is perfect to ruin a good round of golf.”
Anthony Kang: a three-time Asian Tour winner and now part of the Asian Tour’s television commentary team.
Yardage: 493 yards
Hole scoring average: 4.27
Asian Tour events hosted: Maybank Championship, Malaysian Open
The second hole of the Palm Course at Saujana Golf & Country Club is a true test. Its length alone is enough to make you gasp at what awaits. A very narrow fairway flanked by several bunkers, palm trees and dense jungle on the right waits to punish any wayward drive. The second shot requires a mid to long iron to a green where the surface is not visible due to the steep elevation change. Multiple bunkers encompass the large two-tiered green – so making sure your approach shot is on the correct level is imperative.
“The second hole at Saujana is a bit of a difficult one because it is quite long. Much depends on which way the wind is blowing, if it is a little into the wind I will aim down the left with a driver with a little fade – to get past the fairway bunker on the right. But if there is no wind, and conditions are favourable, I will hit a three wood down there.
For the second it can anything from a six to a nine iron into the green – depending on where the pin and wind is. Normally I just try and get my shot to the middle tier if the pin is at the back or if the pin is at the front I always try to get it to the front edge – because if you don’t get up on the green it rolls back down. Definitely stay away from the right hand front bunker because it is just dead in there, because it is so deep. It is just one of those holes where you have to respect making a four and get out of there and you are happy with it.”
Scott Hend: a 10-time winner on the Asian Tour, the 2016 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion and winner of the 2019 Maybank Championship – played on the Palm Course at Saujana.
Yardage: 448 yards
Hole scoring average: 4.5
Asian Tour event hosted: Bangabandhu Cup Golf Open
With its tree-lined fairways and intimidating water features, the third hole at Kurmitola Golf Club can challenge every aspect of your game. Off the tee you need a well-struck drive to the corner of a narrow fairway, which doglegs to the left. Bunkers await on either side to swallow any stray drive and any attempt at cutting the corner can result in disaster – as an OB looms nearby. There is also the possibility of losing your ball due to the dense treeline. Even if you manage to negotiate the tee shot, you are still left with a long-iron to a shallow undulating green which yields very few birdies.
“I grew up on this course and we always play it as a par five. For me this hole is a standard par five and as one of the shorter hitters on Tour I can handle it. But when the Asian Tour are here in Bangladesh we play it as a par four and it is a really hard hole for all of us!
But now days I am hitting it a little bit longer and I can make birdies more often here. I had a chat with myself and said I have played many par fours on Tour that are more difficult than this hole, so I am now mentally stronger playing the hole.
Before, I would play driver, then lay up 100 yards to the pin because I am very strong anywhere from 100 yards. Nowadays, I play driver and then a 22-degree hybrid.”
Siddikur Rahman: a two-time winner on the Asian Tour, two-time champion on the Asian Development Tour, and the first golfer from Bangladesh to win on the Asian Tour – at the Brunei Open in 2010.
Yardage: 406 yards
Hole scoring average: 4.52
Asian Tour event hosted: Solaire Open
On this slight dogleg right par-four, a driver is usually required as the further you hit, the wider the landing area is going to be. The purpose-built gap in the fairway to intentionally stop players from laying up is just merciless! Your thought process is tested even more with the OB to the left and water all the way down the right. Once you have recovered from the stress of the tee shot, a small elevated green awaits – which, if you miss the green with your approach, is very difficult to get up and down from.
The Country Club hosted the Solaire Open in 2014 which saw Canada’s Richard T. Lee triumph. Lee double bogeyed the fourth hole on the final day, but recovered brilliantly to claim his first Asian Tour title. That week there were two quintuple bogeys and five quadruple bogeys on the fourth.
“It is a narrow hole with a wind blowing normally, making it a real test. As the wind always blows right to left you have to start the ball at the ravine on the right otherwise you are in danger of going OB left. The fairway is only about 25 metres wide and with the wind and distance it plays quite long, so you need a driver and a mid to long iron to get to the putting surface.”
Koh Dengshan: a former Singapore national player, now Asian Tour regular and touring professional with Sentosa Golf Club.
Yardage: 486 yards
Hole scoring average: 4.23
Asian Tour event hosted: SMBC Singapore Open
The signature hole on the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club boasts wonderful views of the Singapore skyline that look out onto one of the busiest ports in the world. However, do not allow these views to distract you. This demanding par four, especially when played into the wind, requires your best drive of the day to give yourself the shortest possible approach shot into this shallow and firm green. For shorter hitters this may still require a wood.
The landing area off the tee is fairly generous with large bunkers on either side of the fairway. However, club selection for your approach shot needs to be spot on. A yawning waste bunker stretches its way up the right side of the fairway ready to swallow any mishit shot, and any over-clubbed shot will likely end up in the sea!
“I really dreaded playing this hole during tournament play, simply due to its sheer length. Pars, let alone birdies, were hard to come by, especially when the pin was tucked on the right portion of the green where the water starts to come into play.
When this hole plays its full length, I would need to hit a solid drive and then try to figure out how to keep the ball on the firm green with a long iron in hand.
I think my greatest joy playing this hole came when, on one occasion, my drive hit a sprinkler head and gave me an extra 40 yards, making my approach shot that much shorter, but I still made a bogey!
Make a par on this hole and you will definitely gain at least half a shot on the field!”
Unho Park: an Asian Tour player for 20 years, now a Tour administrator.
Yardage: 227 yards
Hole scoring average: 3.17
Asian Tour events hosted: Thailand Open, Volvo Masters of Asia, Asian Honda Classic
The par-three sixth hole is the signature hole at Thai Country Club. It is a long par three over water with strong head winds more often than not. The smart play is to aim for the left side of the green in order to avoid the penalty area and bunker on the right. However, if you stray too far left, the undulations will most certainly throw your ball further away from the green, leaving a tricky up and down to make par. This is just a brute of a par-three where its sheer length just makes playing this hole strenuous.
American John Catlin – who recently won the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama on the European Tour – parred the hole in his first three rounds during the 2019 Thailand Open and made birdie on Sunday, which paved the way for him to secure his fourth Asian Tour title.
“It is a long par three. Off the back it is about 220 – 230 yards to the middle of the green. The wind mostly blows in from the right, so I would have a three iron or five wood. There is a bunker and water on the right side so anything from the middle of the green to the left side is the perfect shot. I will take a three any day there. It is not a birdie hole. You have to be conservative. I had four pars during the Thailand Open in 2018 when I won there, I didn’t lose any strokes there but didn’t make any either.”
Panuphol Pittayarat: winner of the 2018 Thailand Open at Thai Country Club – which is his home club.
Yardage: 587 yards
Hole scoring average: 5.01
Asian Tour event hosted: SMBC Singapore Open
You may think a par-five that averages near its par in tournament play is a simple enough hole but on the seventh hole on The Serapong, the devil is in the details. You are greeted on the tee with a magnificent turquoise ocean canal stretching the full length of the hole on the right.
With little to no rough on the right-hand side of the fairway, shots that veer right will almost certainly find the drink. The left side of the hole also intimidates you with dense tropical jungle. If you are skilled enough to thread your tee shot between the fairway bunkers, you are left with a very tricky lay-up that needs to be precisely planned and executed to the narrowest part of the fairway.
Any miscue can be calamitous as this year’s SMBC Singapore Open champion, Matt Kuchar, found out by carding an eight in the final round. After a poor tee shot, which went left into the trees, an unexpected air shot ensued while trying to extricate his ball from tree roots. A pulled approach shot, which ended up out of bounds, also did not help his cause. Remarkably, he did not drop a shot after, played the back nine in four under, and beat Justin Rose by three!
“It is a very good hole. It depends how you drive that hole. If you hit a bomb off the tee, 320 yards, you can reach the green in two. But then you still have to hit a quality shot to get on the green. I don’t hit the ball so long these days so I lay up with a three wood, then a four iron and a pitching wedge or nine. The hole is also one of the most scenic on the course.”
Mardan Mamat: a five-time Asian Tour champion and Singapore’s pioneering professional golfer.
Yardage: 191 yards
Hole scoring average: 3.55
Asian Tour event hosted: Philippine Open
The original design of this eighth hole was a lot shorter, requiring only an eight or nine iron to a postage-stamp type green, which was raised even higher than it is today. With its increased length and slightly lowered green, it is still as formidable as ever and can mentally rattle anyone’s nerves when standing on the tee box.
The view of a severely elevated narrow green sloping from back to front and guarded by multiple deep bunkers gives birth to unimaginable scenarios if you fail to hit this green. Although it may sound simple to blast out of the bunkers or chip onto the green after missing it, the nature of the green makes it almost impossible to get the ball on the green when trying to recover from the left or right.
“When I won the Philippine Open in 2008, that hole was played as the 17th hole. And it is funny because having played Wack Wack so many times, amongst friends we have always talked about what you would do if you go into that hole with a one-shot lead. And funny enough, it happened to me – I had a one shot lead in the Philippine Open in 2008. If you have played it long enough, and as much as you want to hit the green, you know you must miss it to the right.
Back then it was only an eight or nine iron but after I won they lengthened it from the back tees, it’s like a six iron now. So what I did was I made sure I aimed a bit more right and tried to hit a good shot, fortunately it landed on the green and just rolled off and ended up in the right bunker. The guy I was up against, Gavin Flint, also did the same thing, and we ended up making bogies but a par was good enough for me to win on the last.”
Angelo Que: a three-time champion on the Asian Tour and a winner on the Japan Golf Tour Organization.
Yardage: 445 yards
Hole scoring average: 4.38
Asian Tour events hosted: Hero Indian Open, Panasonic Open India
The ninth hole at the Delhi Golf Club requires precision and makes even the most confident drivers of the ball tremble, especially when a tournament is on the line. This hole has a reputation for being extremely unforgiving with a narrow fairway and thorn bushes on either side. The hole does not have any significant water hazards but the bunkers, unforgiving rough and mature tree line more than make up for that.
You can choose to use either a three wood or long iron off the tee in order to find the widest part of the fairway, or in this case, the least narrow! But the challenge with this strategy means it leaves a mid to long iron approach shot to an undulating, multi-tiered L-shaped green guarded by well positioned bunkers and thorn bushes. The braver folk will opt to use a driver, however any miscue will most certainly result in playing three from the tee.
“As a member over there, it is probably regarded as the hardest hole on the course even though it is not stroke index one – simply because it gives you a few options. It is long enough to tempt you to hit a driver off the tee but it really narrows in at about the 270 to 280 yard mark – the fairway becomes half its width. It is a perfect risk reward hole if you are willing to man up and take it on with a driver, which really makes your second shot a lot shorter into a green that is quite demanding because it is a raised green that falls off to the right. The typical Sunday pin there was back right over a bunker and if you laid back too far, if you hit a three wood or a two iron off the tee, it would leave you too long a shot to be able to access that flag in anyway.
I have seen a lot of big numbers there; I have seen a lot of people lose tournaments there in the past; and I personally have made some high numbers on that hole. When we play tournaments there, the prevailing wind is normally into the wind and coming off to the left so that makes it even more demanding. It is about 440 yards, but it plays closer to 460 or 470. You also have bushes down the sides, so visually it is a very intimidating hole. I think some of the hardest holes in golf are the ones that are straight and not actually dog-legs. About five years ago there used to be a tree in the middle of the fairway, on the left half of it – it fell down in a storm. When that tree was there it made it even more challenging because if you hit anything up the left half you didn’t have a clear shot – so it was even more demanding before.”
Shiv Kapur: a four-time Asian Tour winner, and former Asian Games Gold medallist.
Hanbyeol Kim won a lot of admirers at the weekend by winning the Shinhan Donghae Open in such confident fashion, with animated fist pumps after holing key putts and a heartwarming family story.
The 24-year-old, who also claimed the Hedges Golf KPGA Open two weeks ago for his maiden win in Korea, revealed that his family has been providing financial support – to the extent that his father and mother, both teachers, have used their pension to assist him.
So the two wins could not have come at a better time.
“With the prize money, I want to buy a house and give it to my parents. I plan to be a good son,” said Kim on Sunday, after winning KRW260,303,687 (approximately US$220,000).
He turned professional two years ago and joined the Korean PGA Tour last year where he has had some commendable results, before two magnificent wins in the space of three weeks this year.
“I thought of my mother and father who always supported me since I was young. I didn’t shed tears like last time. The Jeonbuk Golf Association also put a lot into helping me. Thank you. And I learned a lot from Korea National Sport University [where he studied]. Thank you for everything,” he added.
In July, he also lost in a play-off to Soomin Lee at the KPGA Open, but bounced back by beating Jaekyeong Lee in extra time at the Hedges Golf KPGA Open at the end of August – where he shed those tears.
And he stormed to victory at the Shinhan Donghae Open by firing a final round four-under-par 67, for a tournament total of 14-under-par 270 – to beat Canadian Richard T. Lee, the 2017 champion, by two shots.
“I suddenly won two tournaments. Thank you to the fans and galleries who support us from afar. I’ll be a player who plays harder without being arrogant. This year’s goal was first to win. The first victory has already been achieved. Now I have a second trophy. I’m thrilled. The goal now to be KPGA Genesis season winner [the Money List title]. It’s the highest honor,” he added.
He has now firmly established himself as one of Korea’s most exciting young golfers with a bright future.
“I got an Asian Tour card, I’m so happy. It’s a tough situation with Covid-19, but if the competitions are held, I’m willing to play. I’m already excited. The tournament I want to win the most is the SMBC Singapore Open,” added Kim, who nickname is “One Star”, as Han means one and Byeol is star.
And he is already planning for next year’s Shinhan Donghae Open. He said: “Next year I want to try steamed kimchi for the Shinhan Donghae Open champion’s lunch!”
Hanbyeol Kim confirmed his status as one of Korea’s rising young stars by winning the Shinhan Donghae Open at Bear’s Best Cheongna Golf Club, in Incheon, today – just two weeks after winning his maiden title.
Kim, who turned 24 years old last week, beat Canadian Richard T. Lee by two shots after firing a final round four-under-par 67 for a winning total of 14-under-par 270.
Lee, the 2017 Shinhan Donghae Open champion, closed with a 66. He mounted a brilliant challenge on the back nine, making birdies on six out of the first seven holes before dropping a shot on the last.
Koreans Joungwhan Park, Jeunghun Wang and Minchel Choi came in tied for third, three shots back of Kim, after posting rounds of 67, 68 and 68 respectively.
Overnight leader Kyongjun Moon battled to a 73 to settle five shots back in a tie for seventh.
Kim, who joined the play-for-pay ranks last year, lost in a play-off at the KPGA Open earlier in July before claiming his first professional title at the Hedges Golf KPGA Open two weeks ago. It is his first appearance at the storied Shinhan Donghae Open this week.
Starting the final round one shot back, Kim impressively rose to the challenge with a bogey-free round highlighted by two birdies on the front and two on the back.
By the time he reached the 18th he had a two-shot advantage over Lee – which was a lead he never looked like relinquishing.
“It is a special day. I would like to thank so many people for this, especially my parents. It is my second win and it is really incredible,” said Kim, who celebrated most birdies with a trademark fist pump and only dropped four shots all week.
“I was aiming for one win this season, so to get two is great. I have a chance to win the Money List now in Korea, which is incredible.”
Korean Seungyul Noh, looking for his first win since the 2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans on the PGA Tour, carded a disappointing 74 to finish joint 22nd.
His famous compatriot, Y.E. Yang – winner of the 2009 US PGA Championship – fired a 68, to tie for 26th place.
Click here for final results of the 36th Shinhan Donghae Open.