By James Gough
Moves are afoot to promote the game of golf in Perak. According to CEO of Perak Tourism Ahmad Fathil Abdul Ghani, the state is providing allocations to golf clubs organising events such as the recently-held Perak Ladies Open held in February and the Grand Finale of the upcoming World Amateur Inter-Team Golf Championship (WAITGC) 2012 organised by Tourism Malaysia from November 6 to 8 this year at the Royal Perak Golf Club.
Structured Golf Packages Welcomed by Tour Agents
Acknowledging that golf in the state has positive potential, he added that a meeting with the stakeholders and local tour agents will be held soon to initiate a structured golf package. “The package won’t just focus on Ipoh but other clubs at Lumut and Taiping and must cater to all. In Ipoh we have good food but we must also consider shopping for the wife and theme park activities for the family. The package too must target the foreign and domestic golfers.”
Tour agents when contacted welcomed the move by Perak Tourism to promote golf saying that “any product promotion is best undertaken by the state” as it takes on average six months and more after a promotion has started before they begin to see any bookings.
History of Golf In Perak
The game of golf has been played in the Kinta Valley for over a century. Introduced by the British during their presence here, a fine example remains of the original style and can be seen at Batu Gajah’s Kinta Golf Club, a nine-hole course turfed with trimmed cow grass over undulating grounds that reveal a picturesque green landscape aligned with its surrounding environment.
The club began as a turf club known as the Kinta Gymkhana Club, situated on the plateau 350 feet above sea level and had a seven furlong race track with the lawn in the inner track being used for cricket and golf. When the Club shifted to Ipoh after WW1, the grounds were turned into a golf course and named The Kinta Club and rated the best nine-hole course in Perak at the time.
The next course built was the Ipoh Golf Club, the early name for the Royal Perak Golf Club (RPGC), which was first formed at the turn of the 20th century. Its members initially played on a nine-hole course at the Perak Turf Club’s racecourse.
Due to its increased membership, the club acquired 180 acres (stretching from Tiger Lane to Gunung Rapat) from the State Government for the construction of an 18-hole golf course before shifting to its current location at Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (formerly Tiger Lane) in 1932. Up till the nineties the RPGC was the only 18-hole golf course in the Valley.
With interest in golf gaining widespread popularity during the nineties, courses in Ipoh such as Meru Valley Golf and Country Club (1992) and Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort (1994) were opened to cater to the market.
This saw the creation of a golfer’s paradise all within close proximity of Ipoh City, perfect for a golfing weekend, that is, good game, good cuisine, affordable stay plus easy accessibility especially from Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
Royal Perak Golf Club
RPGC is located right in the heart of town and is generally a favoured walking course for most golfers although it has buggy facilities.
Seasoned golfers say that it may be ‘flat and appear friendly’ but it is ‘mature and can be quite unforgiving’. Driving your ball into a rough or wooded area will need some course management discipline if you don’t want to blow-up your game.
It has hosted some major events such as the Malaysian Open Golf Championship in 1974 where Graham Marsh carded a 65, the Mizuno Tournament Championship from 1979-1981 and the Benson & Hedges International Golf Series also in 1979. A regular fixture of the club and MGA calendar was the Perak Masters Open Championship inaugurated by DYMM Sultan Azlan Shah first played off in 1987.
Meru Valley Golf and Country Club
Meru Valley Golf and Country Club (MVGCC) is a mere 10 minutes west of Ipoh City. Situated at the foothills of the Kledang-Saiyong Mountain Range it is a resort with a breathtaking 27-hole international championship golf course aptly named the Valley, Waterfall and River Nines.
The favoured combination of nines is the Valley and Waterfall which offer challenging holes against a picturesque backdrop of valleys which slope downwards from the clubhouse towards cascading streams, water hazards and jungle lined fairways.
In 2008 it won the CNBC International Property Awards for Best Golf Development, Asia Pacific and the 5-Stars Award for Best Golf Development, Malaysia. It has also played host to the Perak Amateur Golf Championship for the last five years.
The club is also a residential golf resort and home to seasonal golfers who stay during the winter months and never fail to have their daily morning round with many preferring the fresh morning walk instead of taking the buggy.
Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort
South of the city at Batu Gajah is Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort. This 27-hole golf course was designed by Aussie professional Tim Woolbank and has been built around disused mining ponds and named the Raintree, Lakes and Wetland nines.
As the names imply, having a round here will present the golfer with picturesque rows of shady raintrees surrounded by serene lakes whilst driving their golf ball down challenging fairways. Not surprisingly the Resort has been described as the “Most Scenic Golf Course” and rated as the “5th Best Golf Resort in Asia” by Golf Malaysia Magazine.
Numbers Remain Static
All of these courses offer golfers a fun and challenging round of golf. Yet despite the quality of the golf courses available, the number of rounds played per month has not increased and has consistently remained at an average of 2,500-3,000 rounds per club per month all these years.
The game is mainly played by its club members. It is the walk-in guests who average 1-2 flights and the occasional group tour arranged by tour agents and the corporate game that contribute to the extra numbers.
The corporate game is where a major corporation such as Maybank, will hold a game for its staff and customers as a public relations exercise which will see close to a hundred rounds being played. The scenario is the same at all the three clubs who declare that they average one corporate game a month.
According to a spokesman for Meru Valley Golf and Country Club, the club which describes itself as “a residential golf resort offering full country club facilities”, it additionally has its regular seasonal guests who come over during winter, stay a few months and play a round every day.
Perak Golf Courses Not On Tour Itineraries
A survey of the websites offering golfing packages throughout Malaysia and South East Asia revealed that Perak golf courses are not indicated in their itinerary. Local agents when contacted also confirmed that they “don’t do golfing packages”.
Hopefully all of the plans being mooted will start to bear fruit in the very near future as it will attract another sector of visitors, the corporate sector.
This segment of visitors is known for looking after its corporate customers with a 2D1N stay consisting of an afternoon of golf followed by good dining, wine and song, and another round of golf the next morning before departing.
Cultivating this corporate clientele will give the tourism industry a much needed boost and possibly take the industry to another level.