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Play It Right Featured Course : Puerto Azul

The 18th green at Puerto Azul Golf and Country Club

It’s been almost exactly a year since I first set foot on Puerto Azul Golf and Country Club since its acquisition by Salvador “Buddy” Zamora and its renovation, presided over by his son, Bodie. It’s amazing to see the golf course in this kind of condition again.

I never really saw the golf course at its best. I was a latecomer to the game and when I finally got around to playing Puerto Azul, it was already well past its best. The greens were slow and the jungle was starting to encroach on the fairways. The hotel stank of mildew but the beach club and pool were still in decent shape.

My round was a blur, I remember the first because my ball was stolen by monkeys. The ninth stood out because of the funicular we used to get to the tee box and back to the fairway. Of the inward nine, only the 17th and 18th stand out because of the sheer beauty of the holes.

Perhaps, it’s better that way because I’m truly seeing the golf course with a fresh set of eyes.

A par 3 in its other life, the third hole is now a tough par 4 and typifies the challenge posed by the outward nine

Puerto Azul is arguably the most beautiful golf property in the country. The golf course sets out into the rain forest, winds up into the hills then back down and out towards Manila Bay. Anvaya, Subic, and Dakak golf clubs are all similarly situated and have some spectacular views but none bring the ocean into play like Puerto Azul does. Its isolation and resulting disrepair have enhanced the ambiance as the jungle has remained untouched in the intervening years.

The beautiful 16th green

The opening nine is long and demanding off the tee. It’s open in spots but exceedingly narrow in others. Golfers that need room to maneuver their golf ball will have trouble on the narrower holes.

This is a golf course that demands you find the appropriate spot on the fairway to approach the green. The many streams that crisscross the fairways add to the challenge requiring forced carries on the more testy holes.

I love the way the front nine opens up on the now par 3 ninth and presents you with your first view of the ocean. It’s a wonderful transition to the ocean side of the golf course.

The par 3 ninth presents you with your first view of the ocean and is a wonderful transition hole to the ocean side of the golf course

The par 5 tenth gives you a bit of a respite. It’s wide fairway is one of the most accommodating on the golf course before moving inland towards some of the narrowest holes on the golf course.

A notable feature of the inward nine is the double green shared by holes 12 and 15. As double greens go, this one is really small. You’ll need really good tee shots on both holes to have a proper go at the green. The side fronting 12 is guarded by water short of the green. The side of the green on 15 is more generous but it’s also a longer shot in.

You’ll feel the full effects of the ocean on the closing holes. 16 is a short par 4 with an extremely narrow landing area. The green butts right up to the ocean. This is going to be an awesome hole to play on a blustery day. I can see the waves crashing on the breakwater behind the green in my head.

17 and 18 are the signature holes of the golf course. The par 3 17th has long been Puerto Azul’s signature hole. Measuring over 200-yards from the tips while playing uphill, it’s always been a tough hole and will play even tougher when the wind is up.

The iconic 17th at Puerto Azul

18 is a stunning par 4 that requires two forced carries to get to the green. From the tips the hole demands you carry your golf ball 235-yards over the ocean and a sliver of beach to find the fairway. The bunker that used to guard the green has been reclaimed by the ocean and you’ll need to carry that hazard to find the final green.

There are grand plans for the rest of the property. Two developers have committed to build hotels on the property, although those plans have been put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic. More developments will follow but the timetable is now uncertain.

Personally, I can’t wait to play the course when it’s fully ready for play in the condition that befits a golf course of this quality. Puerto Azul is a stunner. It always has been and is back even better today.

-Mike Besa

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