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The Top; My Favorite Golf Course in the Country - Canlubang Golf and Country Club

 

This is it. The pinnacle. My favorite golf courses in the country. If you put a gun to my head and told me that I could only play at one golf club for the rest of my life, I would pick Canlubang Golf and Country Club in a heartbeat. 

It's cheating, I know. There are two majestic golf courses here at Cangolf and I am loathe to choose between them. They are a matched pair and must be judged and appreciated as one. Asking me to pick one over the other is akin to asking me to choose a favorite among my children. 

I have a special affinity for Canlubang. When my handicap was in the low teens, some friends of mine organized a monthly tournament for our motley crew - we played one of the Canlubang courses on the last Thursday of each month. We even had a perpetual trophy to pass around to the monthly winner who put his name on it and brought it back on the following month. The Bugoy Cup lasted for a little over two years. In that time, I fell madly in love with the place.

Set in a former coconut and sugar plantation just below the Tagaytay ridge and in the shadow of what is now the Tagaytay People’s Park, Canlubang is a natural beauty. You won’t find neatly manicured gardens or cute, manufactured waterfalls here. The golf course is carved out of the landscape with most of the natural features and beauty of the land left intact for all to appreciate. Canlubang is a bastion of golf; a place to revel in the game we all love.

The North and South Courses at Canlubang Golf and Country Club were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Jones. He was working with his father, the great Robert Trent Jones, on Lusita Golf and Country Club when he met the men that shaped golf in the era - the Yulos among them and got his start building golf courses in the country at the expansive Canlubang Sugar Estate. 

There is something special about Canlubang. The first thing that impresses you is the sheer size of everything here. This is golf on a grand scale that will never be seen in the country again. This alone makes the twin courses here unique.

The two courses are at once alike and yet so different. My friend, the great photographer Robin Moyer compared the North and South Courses to a man and a woman. The North is the strong, silent type - it's subtle, understated and a true test of the golfer when played from the tips under the right conditions. 

I think North Course is breathtaking. It may not be as aesthetically pleasing as the South Course but it makes up for that in spades when it comes to the demands it makes on the golfer. It's a great mix of long and short par 4s and the par 3s, especially those on the front side, are stunning. 

The fourth hole is a stunning par 3 that calls for a slight fade with a long iron across a yawning ravine off the ancient acacia on the right. Six plays about the same length as four but over a lake instead of a ravine.

The real test on the North Course comes on the back side. Holes twelve through eighteen are brutes which will separate the playahs from the everyone quicker than you can snap your fingers. Seventeen and eighteen deserve special mention; seventeen is one of the toughest par fives in the country and that eighteenth green is nothing short of devlish.

But the North's signature look is the double green shared by the finishing holes of both nines. They are stunning to look at and even better to play. They provide memories that last lifetimes.

The South is more like a woman - beautiful and flamboyant with its pronounced elevation changes and numerous forced carries. She's just slightly less difficult than the North but for many is the more enjoyable to play of the pair.

She's just as demanding as her counterpart. Half of the holes on the South Course require a forced carry over a ravine or pond. The course also has several blind tee shots, something uncharacteristic of the other Jones, Jr. designs in the country. 

As with the North, she comes into her own on the inward nine with some of the most beautiful holes of golf in the country among them. There isn't a bad hole among them. Each would be the standout hole on any other golf course. Together, they make for one of the most stunning nines anywhere in the country.

Eleven is a dramatic par 5 that sweeps down from the elevated tee then up again into the foothills that lead to the highest parts of the golf course. Twelve and thirteen are the holes at the back nine’s zenith before fourteen takes you back down and reveals spectacular views of Laguna de Bay in the distance.

The piece de resistance has to the the seventeenth, which for my money is the most beautiful hole of golf in the Philippines. It's not very long; a mid-iron or so for more accomplished golfers but it is a real piece of work. The green is positioned strategically behind an ancient acacia tree across a ravine that highlights the rainforest below. It's nothing short of stunning.

I am blessed to have experienced both courses to the extent that I have. The sheer beauty of the setting and the quality of the golf required to play well here speak for themselves. The courses aren't perfect. The more modern courses might be better conditioned, but even so, they lack the character and natural aesthetic of Canlubang. 

Yes, I would be perfectly content to play at this club for the remainder of my days.

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