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The Zamora Championship Course at Puerto Azul - Hole-by-hole

Puerto Azul Golf and Country Club has long been held in the highest esteem by the elders of the golf community that remember the golf course in its glory days. 

The juxtaposition of the two nines makes for the quintessential Filipino golf experience contrasting the environs of rainforest and ocean. 

Yes, Anvaya Golf and Sports Club and Subic International Golf Club offer similar experiences, but Puerto Azul is a special site for golf. Everything is in your face here; it's something that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. 

The entry of the group of Salvador (Buddy) Zamora, Jr. revitalized the golf course. His vision was a true championship golf course that was accessible to all in a venue that highlights the Philippines as a golf destination. 

The results so far have been nothing short of stunning. The golf isn't bad, either. 

The key was to bring the course back up to spec in conditioning and playability. That meant adding length to the golf course. Although the scorecard reads 7,097 from the championship tees, because of the size of the tee boxes, it is possible to stretch the course out to over 7,300-yards. 

The length in and of itself shouldn't be an issue, but the precision demanded but the often narrow tree-lined fairways make finding the fairway absoulutely crucial to recording a good score. So don't be shy about playing one of the forward tees, you'll have a much better time on this stunning golf course. 

The opening nine is the longer and more difficult of the two. It takes you on the tour of the old grown rainforest and up into the hills just above it. The first six holes comprise the gauntlet; get through here relatively unscathed and you're in great shape. 

The shorter, narrower closing nine takes you into the adjacent valley and out towards the sea. It's more exposed to the elements and with the prevailing wind blowing into the golfer on seven of the nine holes, there is the potential of more volatility here. 

1. Par 5 Championship Tees (C) 654, Resort Tees, (R) 601, Leisure Tees (L) 567, Forward Tees (F) 489, Handicap 7 

Long par 5, dogleg to the right. Penalty area bisects the fairway roughly 230 from the green. There is so much to take in when you arrive on the first tee; the expanse of golf course in front of you and the old growth rainforest lining every fairway. This is a very long opening hole. The ideal target line is the 150-yard (to the front of the green) stake. 

Thankfully, the fairway is generous here and will forgive the somewhat errant golf ball. The hole opens up on the second shot beyond the hazard as the length of the hole makes itself felt. The green is a redan design - sloping away on three sides, which although generous in size, is difficult to hold with a long club. 

2. Par 4 C 451, R 432, L 390, F 376, Handicap 9 

Long par 4, hole doglegs slightly to the left just before the green. View off the tee is restricted by the trees on the left. One of the longest of the par fours. The further back the set of tees chosen, the more diminutive the view of the fairway. The length of the hole is mitigated by the prevailing tailwind. Finding the right half of the fairway gives you the best look at the green, shots from the left half will need to draw around one of the huge trees that line the fairways of the Zamora Championship Course. The front half of the ball will kick the ball to the golfer's left, but find the center and the green slopes away quite quickly. 

3. Par 4 C 361, R 346, L 320, F 288, Handicap 1 

Short par 4 and the one-handicap to boot. A stream crosses the hole at multiple points and the trees obstruct the ideal sight lines to the green. the fairway turns left after the hazard then back again to the right at the green. Ironic how the shortest par four on the golf course plays the most difficult. The hole isn't that hard if you're willing to hit a couple of layups and play for bogey. The risk comes when you want to make par or better. Playing short of the two penalty areas en route to the green almost guarantees an easy bogey. Playing across the first penalty area to get position to go for the green in regulation could yield a par or a big number if you fail to execute. Choose your strategy wisely. 

4. Par 4 C 441, R 367, L 333, F 321, Handicap 3 

Long par 4, dogleg right. Bunkers guard both sides of the dogleg. Another long par four that plays into the teeth of the prevailing wind. The hole doglegs to the right making the prudent play to find the left half of the fairway. This allows you to avoid that trees that guard the right side of the dogleg. The back half of the green slopes away from the line of play so club appropriately for the shot into the green. 

5. Par 5 C 537, R 437, L 413, F 377, Handicap 13 

This short par five doglegs to the left. A stream crosses the fairway twice enroute to a pond on the left side of the green. There isn't much space to miss on the shortest par five on the golf course. Keep it in play and you could be looking at a birdie or better. Play to the right side of the fairway both off the tee and when playing at or into the green. Your best scoring opportunity on the front side. 

6. Par 4 C 448, R 422, L 393, F 343, Handicap 5 

The island (well, not quite) green hole. Long dogleg left, with a water hazard that guards the left side of the hole then crosses the fairway. The pond beyond the green make it play effectively like an island green. The hole is made even more difficult by the prevailing headwind. Club carefully going into the green and take time to look back up the fairway when you leave the green; the view back is majestic. 

7. Par 3 C 197, R 158, L 131, F 111, Handicap 17 

The guitar hole. So christened as the shape of the green and the position of the tee boxes suggest the shape of an electric guitar. This is also the largest green on the golf course so club judiciously. 

8. Par 4, C 371, R 351, L 333, F 284, Handicap 11 

The hole plays longer than the scorecard might suggest as the fairway climbs up to the highest point on the golf course before dropping slightly to the green. A spectacular hole that offers a clear view of the mountainous terrain separating the provinces of Cavite and Batagas. Getting to the highest, flattest part of the fairway affords the best angle from which to attack the green below. 

9. Par 3 C 183, R 164, L 157, F 133, Handicap 15 

The "Z" hole - named as such since the green was built in the rough shape of the letter "Z". The large green provides a generous target for the elevated tees. The best place for a photo op on the outward nine. This is a spectacular par 3 with the green set far below the tees. As a result, it plays as much as 40-yards shorter than indicated on the card. Find the putting surface, make your par and prepare yourself for the back nine. 

10. Par 5 C 536, R 505, L 480, F 460, Handicap 4 

The toughest of the par fives. The hole doglegs to the right up the hill and the fairway narrows as it does so. There's a creek that crosses the fairway about 85-yards from the green. Laying up in a good spot just short of said creek puts you in the ideal spot to attack the three-tiered green. 

11. Par 3 C 157, R 147, L 136, F 127, Handicap 18 

This side is home to the course's most beautiful par threes. 11 calls to mind the 7th hole at Pebble Beach; it's a stunning par three that plays towards the ocean. Be mindful of the everpresent breeze when clubbing for your tee shot. 

12. Par 4 C 402, R 371, L 342, F 261, Handicap 12 

A short par 4 that doglegs to the left around the mountain. The hole shares a double green with hole number fourteen. An elevated tee shot provides you with a number of options off the tee. The safe play is to play to the left of the 150-yard stake in the middle of the fairway. Those with the ability to draw the ball will find that the hole sets up perfectly for them. The bold line is over the trees that line the hillside on the left. A high fade will leave you within 100-yards of the elevated green. Make sure to club accurately as a small stream meanders across the front of the green. 

13. Par 5 C 531, R 509, L 479, F 444, Handicap 10 

Long, straight, par five. Tray to create angles for yourself by placing your tee shot on one side or the other of the fairway. Faders will love the right side of the fairway, even venturing towards the right rough to create and angle for their second shot. Conversely, drawers of the golf ball will need to skirt the left rough to create enough of an angle to avoid the overhanging branches of the Mahogany trees that line the creek that guards the right side of the hole. The green rises quite a ways above the fairway, to club into the green appropriately. 

14. Par 4 C 398, R 369, L 348, F 312, Handicap 6 

A short par four whose length belies the difficulty to which it plays. There is extreme pressure on the tee shot; the tees are set back in a narrow chute with the mountain on the left and a creek all the way up the right. The fairway begins to widen around the 150-yard stake but the hole does favor a draw over a fade. The prevailing ocean breeze will play havoc with the approach into the green. The contours of the green are subtle and make it often problematic to read. 

15. Par 4 C 425, R 406, L 378, F 346, Handicap 14 

Medium length par four of moderate difficulty. That changes quickly when the wind picks up as it plays directly into the teeth of it. The large green features a bowl on the left front with the rest of the green elevated above it. Steer clear of the swamp on the right and all will be well. 

16. Par 4 C 351, R 329, L 307, F 274, Handicap 16 

The green of this short par four is one of the favorite spots for a photo opportunity on this side of the golf course. Like fifteen this is an easy hole when the wind isn't blowing. Position your tee shot on the fairway just short of the trees and you'll be in in the best spot from which to attack the green. Try not to hold up the flight behind you when you're taking pictures. 

17. Par 3 C 229, R 216, L 167, F 150, Handicap 2 

The par three seventeenth has always been the golf course's signature hole. It's also the most difficult home on the inward nine. The bunkers that used to guard the bailout area have been removed and the green recontoured but the hole remains essentially as it has since the course first opened. The prevailing wind blows predominantly from the left and into the golfer's face. The green has multiple levels and is one of the smaller ones on the golf course. 

18. Par 4 C 427, R 404, L 382, F 342, Handicap 8 

One of the most picturesque holes on an already picturesque golf course. You'll need two heroic shots to get to the green in regulation. The tee shot must carry the beach that borders the left side of the fairway. Of course, finding the fairway is just the first part of your task. Your second shot must carry the lake that guards the front of the green. If you can't carry the pond then your only option is to lay up just right of it and try to get up and down. A two-putt par is going to be a really satisfying way to end your day.