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Calatagan Golf Club - Batangas' hidden gem

Calatagan Golf Club is the Philippines' and Batangas' hidden gem. 

The Robert Trent Jones, Jr design was built in the early 70s at roughly the same time as Alabang Country Club and yet few of today's Pinoygolfers have set foot on its fairways. What a shame.

Located deep inside Hacienda Biga-a, the vast Zobel estate in the sleepy town of Calatagan Batangas, the golf course here is short but certainly isn't easy. The fairways twist and turn, falling away from the beautiful clubhouse, meander around the property and find their way back to the clubhouse again. 

It's a charming little layout that demands the complete package from the golfer to score well. As is typical of Jones' designs, a fade gets more work than a draw, but you'll need both shot shapes in your arsenal to post a good score. 

The fairways are well defined by the abundant tree line. Staying in the short grass is absolutely essential; many of the trees have very aggressive root systems which will force you to take an unplayable should you stray among them.  

The fairways might lack length, the small greens make up the difference here. They demand precision, guile and course knowledge to work your way into the ideal position for a straightforward putt. The greens are sloped quite deceptively and roll much faster than you'd expect by just looking at them. They're not excessively quick but roll very well without much hopping or skipping.

A little-known fact is that the golf course originally played to a par of 71 before former general manager, the late Luis "Golem" Silverio lengthened the 13th hole into a par five to make the course play to a more traditional par of 72.

There are so many memorable holes here, that it's difficult to pick a favorite. But if you held a gun to my head, the last four holes are the most enchanting. 

15 is a medium length par four that bends gently to the right. A well struck fade off the tee will leave you in a prime spot from which to attack the tiny green. 16 is a strong par three that measures 185-yards slightly uphill from the tips. The green sits at an angle to the tee shot which requires the utmost accuracy off the tee. 

17 is a short dogleg right that requires a draw off the tee. The right side of the fairway slopes further to the right and will kick your ball into the water hazard there. That puts you into position to attack the green that sits to the right, significantly above the fairway.

The par five 18th is the longest hole on the golf course. A draw off the tee puts you into position to play an aggressive second shot to get you as close to the skinny green as possible. Play the shots as prescribed and you'll have a short iron or a wedge into the green for a good chance for a closing birdie.

If you do make the trek to Calatagan Golf Club, you'll find the fairways are seldom busy and you can tee off at your leisure. The one downside of the golf course is its distance from the city. The club is 128-kilometers from Makati but the drive is now quite relaxing since the roads to Calatagan have been widened and properly paved. 

The best way to enjoy Calatagan is to spend at the night at one of the many nearby resorts to make the most of your time with the golf course. I'll tell you now, that 18-holes on this gem isn't going to satiate your appetite for great golf. Plan accordingly.

I've been blessed to have played most of the courses of significance in the country and Calatagan will always hold a special place in my heart. I really love this golf course.