Golf is just as popular in the Philippines, especially in and around Manila, as it is in other countries, albeit slightly more exclusive and elitist with most of the good clubs here being members-only and rather pricey to join. There are lots of courses around, all pristine and well-maintained, and, while my favorite two are strictly members-only, there are also a few good spots that are semi-private, meaning that the public can pre-book and play.
Situated right on the edge of Fort Bonifacio, Manila Golf & Country Club is as pretty and as scenic as you could wish for, considering it’s located in the middle of the business hub of the city – a perfect little oasis to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Makati and ideal for those who don’t want to waste a whole day traveling in order to play a round or two. It offers immaculate turf conditions, a nice range of difficulty levels, and, above all, effusive and enthusiastic caddying with a myriad of people running around carrying your clubs, shading you from the sun, and generally making your time there as comfortable as possible.
Slightly further away, down the South Luzon Expressway, lies the Sta. Elena Golf & Country Club, and it is so much more than just a golf course; within its grounds there’s a nature park, a children’s fun farm (which allows you to combine a round of golf with a kids’ day out), bike and jogging trails, a lake (ideal for fishing and boating), and a clubhouse to rival any you can find elsewhere. However, it’s the golf you go for, and the reason is simple: the course is beautifully designed, extremely well thought-out, and laid out in such a way that it provides a great challenge and requires intelligent player strategy.
If you don’t want to commit to membership, or indeed if you can’t afford it, there are a few places where you can pre-book and play without shelling out a small fortune on yearly membership fees, with my two favorite ones being the Orchard Golf & Country Club and the Eastridge Golf Club.
The Orchard Golf & Country Club, located near Alabang (a 45-minute drive from Makati, sometimes more and sometimes less depending on your route and the time of day you are traveling), is unique in that it offers two very distinctly different courses – the Arnold Palmer and Gary Player courses – thus providing a greater variety of play. It’s also designated a bird and wildlife sanctuary and as such is teeming with foliage and various species of birds. It has reciprocal agreements with an array of golf courses around the world, allowing you to play for free or at a discount, and there are a whole host of other leisure activities you can do there, from bowling to badminton or tennis, and you can use their swimming pool while the kids are frolicking around in the playroom. Prices range from P1,800 to P3,500 on weekdays and P3,200 to P4,500 on weekends.
The Eastridge Golf Club is a very popular and busy course, mostly due to the easy accessibility from Ortigas, and as it’s nestled on top of rolling hills, it provides some wonderful views of Ortigas and Laguna Bay. It’s a fantastic marriage of natural and man-made attractions, a great course design with fairways and greens that are carved out of rock formations, and with excellent drainage due to its sloping nature (an important factor during the rainy season). Ranging anywhere from P1,350 to P2,650 (weekdays) and P2,950 to P4,950 (weekends) for non-members, the prices are fairly reasonable, too.
Living in Manila, or indeed any big city, can be stressful and slightly overbearing due to the concrete jungle aspect of it. Taking a trip out to the golf course is a great way to relax and have a quick break from the hustle and bustle of the beeping horns.