MELAKA, Malaysia - A'Famosa Golf Resort's 27-hole golf course in Malaysia boasts what they claim to be the most "unnerving approach shot in golf."
A claim bold enough to make the legendary course designer Pete Dye quiver in his socks, perhaps?
Well, this shot is not a 200-meter carry over water, or an approach to a tiny, table-top green. In fact, it's a relatively conventional par-3 shot over a pond to the green.
But here's the "unnerving part." They've infested the waters with 10 crocodiles.
"Retrieve your ball at your own risk, as these creatures have been known to attack golfers!" the resort's video playing in hotel rooms proclaims - a little too gleefully.
Now before you throw the flag for excessive cheese, there's a lot more to the A'Famosa Resort than these well-promoted reptiles. The property gets its name from a 16th century Portuguese fortress located in the city center about 20 minutes away (where only a tiny gate remains), though this resort doesn't do a whole lot to gain old world street cred.
Instead, there's a plethora of flashy amusements at this enormous complex, with not only 27 holes of championship golf (including their "Crocs" nine), but a zoo, numerous hotel and condo properties, a water park and even Cowboy Town, a tribute to Jesse James and America's old west (which to the odd American who passes through these gates is sure to produce a furrowed brow).
But the golf course is one of Melaka's best and hosted the 2008 World Amateur Inter-team Championships, a very popular event locally. It attracts teams from all over the world.
A'Famosa has also been voted the best golf course in Malaysia in recent years.
Each nine, built by Australian architect Ross C. Watson, plays a par 36 and is of similar length, none really more superior than another. And while the entire course is scenic, with the lush green mountains serving as a hazy backdrop, each nine-hole route is a little different.
A'Famosa's Croc Nine usually steals the headlines, but the Palm and Rocky do their part to keep up, and are probably both better on a whole.
The Palm nine also begins with a small, island tee box, which can be intimidating considering a carry of nearly 200 meters is needed to get to the fairway on the left side, though you can bail out right at a much shorter distance.
Water is frequently a factor on this set, including on the beautiful par-3 third that heads downhill to a green tucked out into a pond on the left.
Then, on A'Famosa Resort's Rocky course, a series of black rock formations are dotted throughout the course's most rugged and undulating fairways, like the long par-5 fourth hole that features a blind tee shot over a hump and boulders before playing gently downhill toward the green. Land shaping and natural contours are on the most display here, especially on the beautiful ninth, played from an elevated tee back toward the hotel as a backdrop.
A'Famosa Resort in Malaysia: The verdict
A'Famosa Resort (www.afamosa.com) can feel a little tacky to the western traveler with its Cowboy Town, water park and zoo. But behind the amusements is a seriously good golf course that is as good as it gets in Malaysia, which makes you wonder why they even needed to promote the croc pit so hard. The course is on par with Tiara Golf Club just down the road, though it feels much different, thanks to more wide open terrain and large boulders scattered throughout some of the holes.
They also have night golf here on certain days. Check for their schedule, which varies depending on the time of year.
Stay and play at A'Famosa Resort
A'Famosa attracts a lot of families. Aside from the main hotel, they have condominiums and spacious villas for larger groups.
The resort is about a half hour drive to the city of Melaka and isn't far from some of the region's top courses, like Tiara Golf Club, Orna Golf Club and the older Ayer Keroh Country Club, which still uses native cow grass on its fairways.
If you're looking to stay in the historic Melaka District, there are numerous modern hotels with spas and fine dining. Melaka is known not only as Malaysia's historical city, but is a popular shopping retreat, boasting many fine malls. The nightlife in this more conservative city is subdued compared to the more cosmopolitan capital of Kuala Lumpur about 120 kilometers north, while Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a little over an hour's drive north of the resort.