MELAKA, Malaysia - The beautiful Tiara Melaka Golf & Country Club in Malaysia has all the feel of an upscale resort, complete with a beautiful new clubhouse, an Olympic-sized pool, fine dining and other facilities.
Its 27-hole championship golf course, however, is built like an old school, exclusive member's club, where guests are slain by the course's many difficulties and the members, having unlocked the layout's secrets through hundreds of rounds, clean their clocks.
Your group will surely enjoy your day at the posh Tiara, located south of Kuala Lumpur in historic Melaka. But some holes here will undoubtedly eat your lunch. In fact, club officials are mighty proud of Tiara's 75.1/148.5 slope/rating. This makes it the most difficult course in Melaka.
The Meadow/Woodland combination plays a stern 6,507 meters, though there are four sets of tees playing as close as 4,859 meters. Many holes here are quite tight, lined with thick jungle (from which some rather curious animal noises emanate), so errant drives will require some iron work to stay in play. This is especially true on holes like the Lakes' par-4 ninth, which from an elevated tee plays down to a narrow fairway guarded by a lake right and jungle on the left.
The golf course was designed by the global architecture team of Nelson, Wright & Hayworth, which has an extensive Asian portfolio that includes projects in Indonesia, China and Vietnam. Their design at Tiara is a bold one, full of water carries and split fairways, offering multiple routes to the hole.
The most difficult hole here is No. 8 on the Meadow nine. It's long, at 410 meters, but also plays uphill, dog-legging tightly through trees on either side and requiring a long carry over water off the tee. And watch out for the tree in the middle of the fairway. To negotiate this tree, It's almost a guarantee you'll have to shape your approach shot in some way - or at least hit a lowball - to reach the green.
Another split fairway is the short par-4 third hole on the Woodland nine, which offers a safe route down the right side (or you can be a hero and play about 200 yards over a creek and bushes for an easier shot into an elevated green.) If that's not enough, you have to be on high monkey alert on this hole, cut through the thickest part of jungle. Course rangers on motorcycles patrol the perimeter of No. 3 and many other holes in hopes of scaring them off, but still, it's best to keep any loose objects zipped up - monkeys have an eye for a Blackberry, too.
While the Lakes nine is the shortest of the three nines at Tiara Melaka Golf & Country Club, it features a very challenging finish, starting with No. 7, a 144-meter par 3 entirely over water. The par-4 eighth tee box requires another long carry over water on the drive before heading straight uphill to an elevated green. From there, the par-4 ninth is an intimidating driving hole from an elevated tee back down toward the water, where a lake lines the right side all the way up to the green, and jungle and bunkering lurk left.
Tiara Melaka Golf & Country Club: The verdict
You're in for one of Malaysia's top golf courses at Tiara Golf & Country Club, which is not only tough and well designed, but also kept in great condition. It's one of the top golf courses in Malaysia and is on par with the 27-hole golf course at A'Famosa Resort as the best round in Melaka.
Be sure to bring your swim trunks to Tiara. The clubhouse has a beautiful, enormous pool right on site. After 18 holes in Malaysian heat, it will hit the spot. You can even take a few runs down the water slide.
Tiara also has full short game, driving range and locker room facilities. Green fees are 90-150 RM, though golf carts and caddies are extra. Like a lot of the top courses in Asia, night golf is offered here; check with the course for availability.
Stay and play in Melaka, Malaysia
Just up the road from Tiara, the A'Famosa Resort is a massive, 1300-acre compound full of activities beyond the outstanding 27-hole golf course. You can go on safari, live it up in the Cowboy Town amusement park, cool off at the water park, plus enjoy hiking and biking trails. It's certainly a family-friendly atmosphere. There are also numerous accommodation options, from the main hotel to more spacious condominium bungalows and towers nearby.
A'Famosa is about a half hour drive into the city of Melaka, so if you're looking to stay in the heart of the historic center, there are numerous modern luxury hotels that are a good value. Three-star Mahkota Hotel Melaka is located near the waterfront. It's within walking distance of sightseeing and historical attractions and close to most of Melaka's best shopping. On site, there is a beautiful swimming pool in the center of the property, along with a spa, fine dining, business center and even karaoke rooms.