Though not as popular as its brother course Palm - nor as prestigious as Royal Selangor Golf Club - Bunga Raya at Saujana Golf & Country Club is as impressive as any golf course in Kuala Lumpur.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur's oldest, most prestigious golf club may be the century-old Royal Selangor Golf Club located in the heart of the city.
The area's best, however, is Saujana Golf & Country Club just a few kilometers from the city center, featuring 36 holes of championship golf, the Palm course and Bunga Raya course. All 36 holes were designed by Ronald Fream, a worldly architect from the United States.
This posh golf club was originally the brainchild of former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who in 1982 initiated the creation of a government task force to bring more international business and investment to the nation.
Golf, of course, is never far behind when attracting the business class. By 1985, two 18-hole golf courses were opened. Royal Selangor's Palm course is also host to the Maybank Malaysian Open, a co-sanctioned Asian and European Tour event which will be held here this February (Anthony Kim headlines the field).
Peter Hewitt, who comes to Malaysia frequently from his home in Australia, says the Bunga Raya is hardly a runner-up at Saujana when compared to the Palm.
"They're both of similar quality," he said. "The Palm, which was used for the tournament, is harder, but they both stack up with the best of Kuala Lumpur."
The golf course routing is actually divided into two halves. Nine holes play near the elevated clubhouse and are more of a classic parkland in style, mostly flat with trees scattered along the fairways and plenty of water to cross.
But after two opening holes, both nines head into the back of the course, over an abandoned railroad track into hillier, thick jungle where there's not much room for error and the terrain can get extreme. The par-3 fifth hole, with its green sharply elevated above marsh, can make just about anyone look like Phil Mickelson at Torrey Pines South's 13th hole on Saturday at the 2008 U.S. Open.
There is a collection area below the green where most balls will funnel to, and thanks to plenty of divots, it's practically impossible to get a decent lie to flop it up to the top shelf effectively. Chances are you'll be taking more than one shot from the same divot (or take enough club to cut through the muggy jungle air back here).
The clubhouse is perched overlooking everything, and to get there, both No. 9 and 18 head straight uphill. The 18th is a marvelous par 5, which wraps around water off the tee shot before darting straight uphill. No. 9 is a more gentle par 4 but still a stern 443 yards to the promised land. (Yes, unlike the clubs down in Melaka, this course uses yards.)
Saujana Golf & Country Club's Bunga Raya course: The verdict
You're in for one of Malaysia's best golf experiences when you roll up to Saujana Golf Club, even if you don't get on the Palm Course. The Bunga Raya, while just about 100 yards shorter (6,819 yards), certainly holds its own thanks to tremendous shot values and terrain variations cut through dense jungle. It's not an easy course, full of trouble off the fairways, and the greens can be difficult to hit, especially if the pins are tucked.
Conditions from tee to green here are also as good as it gets in Malaysia, and there are both male and female caddies here (as well as forecaddies on several holes). Along with the snack bars on the course and the enormous locker room fit for a pro tournament, you're in for exceptional service the second you pull up to the front door here.
The club also boasts a beautiful outdoor dining patio, serving both Malay and Western cuisine.
Golf rates are the same for each course: RM 220-350. That doesn't include golf cart (RM 82) and caddie (RM 40) plus tip.
Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is a bustling city, Malaysia's largest, and it's also very clean. There are practically no homeless or prostitutes on the streets (which can't be said for a lot of other major cities in southeast Asia), so it feels safe at practically all times. Everything seems to gravitate around the massive Petronas Towers in the center, and just a quick walk away is one of the city's most famous hotels, the Concorde.
Pop star Michael Jackson stayed here on his tour in 1996 (though practically everything he touched or looked at has since been auctioned off), and today it remains a very popular, sleek business hotel with fine dining and full amenities in the guest rooms (many of which offer views of the towers). It's also just around the corner from Jalan P. Ramlee Street, the city's most vibrant street in the evenings full of clubs and bars.
If you want to stay near the golf course, Saujana Resorts also operates the Hyatt Saujana Hotel, which opened two years after the golf courses in 1987.