Immaculately kept course that plays host to the Sabah Masters, you'll need to drive straight or prepare for some large scores, particularly on 'Amen Corner'.
One of the oldest courses in the region and the regular host of the Sabah Masters, part of the Asian PGA Tour, Sabah Golf & Country Club enjoys a deserved reputation as a tough course, especially following an extensive upgrade in 2004. Despite its city location, there is dense woodland, undulating terrain and scenic lakes that together make for an enjoyable challenge made tougher by occasional strong winds.
The centrepiece of the front nine is the large lake that makes the 2nd and 9th holes so tricky. The former is a long par-5 that dog-legs around the water, meaning your tee shot must flirt with danger to leave you well placed for your second. If you play too far away from the water you run the risk of finding one of the three fairway bunkers designed to stop you doing just that. If you are a long hitter you can go for the green in two, but you'll have to beware of overhanging branches; if you play it safe you bring a large bunker into play so it's a case of picking your poison on this tricky hole. The 9th is a brilliant end to the front nine, a short par-4 that dog-legs around the other side of the lake. You've either got to drive far enough that the lone tree that guards entry to the peninsula on which the green is found is taken out of play, or take an iron off the tee leaving yourself a tough approach over water to a heavily bunkered green complex. The best par-3 on the front nine is the 5th, where accuracy is key. Four bunkers in front of the green (which we assume looks like a bear's footprint from above) mean you can't be half-hearted from the tee, but go too far and you'll find yourself wading though the marshland at the bottom of a steep slope.
The enjoyable back nine features a run of holes that have come to be known locally as Amen Corner, and tournaments are routinely won and lost over this stretch from holes 14 to 16. The 14th, at 565 metres, is known as 'The Monster' and is the longest, hardest hole on the course. It tees off over water towards a narrow, uphill fairway with thick woodland to both sides. If you're Tiger Woods on a very good day you might think about trying to cut the corner of the dog-leg and carry the water to reach the green in two, but the rest of us should play up to the corner and open up the green. You'll still need to carry the corner of the lake and avoid a bunker designed to catch out those who overcompensate, but it's a safer strategy. The 15th is another dog-leg around a lake where you've got no real choice but to be brave and cut the corner off the tee - being too conservative brings the pine trees into the play. With more water behind the green, you can't afford to misjudge your approach. The 16th may not have any bunkers, but the tough approach you'll have to play over water and into the wind to a peninsula green means it is not to be taken lightly. After a picturesque, water-heavy par-3 with no room for error, the round ends with an enjoyable undulating par-5 where heavy bunkering in the run up to the green mean those going for a two-on can't afford to fall short.
As you would expect from a course that plays regular host to professionals, it is in immaculate condition, particularly in the run up to the Sabah Masters when the greens are frighteningly fast. Their subtle breaks mean you'll be more than happy to accept the advice of the helpful, friendly caddies. You're advised to make use of the practice green and driving range in advance of your round. Aside from the course itself, there is a bar, restaurant serving a variety of international food, fully-equipped gym and pleasant locker rooms featuring a sauna. Non-golfing members of your party will not be at a loss for things to do, with a swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, snooker tables and even a kids room all available for guests at the Sabah Golf & Country Club.