The condition of the fairways slightly takes the shine off the 5-star facilities and some truly memorable holes.
Opened in 2008 and host of the Asian Tour's Iskandar Johor Open in 2010, Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club is a sprawling 18 hole international standard championship course whose design philosophy is that of 'risk-reward', whereby plenty of holes offer a risky shortcut over water or thick vegetation for those in search of birdies, as well as lengthier safe passage via the fairways. With some serious elevation changes between tee and green, you'll be glad of a golf buggy and begin to prize flat lies.
Unless you're playing to a high level, you'll find yourself getting quite a bit of bunker practice, as there are sand traps everywhere, with some greens so heavily protected that everything but pinpoint accuracy is punished. Add in the man-made waterfalls, lakes and ponds, and you can begin to comprehend the challenge presented at Horizon Hills.
The risk-reward principle is in evidence as early as the second hole, a long par-5 featuring two forced carries over a menacing creek that bisects the fairway. Long hitters should be okay, but otherwise you can take a chance at a long second of lay up and aim for bogey, which may be a better score than those who take on the challenge and fail.
However, it's the last two holes that will love longest in the memory. The short par-3 17th features a severely sloping island green that is hard to reach thanks to the swirling winds. Some awkward pin positions, often dangerously close to the edge, mean that your best bet is to play to the heart of the green and try to get down in two. The final hole is a par-5 where John Daly might be able to reach the green in two, but us mere mortals should be somewhat more circumspect. Reaching the island fairway from the tee requires a carry of over 270 yards, so you are best off laying up. With water all the way down the right hand side of the hole, and numerous fairway bunkers in play, even this conservative option is fraught with difficulty. Your final approach to the green is no less challenging, with another forced carry to a putting surface surrounded by water on three sides. If you need to pick up shots then there is plenty of scope for memorable heroics, but more often than not slow and steady will win this race.
Given all the above, it's a shame that the maintenance programme doesn't live up to the quality of the design. While the greens are fast, they're not championship level quick, and the fairways were in pretty poor shape given the green fees, with tyre tracks and mud meaning that even the perfect drive can land you in trouble. Although you are entitled to a free drop, it takes the shine of a round of golf, especially one as pricey as this. Furthermore, there is no grading of the rough - you're either on the fairway or in deep, deep rough that is hugely difficult to escape from.
The clubhouse facilities are 5-star, and include Olympic size swimming pool, tennis courts, gym and a variety of restaurants. Thanks to its location, the beer and food is at the rather elevated Singapore prices, but there are plenty of cheaper local options nearby. One piece of advice: book a caddy in advance as there are occasionally not enough to go round and you will be grateful for their advice as you attempt to negotiate what should, assuming you can get over the condition of the fairways, be an enjoyably challenging round at Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club.
Like the sound of this course? Secure a tee time and take advantage of the discounted green fees on offer by adding The Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club to your Johore golf holiday.
If you are travelling to other parts of Malaysia ask us to help you to organise a Malaysia Golf Package which features tee times at Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club.