- Jalan Teluk Datai, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia.
- 60 4 9500 500
The fairways are like fine green carpets, laid out between dense rainforest – it’s lush. The 18-hole, par-72 course plays 6750 yards (6172 meters). Most tees offer a reasonably wide landing zone for your driver. However, you are punished for poor ball control. There is no point searching for it in the second cut. As your caddie will tell you, ‘it’s a jungle ball’ and you’ll have to tee off again.
Ernie Els explained to me what he was aiming for when he redesigned the layout.
“We have some beautiful scenery there, on the banks of the Andaman Sea and adjacent to a tropical rainforest, so we wanted to configure the hole-routings to make the most of that,” he said. “We also had the coastal road re-routed, which enabled us to have four holes that play right alongside the water, two on each nine. That’s a wonderful little stretch of holes.
“Maybe the most distinctive design feature is the absence of bunkers, which is obviously pretty unusual for any golf course. It makes sense on a number of levels, though.
“As I said, the course is located in the middle of a rainforest so there is plenty of rainfall and that’s probably the number one enemy in terms of bunker maintenance. So it has genuine practical benefits, but it also gave us some opportunities to be creative in other areas of the design; the use of trees in strategic areas, plus there’s a stream that runs across the course and that comes into play on several holes. So you don’t miss the bunkers.”
I played the course in October – the end of the rainy season, which begins in March. It rains consistently during this period so you must watch for your windows for playing.
Many of the greens are elevated, keeping them dry, and the drainage on the fairways is remarkable. After belting rain, my shoes somehow stayed dry.
The putting surface changes speed depending on whether it is the rainy or dry season.
It gets hot out there in the jungle – a humid 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) is typical in February. Sit out the front of the open-planned club house after your round and enjoy a cool drink and the great view of the course.
Els removed the bunkers and brought in jungle hazards, trees and a fast-moving stream. There is a GPS course guide in the golf cart to give you a flyover of the hole and distances to hazards and to the green. You must manage your game well to ensure you don’t have a blowout hole.
And watch out for the cheeky and sometimes aggressive macaque monkeys, which have been known to pick up golf balls. Seriously, I had to chase a group of ten of them away with putter in hand next to the green on the second hole.
When to play: The consistent rain during the wet season – between March and October – can make it harder to get on the course, but it is also cooler and less crowded.
Yardage: 6760 yards, 6181 meters
Best hole: Dubbed ‘Tranquility’, hole 6 offers a relatively narrow tee shot between trees that must be hit solidly. The approach shot to this 432-yard (395-meter) par 4 must carry a fast-moving stream that sits in front of a relatively small green after the fairway turns left.
The designer says: “The holes that play alongside the water are very special, very memorable. Golfers are going to take a lot of photos there I think! I also like holes No.5 and No.17, which play to a double green; that’s a really nice feature.”
– Ernie Els
The resort experience:
The luxurious Datai Langkawi resort is a romantic and eco-friendly destination, which features four world-class restaurants and a superb Malaysian spa experience to help you unwind. The resort is built into a jungle with luxury bungalows spread out on the property so you have privacy. I was amazed at how many animals I saw at the resort – monkeys, boars, colugos, sea eagles, pied hornbills and many more. A clear stream winds its way through the resort, adding the tranquil sounds of running water to the soundtrack of the rainforest. The beach-side pool and bar is the perfect place to relax after a round of golf. The friendly staff will take care of your golf clubs as well as transfers to the course and airport, too.
Dine and wine: Datai Langkawi offers truly memorable culinary experiences. The Gulai House offers authentic Malay with Indian flavors for a romantic night in the rainforest. The Beach Club can take care of lunch with a wood-fired pizza or pool-side daquiri. The Pavilion will make your eyes water with spicy and superb Thai, while the Dining Room has fresh fruits and omelets for breakfast, or Asian cuisine for dinner. Best to bring an appetite.
The accommodation: The Datai has 122 luxurious villas, suites and rooms spread out in the rainforest. One can stay near the canopy in the main building, tucked away deep in the jungle itself, or closer to a private beach. You’ll enjoy a large air-conditioned room, a bathroom a with double vanity and a giant tub. Sit back on the veranda and meditate to the sounds of the rainforest. A blissful and romantic retreat.
Enjoy a soothing massage in the Datai Spa, which is set next to a bubbling brook and draws on the Malay concept of ramuan – gathering and mixing medicinal plants. Treatments go from 150 minutes through to 210 minutes and can feature aromatherapy foot polishes, a Dosha tea ceremony, deep-tissue massage or a ‘love bath’ with champagne for two.
One of my favorite experiences was taking the morning and evening nature walks with resident naturalist Irshad Mobarak. He explains about an amazing variety of plants and animal species in the rainforest, including frogs, dusky leaf monkeys, great hornbills, colugos (flying lemur), an acid-filled rengas plant and tongkat ali, whose boiled root is used as an aphrodisiac. This resort is teeming with life.