Forest Hills features two golf courses. The Nicklaus Course is a sprawling par-71, 7,015-yard all-weather course. The Palmer Course on the other hand is equally challenging, a par-72, 6,186-yard all-weather course. Both courses are planted with Tifway 419 grass on the fairways, and Tifdwarf grass on the greens.
Forest Hills is also home to thousands of indigenous birds, part of a dedicated wildlife conservation effort which earned them distinguished recognition in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System in 2000.
The Nicklaus course is the older brother to the relatively newer Palmer course. Only 3 of its 11 par 4s are less than 400 yards.. It is a long course. You can get by with a point and shoot strategy but if you want to score then I got 2 words for you..
The opening hole could not be tougher. If you are not awake when you hit the 1st hole I bet you will be as you stare at your second shot.. After a decent drive you find yourself staring at a green guarded at the front by a ravine and a lone bunker ready to catch your ball if you overshoot the green. You have got to select the right club.
Holes 2, 3 and 4 keep up the frantic pace before you hit hole number 5.
At handicap 1, its guarded by a stream in the front and right. The pin placement, if right and back, cannot be a tougher ask. After a good drive I found myself staring at my bag pondering whether to go for it or play safe. It’s the kind of hole which, if you miss, you kick yourself for choosing the wrong club. If you do, however, hit the mark, it is a very satisfying feeling which sets the scene nicely for the 6th. This is a definite birdie hole if you play smart. 2 well placed shots (read ‘left of the fairway’) will leave you with a short pitch to an unguarded green.
7th is a tricky par-3 which can ruin a good score. Club selection is very important as the wind can be pretty strong here.
The 8th is my favourite hole on the course. It is a short par 4 which can be reached with 2 mid irons. Guarded by a lake on the right and a bunker on the left, it is definitely one of the more picturesque holes on the course.
Hole number 9: After a routine drive, the second shot plays uphill all the way to a very tricky green. All you can see is the bunker framing the green. Its an apple shaped green and a poisoned one at that. A Two-putt is a job well done.
The toughest hole on the course (even though its handicap 2) is the Par 4 12th.
The fairway is besotted with danger on all 4 sides and the green is a mid iron away. For the faint hearted there is an extension of the fairway (so to speak), again guarded by danger at the front and sides, its prudent to try and reach the green in 3 and play for bogey. Funnily enough, the tee box sits so high up, the wind is definitely a factor. I found my drive carrying almost 300 yards which I have never managed, ever. The fairway is narrow and its best to stay on the left since you cannot see the right side of the fairway from the tee box. What you think might be the fairway is actually a hazard.
What the 12th taketh away, the 13th giveth.
It is a short par 3 which will give you an early chance at a birdie on the ‘so-far’ tough back 9. The going from there gets even more brutal.
Hole 14 was under repair when we played but by the looks of it, its a tough one..the second shot should reach an elevated green which has a nasty slope, back to front. We were able to putt on the green and it is lightning quick!!
The 15th is a thinking man’s hole. Club selection is vital because the green sits well below the teeing ground but the wind can carry your ball to the left or right depending on which way it blows.
The 16th is a reachable Par 5. A well placed driver will leave you with a long to mid iron second to a green which is seriously quick from back to front.
Hole 18 is a relatively straight par 4 but the green is the most striking feature. It features a bunker in the middle of the putting surface reminiscent of the 6th at Riviera Country Club (the one in California, not the one in good’ ole Cavite). Ridiculous? , perhaps. Striking? Definitely.
The clubhouse was designed by architect Ruben Payumo, featuring a distinctive three-cone roof inspired by the famous “salakot” hats of Filipino farmers. Its charming and laid back, just the way you want it after a hard day’s work. This was my first time playing a course north of the metropolis and its not going to be my last. The courses here, including Sun Valley and Valley golf demand to be spoken of in the same breath as some of the courses in the south. They are that good.
Thinking back at my round as I sit here typing; when I play golf, I always want to keep score and track my progress. I do chat with my flight mates and share occasional banter but I never lose sight of the score. The funny thing was, as I walked off the 18th green, I never once did recall asking my caddy about my score. Its a testament to the course that it grabs your attention in a way like no other. Hole after hole, fairway after fairway, it all moves with the nobility of a big river.
The biggest compliment I can pay the course is that I just went out and played golf.. Score be damned, I enjoyed it.
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