I woke up with a start when the alarm went off. My wife shushed me and I had to hastily turn the alarm off lest my baby wake up. Took a hasty shower, checked my wallet, picked up my golf bag and went down to the basement to get ready for the drive. As I moved out of my condo parking, I found it raining quite hard. I had already checked google-maps and kind of knew the way to the course. It was my first time playing a course outside of the usual golf courses in Manila. I was heading to Silang, Cavite to play the Couples course at Riviera.
The course is situated in Silang, Cavite, a leisurely drive that that takes you to the course in around an hour (early morning, no traffic). I took the SLEX and then the Carmona exit, headed down Governor’s drive and embarked on a decently long drive till I hit SM Dasmarinas. Take the first left at the stop light immediately after SM and you will reach Riviera. The signboard comes out of nowhere and you are best advised to be on the lookout for it. It sits right opposite a Shell station so you can’t miss it or well maybe you can, like I almost did. A burnout and a quick tyre check later, I was headed down to the clubhouse.
The Couples Course
We were playing the Couples course and as my host put it, “It’s apparently the easier one of the 2 courses in the Riviera Golf and Country Club, the other being a Bernhard Langer creation”. During summers this course is heavily frequented by Korean and Japanese tourists. This is one of the first courses on their agenda when they come touring the Philippines. Very popular with the tourists I am told as I take a few practice swipes with my driver. The first hole is a short 385 yarder which is a gentle opener for the beautiful 2nd, a 507 yard par 5. After a longish drive, I had around 240 left to the pin. I took out my 4 wood and gave it a good whack. I caught the ball clean but found the ball hooking ever so slightly and splashing into the water hazard. Another 5 yards and it would have found the green. Not a good way to start the round, I thought. I took my drop and escaped with a bogey and my pride intact. Holes 4 and 5 are just brutal. Both are par 4s and are handicap 3 and 1 respectively. They are over 400 yards each and have water all along the right side of the fairway. If you can escape these holes then you can consider yourself lucky. The rough around these holes is just brutal so try to play conservatively and stick to the landing zones. I actually overshot the green on the 5th and it took me 2 tries to whack my way out of the rough behind the green.
The 6th is a gentle Par 3 followed by the uphill Par 5 7th hole. The hole is reachable in 2 for the long hitters if the wind is on your side.
The 8th is a hole which continues the trend of >200 yard par 3s. I understand that these holes may not pose much of a challenge for the long hitters but for weekend players these are more of an annoyance. One golf course I played recently (I will decline to name) had 4 par 3s and all were over 190 yards in length. The Par 3 8th which I described earlier is a handicap 5 and has a ravine fronting the green but there is a bunker on the top- right which I considered my bailout area. I was in between clubs and took out my 4 iron and let it rip. I missed high and right and ended up in the thick rough to the right of the bunker. The pitch shot was easy enough and I managed to tap in for par.
After my tee-shot on the next hole, I found my friend dawdling over his shot. I looked at my watch, it was 8:30AM, and we had only finished 8 holes (we teed off at 6:30). This was the 9th hole, a devilish par-4 with the wind blowing whichever way. After he fluffed his 6 iron which dribbled down the fairway about 20 yards towards the green I asked him why he took so much time. He just looked at me and said,” There is no beef-mami in the half-way house before 8:45”. On the Couples course, the half-way house is actually after the 10th hole, not the 9th as in many courses. Incidentally, I know now why he deliberately slowed down. The beef mami is really something else. Don’t get the full bowl or you will not be able to concentrate on the task ahead, the portions are large and delicious!! The closing holes are absolutely taxing so you need to bring your A game.
The 11th is a par-5 with a mandatory carry of 200 yards over a ravine. Not for the faint hearted. I had just had my fill and was pumped up. I smacked one out of the center of the driver and watched my drive sail well over the ravine, or so I thought. The drive managed to find the fairway; only just… My ego took a big knock there. It’s a long and meandering walk down to the fairway so the course has carts to ferry the golfers and caddies to the fairway (If you do decide to walk the course). The second shot plays slightly uphill into a green which has a ravine on the left and 4 bunkers on the front.
Mandatory Meaningless Golf Story Alert!
True to form for me, I almost ended up with 3 n*ts (Not sure if this * can be an appropriate replacement to get this review a PG-13 rating!!). I had hit my second shot, a 4 wood, around 200 yards, leaving me with another 80 yards to the green. I was standing near my cart contemplating which wedge to use, when, out of nowhere, this ball comes flying by. It hits the inside of my right trouser leg, smacks the cart, misses my caddy by 5 inches and goes bouncing down the fairway. I was too stunned to respond till I saw a Korean guy (remember, they love the course!!) come sauntering down with his caddy. I told him that he had almost killed me and he just smiled and waved. Ummhhh….
Anyways, I lived to tell this tale didn’t I? The 12th is a routine, short par 4, reachable with 2 mid-irons. Just hit the fairway or it may be a difficult second shot to the green. The 13th is a slight dogleg par 4. You need 2 good shots to reach the fairway. Slicer’s beware, this is one hole you do not want to miss right, and it has a ravine that will swallow your ball and thick rough if you do miss the ravine. The ideal landing spot on the left is right next to a bunker which will allow you to be aggressive with your second.
The 14th is my favourite hole on the course, I almost got a hole-in-one there. The green sits around 140 yards from the blue tee, guarded by a ravine and bunkers front and bottom. The green is wickedly fast and it’s better to be below the green to allow you to be aggressive with your putt.
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