Yes, it’s better than advertised and yes, it’s alive and kicking. I have had the pleasure of knocking off Summit point from my list of ‘Must play’ courses a couple of times over. I had never played that course till about 2 months ago and now I have played it 4 times in that period. I had heard about how great this ‘World 18’ was and wanted to sample it for myself. I was given that chance as part of my alternate life as a golf magazine contributor. This review is part of my 2nd, 3rd and 4th visits there (with a 5th to follow soon).
The world 18 as it’s aptly named is the vision of Robbie Leviste, President of Summit Point. He enlisted Robert Trent Jones Jr. to serve his vision. The genius that is Trent Jones Jr. then handpicked 18 of the best holes from Carnoustie, August, Winged Foot, Pebble Beach, Spyglass hill and St Andrews among others to create a magnificent spectacle. It’s not called World 18 for nothing. The course itself is a challenge and having played it from the tips and the blues, I can attest to the variety on offer. The front 9 meanders through the property with magnificent views of Mount Makiling and Banahaw.
The clubhouse and restaurant:
Normally, I would not dedicate much space to the clubhouse among other things but the clubhouse is impressive and demands as much. It’s a French style colonial mansion which greets the visitor as you make your way down the entrance. The reception is to the left of the restaurant and men’s and women’s locker rooms are on either side of the clubhouse. The view of the 9th and 18th holes can be had while eating breakfast or lunch and let me tell you, it’s amazing. The full glory of this building is to be had as you walk up towards the 9th and 18th greens, which as a Trent Jones Jr. trademark, are shared. The restaurant is terrific and the Maliputo is to die for. Most clubhouse fare is so-so but the food here is sumptuous and I make it a point to always dine here instead of grabbing a pizza on the way back.
The caddies of this course are knowledgeable and most of them have been with the course for dog years. The breaks and the best landing points on every hole is knowledge that only experienced caddies posses and they have some of the best caddies around. All you need to do is ask, and if you don’t, they will still venture vital information so please do listen. My first caddy there was Jen and man was she amazing. From reading breaks to lining up my putts, there was little she did not help me with. I did not manage to get her on my next visit but the other caddies were no less helpful and knowledgeable.
On to the course:
Right off the bat, this is a hard course. If you want a challenge, play it from the gold tees. With a pretty manageable 7050 yards from the gold tees, this is a course on which you can score but you better bring your A game. I have played this course in the afternoon and the early morning and it is a different experience. Once the wind picks up in the late morning, the course is a different beast. After all you are playing a course which is the same as what the pros play on the PGA tours of USA, England and Australia. Things are not going to be easy. If you do want to play from the blues, the course is easier but not terribly so.
Note: There are 5 par 3s and 5 par 5s on this property with the remaining being Par 4s of varying lengths. The Par 5s are all brutally long with the shortest at 511 yards. The longest Par 4 is the 472 yard Par 4, 11th which is Hole number 1 at Royal Melbourne.
The first hole is a short snorter with water fronting the green. It only plays 391 from the tips with the water stretching from 250 off the tee to the green front. You better be to the right of the hole on this one if the flag is cut in the front. Anything on the upper tier will be left with a nasty fast breaking putt that will scream towards the water.
The 2nd is a routine par 3 with water in the front but it only serves as a prelude to the beautiful par 5, 3rd. This is the 14th hole at Spanish Bay in Pebble beach. There are bunkers to the left and right on the fairway for the errant tee shot and a similar placement for the second. If you are a long hitter, the water to the right of the green will come into play.
The other holes of note on the front 9 are the Par 3, 6th with rainforest on the right and an elevated green with bunkers to the left and right.
The back 9 starts off like the front 9 with a gentle loosener. A long iron followed by a wedge into a green that is fronted by the water and extends to the right. To the left and back of the green is a bunker waiting to catch overhit shots. Be careful to land on the correct side of the green as it’s a 2 tiered green with a high break right in the middle. The 11th, as mentioned previously, is the longest of the Par 4s and accuracy off the tee is a must. If you are in the rough on either side, you have practically no chance of reaching the green in 2. Hit the ball in the fairway and you will be left with a long iron/hybrid into a narrow opening that widens up into the green. The 12th hole is the 11th hole at August National. A tricky drive, if the rough is up, followed by a mid iron into an uphill green which has water on the left and bunkers on the right.
The 14th hole features the longest bunker in golf, stretching from the tees to the green which is 572 yards away. This is the 16th hole at PGA west and is famous, for birds which will pick your ball up from the fairway and deposit it anywhere else. (No, I am not kidding). If the wind is up, then your best bet is to hit low runners which get roll because you are not going to get any distance whatsoever.
The standout hole for me, is number 16 (Number 14 at St Andrews) and plays just under 600 yards from the tips. It features a blind tee shot. For the shorter hitters, there is a bunker to the left of the fairway which awaits errant tee shots and for the longer hitters; there is a bunker on the right waiting to catch a well hit ball. I managed to smack one around 330 yards and was still left with 260 yards to the green. A well hit 3 wood, which managed to evade the bunker before the green, setup a short pitch and putt for my only birdie of the day.
Other holes are no less impressive and the Par 3, 13th which is the 12th hole at Augusta is one of the best. 2 bunkers front and back guard the small green which is pretty tricky. A solid 6 iron from 184 away just made the green but trickled to the rough behind the green. Remember what I said about the caddies being good?
As I was setting up for my shot, my caddy stopped me pointed to a spot almost right angles of where I was aiming. Trusting her, I hit my pitch and found the ball rolling off the bank and towards the hole. The par putt was dispatched and I mentally decided to increase my end of round tip.
The whole experience is just awesome, the caddies, the food at the restaurant, the course. I have always taken my friends and told everyone I can about Summit point and how it’s a must-play course. I left Summit Point a happy man. I mean, I had just experienced 18 of the best holes in golf and enjoyed the experience so thoroughly that I have vowed to play this course at least once a month. The course has had changes in management and a change in the upkeep staff and the results show. The fairways are now carabao grass (which is in keeping with the local flora) and the greens are well manicured. There is a saying in Japanese, “Only a fool will deprive himself of pleasure when it’s offered”. Well, I am no fool and if its pleasure of an outstanding golfing experience on offer, you can bet bottom dollar I will be there ahead of time. Summit point just made its way to my top 3 courses in the Philippines. It simply is that good.