The 2016 Causeway Cup
19 golfers from Singapore’s media industry made their way to the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi for the 9th edition of the Causeway Cup. Having won 3 years in a row after a convincing 23-9 victory on home ground last year in the SG50 edition, the Singapore team were looking to continue to hold on to the trophy for a 4th time in Langkawi. The Causeway Cup is an annual Ryder Cup-style 16-person team event that pits golfers from the Malaysian and Singaporean media industry against each other. Tales of golfing prowess, and wonderful fellowship between the players in addition to the friendly competitive spirit are amongst the hallmarks of the event. Much anticipated annually by the media from both sides of the causeway, each country takes turns to host the event. This year’s edition was hosted by Malaysia, and The Els Club Teluk Datai in Langkawi was the venue for the 2016 showdown.
The Els Club Teluk Datai sits wonderfully amidst breathtaking vistas of the marbled mountain peaks of the Mat Chincang mountain range and the emerald green Andaman Sea. Set within Teluk Datai (or Datai Bay) and nestled within a fabulous rainforest, the Troon Golf-managed par-72 championship layout plays to 6,760 yards from the tips and is perfect for both beginners and keen golfers alike. Designed by South African major champion, Ernie Els, The Els Club Teluk Datai boasts lush towering foliage that has some of its holes laid out beautifully against the backdrop of the tranquil waters of the Andaman Sea.
The golf course is surprisingly flat on the front-nine whilst the back nine is the more undulating of the two nines. Amazingly on this golf course, there are no bunkers at all. Intrinsic to the course’s defense is a cleverly designed layout that presents doglegs; undulating tree-lined rolling fairways, grassy swales and many raised undulating greens. These raised greens have substantial fall out areas should you miss on the wrong side that make getting up and down tricky. This is even more so as the greens are protected by grass where the grain is into you that grab your ball, making it even more challenging for that delicate chip or pitch that needs to land on the fringe.
The 15th hole is the beginning of an excellent closing stretch with a plunging downhill par-3 that plays 151 yards on the card from the back tees. This is followed by the tricky sharp dogleg right 409 yard par-4 16th. The tee shot really needs to be long enough left to avoid being too close to the right side of the hole in order to get an open approach to the green. Otherwise, with its overhanging giant trees all down the right side will see you blocked with virtually no chance to approach the green in regulation. The signature 17th hole, a 162-yard par-3 with the Andaman Sea flanking the right side is a beautiful knee-knocker of a par 3 with the wind coming in from the ocean.
Fascinated by the absence of bunkers on the course, the players from both sides teed off to much anticipation on how the course would play in the eight Fourball matches on the first day. With “live” scoring of the status of all matches at various points and at the turn, displayed through The Els Club’s GPS System on the buggies, excitement permeated the rain-forested course as teams saw how their compatriots were faring during the round. Sensing in the air a tough challenge by the Malaysian team, the Fourball matches indeed reflected that aura when the teams came back tied at 4-4 at the end of the first day. The stage was then set for an exciting campaign for the Singapore team. To much raucous fanfare amidst the drinks and fellowship at the end of the day, the draw for the Foursomes on the second day was announced. The alternate shot segment is always the most fun and exciting due to the format of play.
At the crack of dawn the next day, players turned up at the Els Club all ready to duke it out in the foursomes. It was indeed turning out to be a tough campaign as at the close of the morning session, the Singapore team took the lead by a mere one point when they prevailed 4 ½ to 3 ½ in the foursomes.
With only a marginal 1-point lead, it would all come down to the team that would best endure the final day’s 36-hole marathon. With the slick undulating greens running at 9.5 on the Stimpmeter, The Els course proved to be a fitting venue to test the might and mettle of the players in the singles finale. With periodical updates “live” on the GPS system of the status of the matches, both sides traded blows as lead after lead; point after point was chalked up by both sides in the singles. When the dust settled in an exciting afternoon, the Malaysians emerged winners in the singles with a 9 ½ to 6 ½ point victory. With this the triumphant Malaysians edged out the Singapore team 17-15 in what was a closely contested event to return the Causeway Cup to Malaysia.
With this victory, Malaysia now leads to 5-4 in the series. The 10th edition of the Causeway Cup will be hosted in Singapore in 2017.