When you have two multiple-Major champions collaborating on anything golf, you know it’s going to be special. And so it is with the recently opened Valley Course of The Els Club Desaru Coast. This 18-hole par-72 championship course is a collaborative design between Ernie Els and his longstanding friend and tour rival Vijay Singh. Not to be mistaken with the 27-hole Ocean Course, which opened for play at The Els Club Desaru Coast in September 2016, the new Valley Course has sharper teeth than its sister course with its dramatic elevation changes and well-protected greens. In his prime, Vijay Singh was known for his stellar bunker play, consistently ranked high on the sand save statistics. Unsurprisingly, strategically placed bunkers are strongly featured throughout the Valley Course, 178 bunkers to be exact. That’s averaging close to 10 bunkers each hole. Although it sounds intimidating, the course is well laid out to suit golfers of all abilities with generous driving and lay up areas, plus 4 tee boxes to choose from.
The course demands your undivided attention right from the start, with the 1st Hole par 4 that features a narrow fairway guarded by water all down the left, and strategically placed bunkers on the right. At 347m off the Silver Tees, this hole warms you up nicely for the course ahead. The 2nd Hole is a lovely short par 3 over water that’s guarded by 3 bunkers on the front and 2 more at the back. Playing to 139m from the Silver Tees, a well-struck tee shot here could yield a nice birdie chance.The course gears up in excitement as you get to the 3rd Hole par 4, where you tee off downhill from a severely elevated tee box. Given the dramatic natural undulations of this terrain, many of the holes enjoy elevation changes, and rising and falling mounds throughout the course. The signature par 4 11th Hole, is a favourite with the tee box perched on the highest point of the course. From here, a resplendent view of the South China Sea in the background frames this hole beautifully. The layout of the hole is not just beautiful, but also intimidating. Awaiting you is a creek down the right side and several bunkers guarding the end of the fairway with a lake beyond should you overshoot the bunkers. This same lake also guards the small raised green that is set off to the right slightly, and - you guessed it - more bunkers. To make things just a little tougher, the green slopes slightly downhill at the back of the green towards the lake. While an approach to the right middle of the green is the best option here, we all know that golfers rarely execute the right shots under pressure which could bring trouble into play.
The 13th Hole is a spectacular par 3, another of our favourites. The second longest par 3 on the course at 182m from the Silver Tees, this hole is a veritable challenge with a narrow kidney shaped green that is protected by a lake all down the left and bunkers on the right of the green. The hole is fairly intimidating to most. The challenge is further heightened when the pin is cut at the front, presenting little room for error sideways. As a testimony to the fairness of the course design, those who prefer not to take on this front pin, can play towards the generous bail out area short right of the green.
As we made our way through the course, we found that it presented golfers with a good combination of strategy and club selection choices for their shots. There is a good mix of tight driving holes, and many generous driving areas where you can blast a drive. The key to scoring well in the Valley Course is your approach shot. Almost all the greens here are raised greens with clever sloping and fall out areas that make for a very testy up and down should you miss on the wrong side of the green. With fast but true rolling greens - and not forgetting the 178 bunkers, the challenge of making an up and down save is amplified. This underscores how you can quickly lose a couple of shots around the greens on this course with errant play.
On the finishing stretch, the course ends with a very good tough finishing hole. Worthy of its index 2 rating, it is the longest par 4 on the course at about 437m from the Silver Tees. The hole provides a very stern but fair test to close out your day with its elevated tee box and wide fairway on the left to avoid the bunkers on the right. Once again, good club and shot selection is needed to reach the green that sits uphill with the clubhouse beckoning behind. Probably the highest raised green on the course guarded with bunkers all around, you have to pull out one more good approach shot to earn the cold drink waiting in the clubhouse.
This course certainly has hit the right notes with its well-placed bunkering, raised greens and mostly generous fairways. At about 6,153m off the Silver Tees (equivalent to the Blue Tees for most clubs in Singapore), the course presents a manageable challenge for most golfers. However, the longer hitters off this tee would probably find more of the bunkers coming into play. For the golfers who seek an adventure, they may want to try the 6,463m Black Tees which could turn the course into a bit of a brute.
With 45 holes to play, a wonderful grass range, top-class instruction facilities with launch monitors, a SAM Putting Lab, a well-designed 9-hole par 3 course and great short game practice areas, The Els Club Desaru Coast could also provide a wonderful training ground for keen serious golfers. These facilities combined alongside quality teaching professionals from the Els Performance Golf Academy, provide an all encompassing-holistic approach to honing a serious golfer’s game.
In the near future, possibly in 2018, the area will boast several luxury hotels and resorts built around the coastline and the golf course. When The Westin Desaru Resort, Aman Resorts & Villas, Anantara Desaru Resort and Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast opens then, golfers will be spoilt for choice for accommodation options for their weekend golf getaway. Coupled with a future water-park and quaint riverside shopping, there will be plenty to offer for golfers with kids as well. All these, and with the opening of the new Valley Course on 31 March, the revitalization of The Els Club Desaru Coast as the next exciting weekend getaway is shaping up very nicely.
How To Get There
Golfers may choose to make their way there by a 30-minute ferry ride from Changi Ferry Terminal or by driving there. The ferry is by far the fastest and most hassle free route, as The Els Club will pick golfers up from Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal to transport golfers to the club and back again. Total time by this travel route is about an hour compared to a 1-hour plus to 2-hour drive depending on the route taken (depending on traffic, about 1 hour 15 minutes from Johor Bahru via Senai-Desaru Expressway or about 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours via the Causeway).
Where to Stay
Golfers may currently stay at the Sand and Sandals Desaru Beach Resort & Spa, which is a pleasant and comfortable hotel within easy reach of both golf course locations. Situated on the beachfront, beach-lovers can relax on the beach after a day out on the golf course.
Rooms here are nicely décored and include complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges along with tea and coffee-making equipment. All rooms have balconies, with a variety of rooms having beach, pool & garden views. For the romantic, there are couple suites that come with an outdoor Jacuzzi tub. Golfers can also bring their families, as there are family suites available that feature colourful bedrooms for kids.
In addition to 24-hour room service, breakfast is included in the rate and car parking is free. The hotel also has several restaurants including a Food Street, a beach bar and a safari-themed bar. Other facilities include an outdoor pool, water sports, a spa and a gym. For those with kids, there is also a game room and a kids' club available.
THE ELS CLUB DESARU COAST
Valley Course Location
A: No. 2, Jalan Pantai 2, Desaru Coast, 81930 Desaru, Johor
Ocean Course Location
A: No 4. Jalan Danau, Desaru Coast, 81930 Desaru, Johor
T: +60 (7) 878 0000