99 East Golf Club
The main road that went through the middle of town where I grew up was named 99 West, but most everyone called it 99W for short. Many of the local businesses use it in their name, for example the 99W Drive-In, which is one of the few drive-in theatres remaining (go check them out for a memorable summer experience!). So, when Menekse found a golf course in Langkawi named 99 East Golf Club, well, we knew that we had to add it to our bucket list of golf courses!
99 East Golf Club is a nine-hole course strategically located about halfway between the airport and the main ferry terminal on the island of Langkawi. The 99 in the name comes from the 99 small islands that surround the main island of Langkawi. Consequently, these surrounding islands offer jaw-dropping views wherever you find yourself on the island. The East in the names is related to the location of the golf course in relation to the island. Now, just imagine if the course was located a little further west on the island towards the Strait of Malacca!
We purposely arrived late in the afternoon so that we could finish as the sun sets, our favourite time of the day to play. 99 East was forged out of the jungle back in 2008. We learned that the dream of expanding the course to 18 holes has always been the goal, but due to some local politics, it wasn’t until recently that the club has been able to move forward with turning it into reality. And, if all goes as planned, 99 East will be 18 holes by mid next year, 2020.
99 East offers 4 sets of tees, with the Blacks playing a challenging 3665 yards. I played it from the 3486-yard Blue tees, while Menekse pegged it from the 2913-yard Red tees.
With our clubs loaded onto a red buggy, one that we selected from what we recognized as the colours of the different tees, we made ourselves to the first hole. 99 East opens with a mild slightly downhill par 5, that has water short and right of the green. We putted out, scribbled down our scores, and eagerly proceeded to the great second hole.
The par 3 second was one of our favourites on the course. With the same water that guards the opening hole all along the right, the peninsula green brings it into play. And at 171-yards from the Blacks, this one shooter requires you to block out all the beauty that surrounds you and focus on the task at hand. Both Menekse and I were up to the challenge, with our well struck shots landing safely on the two-tiered green. Unfortunately, neither of us made our birdie putts, with Menekse burning her first edge of the day.
The 399-yard uphill par 4 fourth was our absolute favourite hole on the golf course. First, the tee box offers great views of the sea that lies in the distance behind you. But don’t let the views distract you from what awaits, because this dogleg right has strategically placed beautiful fairway bunkers that will likely capture any and all daydreamers.
Menekse must have been captivated by the view because she found one of those beautiful fairway bunkers (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right honey!). As she hit her next shot out, I found the rake and discovered probably the most unique rake that we have ever seen! At the end of the handle where the prongs normally reside, were coils, which made the end of the rake circular in nature. The design was quite imaginative, after all, how often does a rake deserve a mention in a golf blog! However, the design caused the sand to gather in the coil which made it weigh about 2 kilos after a single drag.
We later learned that the fourth hole will eventually play as the first once the new nine is complete. And regardless of the rakes, this hole will eventually make one fantastic opening hole!
The tee box of the 623-yard mammoth of a par 5 sixth hole is located at the highest point of the course and offers panoramic views of the valley. Teeing off under the shade of a huge banyan tree, this hole boarders the jungle on your left. As we made our way down the hill, we could see a troop of at least 20 or more Dusky Leaf Monkeys. Since this was far from our first time playing golf in Malaysia, we didn’t have anything in our bags that would attract any visitors.
Continuing down the hill, the seventh is a fun 444-yard par four where you can let everything fly off the tee. The only thing this hole requires is to retie your shoes after your swing.
The shadows were now getting quite long and the sky was beginning to blaze as we stepped up to another of our favourites, the 227-yard (yes, 227 yards!) slightly uphill par 3 finishing hole. As if the length isn’t enough of a test, the relatively small green is well protected by deep bunkers. I played it from 200-yards, and nervously pushed a 4-iron slightly right. Bolder than I, Menekse hit her tee shot long of the pin, but safely on. As we drove up to the green, I was pleased to find that my shot had missed all the danger, lying safely between 2 of those menacing bunkers. I hit a 54 degree wedge a little heavy, as I tend to do in these situations, and left myself a testy 8-footer to save par.
As we grabbed our putters, we were welcomed by a nice gentleman that we noticed had walked down from the restaurant. He introduced himself as Simon, the owner of the golf course, and he greeted us with an infectious smile and a cold a beer in his hand. He generously invited us for a couple of those delicious beers in the restaurant that his wife manages. Originally from Wales, and a solid player himself, Simon has a jealously incredible resume of courses played. We pride ourselves of our knowledge of excellent golf courses worldwide, but he managed to add a couple to our list!
Count us as fans!
99 East was not overly difficult, but it definitely is not a push over either. With greens that run very true, and a routing that keeps you engaged, it is a course that we could play over and over and be very satisfied! If this course was located elsewhere, there is no doubt that the membership would be littered with single-digit handicappers, because it played and felt like a true players golf course. No doubt, just the way Simon envisioned it to be!
Oh, and about that putt on the ninth to save par? I confidently slide it in on the right edge ?