The Els Club Teluk Datai
By now you know that we have quite the bucket list of golf courses around the world that we are attempting to play, and Malaysia was home to a few on our list. This means that a trip to the picturesque island of Langkawi has been in our minds since we started turning this dream trip into a reality. But why Langkawi? Easy. Because Langkawi is home to one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, The Els Club Teluk Datai.
Located within a ten-million-year-old rainforest, the Ernie Els redesigned course at Teluk Datai was ranked number 83 on Golf Digest’s World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses ranking back in 2016, which is the list that we are carrying in our backpacks.
Unfortunately, Menekse wasn’t feeling well the day we had planned to play. She woke that morning to a bit of what is commonly called Bali Belly. But knowing how important playing at Teluk Datai was to me, and with all the rain that we had been experiencing while we were in Langkawi and the sun finally shining, she insisted that we should go anyway and that she would chauffeur our buggy.
Just one word of advice before you get there. Make sure you have enough battery and memory for your camera because the Els Club Teluk Datai is absolutely gorgeous!!
What is Teluk Datai
Curious as to the meaning of Teluk Datai, we learned that the word Teluk means Bay. The only meaning of the word Datai that we could find was from a Facebook site, but it is a really interesting story. “It is believed the word Datai is of Thai origin and is made up of two words, ‘dai’ which carries the meaning ‘can’ or ‘possible’ and ‘tai’ which means ‘free’. When placed together Dai-Tai, or Datai, means the place where one can be free. Legend has it that the island across Datai bay was at one time used as a prison island. There were numerous escapes from the prison and perhaps that was how Datai got its name, with the prisoners referring to Datai bay as the beach where you ‘can be free’.”
The Place Where One Can Be Free Bay- we really like that! Now then, let’s go play golf!
The Els Club
We decided to take advantage of the attractive twilight rates that start after 3 pm. While we arrived at The Els Club a little later than we had intended, we still had plenty of time to play. So, after quickly exploring the pro-shop, and hitting a couple of balls on the driving range, we made our way to the first tee. Par at Teluk Datai is 72, and it measures 6734-yards from the Black tees. I played it one tee forward from the more manageable 6398-yard Silver tees. There are 2 additional forward tees that make the course playable for all abilities.
Teluk Datai allows you to ease into your game, with opening holes that route you down, then up, and then back down through a tranquil rainforest setting. The obvious target on Majestic, the 381-yard par 4 second hole, was one of the perfectly framed limestone peaks of the Mat Chinchang Mountain range. Even if there would have been a “Hit it Here” sign, the target couldn’t have been more obvious.
The Most Beautiful Hole on the Most Beautiful Golf Course
The ocean comes into view once you finish the fourth hole, and it is here where the golf course will blow you away. You won’t believe your eyes when you reach the 179-yard par 3 fifth hole, curiously named Illusion. It is anything but an illusion, because believe it or not, that view is real! You may want to pinch yourself to ensure that you select your weapon of choice wisely here. With the Andaman Sea as your backdrop, if you over club you will need to bring your passport because that is Thailand in the background!
The sixth hole removes you temporarily away from the ocean, just to have the seventh hole return you back to where you belong. Named Teluk Datai, the 580-yard par 5 was, in a word, breath-taking! Here is truly where a picture is worth a thousand words.
Making the Turn
The start of the back nine takes you uphill and slowly meanders its way through the rainforest. Ten through thirteen were probably our favorites of the rainforest holes. They are a series of three par 4’s and a short, but not easy, par 5.
The downhill 404-yard par 4 eleventh was the best hole of this stretch. As we made our way from the tenth green to the eleventh tee box, we were greeted by a good-sized troop of monkeys. It was then obvious to us why the eleventh is named Dusky Leaf.
Solitude, the extreme downhill 140-yard par 3 fifteenth is a fun one-shooter. I guessed the elevation drop to be one club, only to end up being one club too long.
The theme of correct club selection off the tee continued to the sixteenth hole, called Paradise Found. With an uphill sharp dogleg right in front of me, I didn’t know what to hit off the tee. I was certain that if I hit driver straight, it would be too much club and would have put me in trouble. So, I elected to play it safe and hit 5-iron off the tee. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough club (for me anyway) to reach the bend in the fairway. Now that we have played it, we know that 3-wood or hybrid would have been the better play. This would have allowed us to get to the top of the hill so that we would have had a view of the green. And oh, what a beautiful view it is. I guess we can live with making bogey on Paradise.
Andaman Shores, the 148-yard seventeenth, is another oceanfront par 3 that you will never forget. With the ocean right and a long narrow green, the prudent miss is left. Taking dead aim at a helpless flag, ‘don’t miss it right’ thoughts quickly rushed into my mind at the top of my swing, and proved to be impossible to ignore. I guess I listened to my inner self and missed the green just left, but was pin high.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take us very long to play 18 holes. We say unfortunately not because we enjoy a slow round of golf, but because this is a course where we surely wouldn’t mind spending an entire day!
Interestingly, there is not a single bunker on the golf course. According to Golf Digest, “Ernie Els felt the extreme amount of annual rainfall would make bunkers a maintenance nightmare. Instead, he used trees and a natural meandering stream as his primary hazards.” While there may be no bunkers on the golf course, there is a beach that just might come into play!
With ample landing areas and generous greens, Teluk Datai wasn’t the most difficult course we have played. To us, however, the sheer difficulty isn’t a measure of memorable golf. But, without a doubt, The Els Club Teluk Datai was the most beautiful golf course that we have ever seen!
Still in our golf clothes, we stopped at a beach on our drive back to our hotel so that we could watch the sunset. As we sat there watching time stand still, I couldn’t help but get chills thinking about how lucky I am. And how thankful I am to have a partner in life that does all this with me! Thank you Menekse.
The Els Club Teluk Datai ranked very high on our list of best golf courses in Malaysia. It is a course that is a must for us to come back to. First, and most importantly, so Menekse can play it. And second, well, because the golf course is just that damn good!