One of three signature courses of the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, in the country, Manila Southwoods’ Masters Course has proven its worth against the best golfers in the country and the world. It has hosted the Eisenhower Cup (the world amateur golf championship), the Philippine Open on a number of occasions and was the home of the Resorts World Manila Masters, a leg of the Asian Tour and the richest professional tournament in Philippine golf.
It is over 7400-yards from the tips and has the variety and length to challenge the very best the game has to offer. It is a true championship test and deserves its place as one of the best golf courses in the country. Every club in your bag will be needed on the links of the Masters Course. The par fives present good scoring opportunities when played well. Your long irons will be tested on the longer par fours and long par threes. Guile and precision off the tee trumps length. Your ball striking will be tested coming into the greens, which sit at angles to the fairway. A precise strike to the correct quadrant of the green is needed to just keep your golf ball on the green.
The golf course is beautiful. A former sugar cane field, Nicklaus took advantage of the creeks and streams that crisscrossed the property and built on them, creating lakes and marshland habitat for the endemic and migratory birds that call Southwoods their home.
The results are impressive. Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club is an Audobon avian sanctuary; the 175th golf course in the world to receive this distinction. Its most visible residents are the hundreds of egrets that make the trees on the right side of the sixteenth fairway their home. Happy hour here is quite a sight. Imaging sipping your favorite libation to the sight of hundreds of egrets flying it to roost for the night.
There are 52 other avian species that call the Carmona golf property their home. Southwoods’ protected habitat assures its feathered residents that they will always have a home in and on the fairways of the club.
There are so many memorable holes on the Masters Course. Each is unique and offers its own set of challenges. There are some brutally tough holes. Two has blossomed into the toughest hole on the golf course. At 438-yards from the gold tees, it isn’t overly long. The bunker on the right guards the ideal landing area off the tee. Hit it and you’ll have a short iron to the green. Tee shots further to the left will leave you a long iron or hybrid into the green. Clubbing for the approach shot is a challenge as the hole plays into the prevailing wind. This is a classic golf hole.
Six used to be the handicap one but has now been demoted to the second most difficult hole on the front side. Like two, it isn’t particularly long at 419-yards from the tips. It is the precision that is asked from you off the tee that makes it so difficult. The ideal line is over the bunkers on the right, challenging the wind, the water hazard and the bunkers just beyond it. Tee shots to the left side of the fairway mean challenging the deep greenside bunkers to the left of the green. The green is deep and relatively flat. The green has a bit of break in it but it’s so subtle that it’s difficult to divine. A great par four.
Nine is the hole that most amateurs dread. Everything is laid out in front of you; avoid the bunkers on the left and out-of-bounds on the right. The green is shallow on the right and deeper on the left. A good drive will leave you a mid to short iron into the green.
Ten is one of our favorites; a massive 446-yard par four that plays dead into the prevailing wind. Interestingly, there isn’t a single bunker on this hole. Not that it needs it. A stream bisects the fairway and guards the ideal line into the green – the closer you are to it, the better your angle into the green. Most will play to miss the green on the left as an errant shot to the right means a watery grave for your golf ball. Ten is one of the strongest holes on the golf course.
Fifteen is a gorgeous par five. At 545-yards from the back tees, it is reachable in two by longer hitters. The only issue is over two hundred yards of water to avoid on the left side. The three-tiered green offers a generous target but misses to the right will be penalized by bunkers and deep rough.
Eighteen is a tremendous finishing hole. It has provided its share of drama over the years with dozens of fantastic finished to its credit. It’s a hole that can make or break one’s tournament; eagles and doubles are possible here. Shorter hitters are best advised to play up the left side of the fairway. This avoids the water hazard on the right and gives you the ideal line into the green. In true Nicklaus tradition, the green is set up to receive a fade. Having one in your arsenal gives you a distinct advantage.
What puts Southwoods Golf and Country Club’s Masters Course over the top is the condition of the golf course. It is one of the best conditioned golf courses in the country. The greens are superb. The golf course has been at or near the top of the country’s golf course rankings for the last 25-years and it should remain there for the next twenty-five.