Stunning views, turquoise waters, abundant wildlife and so much more, golfing in Langkawi, Malaysia is like stepping into paradise...
If you’re fortunate enough to travel the world for recreation with a little golf thrown in, it can be rare for both the destination and the golf to be as equally breathtaking and of comparable high quality.
There are many world-class resorts in idyllic settings but with golf courses that don’t match up to these high standards and, equally, the reverse can apply – where the reputation of the golf course alone is the primary reason for visiting.
However, on my visit to The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort, and nearby Els Club Teluk Datai golf course in Langkawi, Malaysia, it didn’t take much past the first impressions of either to be totally convinced that this was a heady and glorious combination.
I must admit, the title is somewhat misleading as this was not my first encounter with the magical islands of Langkawi, in the state of Kedah off the northwest coast of Peninsula Malaysia. These mystical islands and their wondrous juxtaposition of ancient rainforest, craggy mountain regions and jaw-dropping coastal beaches and coves have had drawn me to them time and again over the years.
UNIQUE WILDLIFE. The Andaman, though, was new to me as the entrance is tucked away from the main thoroughfare down a steep, winding driveway. The cavernous and traditional Kampung-styled lobby is luxuriously impressive in itself but we were utterly transfixed when drawn to the view from the balcony edge, down to the free-form pool built in harmony with the existing rainforest with the turquoise expanse of Datai Bay beyond.
Paradise found indeed and no matter the length of your journey and flagging energy levels on arrival, I defy anyone to not want to get stuck in and immediately explore every nook and cranny of this vast yet intimate resort, integrated perfectly as it is within an ecosystem teaming with bird and unique wildlife.
The bulk of the rooms of this recently upgraded resort feature mesmerising views of Datai Bay and the surrounding forested hillside, as well as near and distant islands. Many of the rooms and suites have private or shared plunge pools but all manage to inspire a unique phenomenon, in that no matter how many times you’ve grabbed a camera to capture the intoxicating outlook, you find yourself reaching for it time and again in search of the next perfect shot.
WORLD CLASS. Few photographs do it justice, however. The Andaman features all you would expect of a world-class resort – restaurants and bars of superb quality, unsurpassed vistas and an array of laidback water sports, including snorkelling the coral reef directly off the beach.
Perched high on a bluff with commanding Bay views, V Integrated Wellness is arguably one of the most scenic spa treatment centres on earth and there are many tranquil, secluded spots under the canopy of trees at the beach or around the pool area to disappear with a book and your thoughts.
CAREFUL CONSERVATION. As impressive as The Andaman’s physical attributes is, it is its philosophy towards conservation measures that’s at the very heart of the resort’s ethos and operations.
Impacted as it was by the 2004 tsunami, the reef areas located in the shallows off Datai Bay are being systematically and lovingly restored by an inspirational partnership between The Andaman and marine biology students from local university campuses on Langkawi. Guests can dive with students based at The Andaman to retrieve living coral specimens from the bay, relocating them to a conservation pool that has been established on the grounds. Guided snorkelling tours are also available for guests to view the marine life being nurtured to more robust health before their eventual return to the bay.
The Andaman’s marketing executive, Edeline Berg, also points out the resort’s passion for sustainability and support for the community by sourcing local produce where possible. Native fruits and vegetables indigenous to Langkawi are integrated into menus and seafood is purchased twice a week from local fishermen who pull their boats up to shore outside the beautiful beachfront restaurant, Jala.
The entire seafood menu of Jala (‘Fisherman’s Net’) is determined by the catch of the day, with guests able to choose and discuss the preparation of their dishes directly with the executive chefs.
Jala, the adjacent Beach Bar and Tepian Laut restaurant are all a step from the beachfront and the sound of waves gently lapping against the shore. Barefoot dining is encouraged but especially so at the sand floored Jala, to heighten ‘all five senses’ during your dining experience.
UNUSUAL DESIGN. Rejuvenated by The Andaman, I eagerly took the short trip up the road for a game at one of the most exciting new golf courses in the world, the Els Club Teluk Datai (Datai Bay on translation).
The Australian brothers Geoff and Ted Parslow designed the original course over 20 years ago and Ernie Els was brought in to undertake a redevelopment of the layout and the re-naming to the Els Club Teluk Datai over the past few years.
The most unique feature of the new design is the removal of all existing bunkers, a decision taken to fight against the high maintenance impact of seasonal monsoon rainfall that had required an almost daily rebuild by green staff.
Els has compensated for these lack of traditional hazards by integrating hollows and false fronts into the design, not to mention water and creek beds, and there is enough movement and pitch to the greens to keep golfers of all standards more than honest.
In past visits, I’d not played golf here but had marvelled from a road that dissected part of the course from the Andaman coastline at a green perched seemingly on the edge of the shimmering sea, with nothing between it and the islands in the distance that form part of Thailand.
How exciting it was to return to find local authorities had conceded to re-routing the road to enable Els to bring more of this spectacular coastline into play.
BREATHTAKING VIEWS. Each of the nines meander into the ancient rainforest framed by jagged mountainous peaks before returning to the coast with a visual assault of blue that takes your breath away. The rich green carpet of turf was flawless and provided beautiful playing conditions, with inquisitive dusky leaf monkeys rustling in the trees and impressive eagles soaring overhead.
Els and his team have constructed two par-threes that are incorporated into the one double green complex; one a short three running along the jagged edge of the coastal wall and the other playing at a more robust 170m, directly back towards the Andaman.
At 579m from the tips, the double dogleg par-five 7th is one of the more spectacular and strategically interesting par-fives you’ll play. Taking the more dangerous line down the right of the left to right shaped tree-lined fairway [Does this make sense to you?] improves your angle considerably, before the hole sweeps in the opposite direction to reveal an approach to a narrow green sitting tantalisingly on the precipice of the vast expanse of water beyond.
Ocean breezes are an integral consideration in the judgement of your approach and the steep bank fronting the green is a popular spot, as erring long will do you no favours. The 8th hole, also a lengthy par-five, features the most demanding driving hole on the course, with a rocky creek to be avoided along the entire left. The fairway then curls to the left to set up a view of the green, protected by the same creek bed that dissects the fairway diagonally.
Managed by Troon Golf, the remodelled layout and world-class clubhouse and practice facilities have attracted rave reviews and international recognition but perhaps none more validating than the recent Golf Digest ranking of the ‘World’s Top 100 Courses’, which has the Els Club Teluk Datai debuting at No. 83.
The 19th hole at the Els Club was a comfortable sanctuary after the round, but so too was my ‘20th hole’ later that afternoon on return to The Andaman. I relaxed with a refreshment or two in lazy chairs at the Beach Bar, drinking in the setting sun over the bay as the cool of the evening slowly enveloped us.
This is one tough place to leave but we were resolute in our determination to return to again to soak up the unique experience that The Andaman and Els Club Teluk Datai combine to provide.
Good to know
To book your holiday at the Andaman and other locations in Malaysia go to www.greatgolfholiday.com
Flights to Kualu Lumpur from London, Manchester and Glasgow:
Langkawi International Airport is approx. 40 minute flight from KL, serviced by:
Direct flights are also available to Langkawi from Singapore & other cities across Asia.
Golf courses on Langkawi include:
Els Club Teluk Datai
Gunung Raya Golf Resort
99 East Golf Club (Construction)