Horizon Hills set to rank among Asia’s best
Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club has emerged as the premier golf club in the southern half of Malaysia and is a force to be reckoned with. This accolade is even more remarkable considering that this US$10 million championship course opened for play a mere eight years ago in May 2008.
Located in the heart of Iskandar Puteri, within the Iskandar Development Region, Horizon Hills has won almost every award there is and by the look of things, there is no stopping the club from climbing its way to the ranks of Asia’s top golf courses.
A masterful design by renown Australian course architect Ross Watson, Horizon Hills has raised eyebrows and won the hearts of everyone who has visited this jewel of the south. Horizon Hills has made a name for itself thanks to its slick, undulating greens that will surely make the heart beat faster, fairways laden with a fine carpet of paspalum grass and a superb layout that will test even the most experienced professional.
Sensational will be the word that best describes the experience of playing a round of golf at Horizon Hills. Watson is described as a course designer who brings out the best in any golfer no matter what level of play. He has successfully engineered a layout backed by a futuristic drainage and irrigation system that allows you to work your way through a golfing adventure rarely seen in this part of the world.
Watson, a preacher of risk-reward design, shows off his architectural beliefs as early as Hole No. 2 which is a tricky Par 5. The view from the slightly elevated teebox presents the unwary with a slight jolt – two creeks bisect the fairway coupled with a lateral water hazard running the entire length on the left. The first thing that comes to the mind is “how do you play this hole …?”
While a simple three-wood would suffice off the tee as a lay-up shot towards the first creek, the going gets harder from there because it would take another precise long iron or rescue wood to carry the second creek while avoiding the myriad of bunkers that guard the elevated green.
Long hitters would be tempted to make a go across the left side of the creek off the blue markers. This hole sets the tone of the course – risky shots that will reward the golfer if executed successfully.
Watson’s romance with risk-reward continues unabated at the stunning Par 4 fourth hole. It is a relatively short hole but with it comes a sting that could humble even the hardened golfer. The views from the very elevated teebox is dramatic, to say the least. The fairway doglegs to the right and a lateral water hazard on the right hugs the paspalum rough all the way past the green that is heavily bunkered on three sides.
The trick is to try for the “tiger line” – cutting off as much of the water as possible to afford the golfer with no more than a sand wedge onto a fiesty green. The easy play from the teebox is to aim as much left as possible but the slightly elevated green will not hold approach shots made by medium to long irons. Especially if the tee shot ends up in the undulating rough left of the fairway.
Horizon Hills has not one but several holes that could be termed as Signature Holes and the fourth is one of them. The Par 3 eighth is another hole that is talked about. Only 160 metres from the Blue Tee but water comes into play all the way to a green that is big enough for medium to long iron shots or the rescue wood for the higher handicappers.
Unfortunately, the stroke off the tee has to be true because the only bail-out area is on the right which means trying to save par is still very much a question-mark.
All four Par Threes at Horizon Hills present varying challenges and excitement. The 166-metre 12th is another fine example of precision play. A huge pot bunker guards the front of the green and water lurks way right to catch the errant slice.
The 17th is probably the best of the Par Threes. Think of the 17th at the TPC Sawgrass which is probably professional golf’s most famous short hole and you will have an idea of what the 17th at Horizon Hills is all about. The green is large enough to accommodate several pin positions and of course the toughest placement would have a red flag. The safest route is to go for the centre of the green, no matter where the pin is.
Imagine you are dormy two down and your playing partner is safely on the green but with a 30-foot putt. The pin is just six paces from the front edge of the pond. You have less than 108 metres to the pin and you’re holding a pitching wedge in your hand. Such is the excitement that the course creates thanks to the masterful design by Watson.
The 18th is one of the unique finishing holes in golf and should become the talk of the golfing fraternity at least in this part of the world. Rarely seen in golf, there is an island fairway on the right to tempt long hitters off the tee. This is the only way if one intends to reach the green in two.
The average golfer will play down the left side landing just short of a creek that bisects across the fairway. There is little stress on the lay-up second shot but the approach to the green is where one pauses to access one’s options. Water hugs most of the green but there is only a thin sliver of fairway that attaches the green to the mainland. Therefore, another precision short iron is required.
The long hitter that intends to find the island fairway needs a carry of about 220 metres off the Blue. Anything short, or right will mean a watery grave. This is surely a hole that makes you think not once, not twice but at least three times before deciding on the option. This is a great hole for matchplay.
A lot of work was put in from start to finish in a bid to create a course that re-defines the game. Horizon Hills has raised the bar as far as golf course construction and maintenance is concerned. Greens running at almost 10.5 daily on the stimpmeter and almost 11.5 on tournament day is possible thanks to the special care provided by the greenskeeper and his staff.
Modern, electric golf carts, knowledgeable caddies to assist with your game, a layout with breath-taking views and dramatic elevation changes; water hazards that tease you and tricky putting surfaces that brings out the best in any golfer – Horizon Hills will challenge your senses but more importantly, the experience of playing here will remain embedded in your memory forever.
It comes as no surprise that Horizon Hills has emerged as the most popular southern region course for Singaporeans and that it has become the home of the Iskandar Johor Open, a growing vent jointly sanctioned by both the European and Asian Tours.
Horizon Hills has redefined golf and is destined to become No 1.