What an unbelievable weekend! As mentioned before, I was invited by Sandakan Eagle (directly) and Eu Shen of Liberty Golf Services (indirectly) to take part in a media familiarisation trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia. This is obviously an opportunity that you simply DO NOT turn down!
My main purpose of being there was to conduct some video course reviews (soon to be posted on the blog), as well as to get a feel for what Cambodia has to offer in the way of a golfing destination. I have to honestly say that my expectations weren’t massively high. By the end of the trip, I was blown away…
After a ridiculously early start on Thursday morning, I left KL with zero sleep under my belt. The usual hustle and bustle of KL LCCT Airport is never fun to deal with, but with zero sleep it becomes even less fun, so we were relieved to finally get on the plane, and 2 short hours later we landed at Siem Reap International Airport.
We were greeted at the airport by huge smiles and friendly faces, and whisked off to Angkor Golf Resort (10 minutes away from the airport). The landscape and vegetation reminded me so much of desert-like Mexico. When we drove through the gates, we were greeted by pristine tee boxes, fairways and greens. An oasis for tired and weary golfers!
I had the privilege of playing with Adam Robertson, the General Manager of Angkor Golf Resort. I was able to obtain some great insight as to what is going on with the course, and what the future plans are for the resort. The course was exceptional, and I was surprised at the versatility of the layout. Nick Faldo is the course designer, and although the course is set up almost entirely for a golfer that moves the ball from left to right, there are some awesome holes that require some pinpoint accuracy off the tee as well as good knowledge of where exactly to hit it on the green for your best possible crack at birdie.
I sampled the practice area which is nothing short of exceptional! When the Asian Tour make a turn through Cambodia, the pro’s are always delighted at the opportunity to have a hit on a range that is ALL GRASS, over 300 yards long, and with enough versatility to practice every shot in the game, including long bunker shots.
After the formalities of lunch and the signing of the Tripartite Agreement between Angkor Golf Resort, Liberty Golf Service and PSD Travel, it was off to the Sofitel Hotel.
Sofitel Hotel is the place to stay in Siem Reap if you want to be treated like royalty, as well as be in the heart of it all. Everything is literally 10 minutes away! The hotel is absolutely exquisite, and a massive thank you must go out to the General Manager Fabrice Ducry for having us. After an incredible buffet dinner, we headed out on the town for one or two beers (famous last words).
Phokeethra Country Club is another little gem of a course which is covered by a blanket of history. Reason being is an 11th Century Bridge which was uncovered during construction of the course, and which has now been renovated by Phokeetra, and is now a UNESCO preservation site. This is the reason for their slogan “Tee-off from the 11th century, and finish your round in the 21st century”.
The course is tough, but fair. Wide fairways and large greens make it slightly easier for the average golfer, but be careful of some of the holes which bite due to their distances. There is a par 4 which plays close to 500 yards off the tips into a pretty hefty wind. Not ideal for the average ball striker!
I played with Jack Hedges, the young GM of Phokeethra Country Club. It was great to chat with him about his plans for the course, and it was inspiring to see such a mature head on young shoulders. He has some great ideas, and I look forward to seeing the implementation of these ideas in the future.
After a tough day on the course, we headed to Grand Soluxe Angkor Palace Resort & Spa for an inspection of the hotel followed by a much deserved massage in the spa. Life is tough.
Mr Lee Hong, the owner of the Angkor Palace is a pretty keen golfer. So keen in fact, that he has installed a 250 yard driving range within the grounds of the hotel. Not a bad place to get some practice in before heading out onto one of the tough courses nearby. He is the recent champion of the Angkor Amateur Open. Not surprising because of the amount of work he gets done on his game!
After another exceptional dinner, we headed out for a few more beers in anticipation of an early morning round of golf at Siem Reap Lake Resort Golf Club.
Our final round was greeted once again by a nice stiff breeze, which many Malaysian Golfers would not really enjoy. I heard many complaints from the boys about how strong the wind was. “Wind?” I thought. “this is not a wind, but more of a cooling breeze!” My sentiments were not shared by my fellow golfers who hadn’t really experienced a decent lashing of air on the golf course. Nevertheless, we played on.
Once again I noted nice wide fairways, and also noted that it would be quite difficult to lose a golf ball unless the golfer was being a bit silly with an approach shot or tee shot. If you think your way around this course, you will shoot a decent score. The greens were phenomenal, and easy to putt on. The fairways were pristine. Any excuses I heard really didn’t have any validity! The course was fun with many birdie opportunities available. My conversion rate was slightly low as I had the touch of a wounded buffalo, but I had a great time and some good laughs with my playing partners.
Onto the temples… I’m not sure what I can say about the temples of Angkor Wat without drastically under-rating them. They are absolutely spectacular. You need to see them to believe them. We were told that you could spend at least 8 days seeing all of the temples. We had 3 hours! What we did see was absolutely amazing, and you really felt the history when walking through the hallways of these ancient buildings. What an experience!
This temple is where the movie “Tomb Raider” was filmed. Apart from the history, it was rather nice to know that I walked the same hallways as Angelina Jolie!
The next morning we were sadly back to KL. I have nothing but great things to say about Siem Reap, and I can’t wait to whip a group of golfers down there for a little weekend.
Thanks again to all who were involved. Keep an eye out for the video course reviews that will be posted as soon as they’re done.