Philippine golf has had two significant growth spurts when golf courses were built. The first was after the Second World War (1950s and ‘60s) and the other began at the start of the 1990s when the golf course/residential subdivision concept really took off.
It would not be a stretch to say that Manila Southwoods started the 1990s boom. The opportunity was there: the Philippine economy was on the rise, Metro-Manila was bursting at its seams, and the expanding middle class needed more housing. The timing was right.
To bring in a golfing great like Jack Nicklaus to design two world-class courses and transform the former sugarcane plantation into an upper-class estate was then an idea whose time had come, and real estate developer Fil-Estate delivered. By 1992, the first 18-holes, the Legends was open for play and this was followed a year later by the Masters course.
Both courses were built to world standards with all-weather playability and wall-to-wall carpeting of Bermuda grass greens and fairways, and this set the standards upon which other golf courses in the country would be compared with. It would not be a stretch to describe this as Manila Southwoods dragging Philippine golf into the new millennium.
Eight years later, the Masters course had hosted the Philippine Open 4 times and was the venue for the 1996 World Amateur Golf Team Championship which was won by Australia. It had also hosted legs of the Asian Tour and the local pro tour. Manila Southwoods was voted by the pros of the Asian Tour as the “Venue of the year for 1999” an accolade any club that has played host to professional tournaments would be very proud of.
Nicklaus designs his courses with the aim of putting your skills, course management and concentration to the test. You don’t score well on his courses by just simply hitting it down the fairway and going for the green. There are some places he wants you to go to make your approach shots easier but you will have to navigate penalty areas before you get there.
The Tenth hole of the Masters requires a lengthy tee shot that should skirt the stream that runs right beside the green. Playing too short or too far from the stream will make the already difficult approach shot a lot trickier. This hole has been voted as one of the 500 best holes in the world by Golf Magazine.
Manila Southwoods continues to be held in high regard by local and international golfers and deserves to be considered one of the top golf courses in the Philippines for its trailblazing effect on Philippine golf and for the quality of golf that it provides.