Wack Wack has long been considered as the Grand Dame of Philippine golf—the golf course that will forever be entwined with the history of golf in the country and the emergence of the Filipino golfer.
Wack Wack was established due to the discrimination that a great Filipino golfer experienced. Larry Montes had just won the 1926 Philippine Open; but because he was a caddie, he was refused a seat at the tournament dinner. This incensed American businessman William “Bill” Shaw who resolved to build a golf course where locals were not discriminated against.
Designed by American golf pro Jim Black, the course was built in 1931 in the gently rolling hills a few kilometers east of Manila and named Wack Wack after the squawk of black crows called “Uwaks”.
It was the premier golf club in the country for a greater part of the 20th century. The club has hosted the most number of Philippine Opens and the tournament attracted notable golfers of that era like Peter Thompson, Kel Nagle, Bruce Compton, Doug Sanders and Sam Snead.
The 1977 World Cup won by Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido from Spain was also held in Wack Wack. That edition of the World Cup had Gary Player participate as well, and the diminutive golfing great won the low individual honors that year. The par 72 East Course provides a stern test of golf that has withstood decades of evolution and change in the game of golf. The fairways have grown narrower over the years as the spreading foliage continues to affect escape routes and shots that try to cut the dogleg.
The last small corner of the front nine (which become the finishing holes when the nines are reversed during major tournaments) is one of the most memorable and testy stretch of holes in Philippine golf. The approach shot on the short Par 4 Seventh is going to test your nerve and accuracy as the pond in front of the green comes in play from all angles and still affects your shot if ever you end up over the green.
The Eighth is not an overly long Par 3 at 144 yards but the two-tiered green, that takes the shape of an inverted washbasin, is going to be really intimidating from the tee. Elevated, with its fringe and sides shaved clean even on normal days, there is very little room for error when you play this hole as a shot missing the green by even an inch ends up rolling away from the hole.
The Par 4 Ninth is a monster of a hole for mere mortals as there is a huge pond right where the landing area should be. Play safe and short of the penalty area and it is still a 200-something yard shot to an elevated green.
Today, the Wack Wack East Course remains true to its Filipino roots. While newer golf courses are planted with imported turf grasses on their fairways and greens, the East Course still proudly sports local grasses to provide a truly native challenge. Nevertheless, tournament sponsors still consider it their first choice whenever the venue for the Philippine Open is up for discussion.