While this is how things might go down on a handful of holes on most courses, an entire golf course that would follow this script (on all but the par-3s) is like a mythical Valhalla to the slicer—until he tees it up, as your columnist did, at a championship layout in Siem Reap—the Angkor Golf Resort—that is also considered the finest track in Cambodia.
There are few pleasures for the habitual slicer of the golf ball—and there is one of us in every amateur fourball that has ever teed it up—as the sight of a gentle dogleg that meanders to the right. Presented with this delicious vista, this doughty amateur steps up to the tee with renewed vigour and confidence; the grip tightens in anticipation of a big hit, but evokes none of the familiar misgivings. No muttering to himself about turning the hands over or not losing it right. No sir, on holes like the slicer aims well left—at most of the holes at the Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap that would usually mean straight down the throat of a water hazard. While playing partners wonder about what sort of death wish has taken possession of him, the slicer grins slyly, as if to say, ‘a player works the ball gentlemen’. What follows is a mighty heave, more akin, in your columnist’s case, to an ungainly shotputt being hurled forward, with extensive body motion translating into startlingly low clubhead speed. The club is jerked way to the outside of the target-line on the way up and then crashes from the top into the ball, the tight hands delivering a weak glance, right-to-left on the upper right quadrant of the ball. Confounded by the strange imperative of sidespin overpowering everything else, the ball tries its hardest to go straight and loses the good fight 150 yards down the line. A that point it careens right almost at a 90-degree angle and almost miraculously sails off the water hazard, lands in the middle of the fairway and proceeds to hop right until its progress is stalled by the first cut on the right of the fairway. The slicer now has his favourite fluffy lie from which he’ll aim for the bunker on the left of the green and hopefully get there in two. While this is how things might go down on a handful of holes on most courses, an entire golf course that would follow this script (on all but the par-3s) is like a mythical Valhalla to the slicer—until he tees it up, as your columnist did, at a championship layout in Siem Reap—the Angkor Golf Resort—that is also considered the finest track in Cambodia. Designed by Sir Nick Faldo, you assume that it’s going to be a point-and-shoot kind of course, with no leeway for adventurousness of the tee. You’ll never be more delighted about being so wrong. Single-handicappers, feel free to disagree; but most of us can’t even see those finer points of course strategy that you trouble your pretty heads with. For anyone handicapped by more than 14 strokes, the Angkor Golf Resort won’t murder you from the Blacks; will give you a breather from the blues, and give you the time of your life from the Whites. The Angkor Golf Resort deserves its lofty name—a genuine temple of gratification for golfers of ALL abilities.
On the other hand, the first thing you should know about the Phokeetra Country Club is that it hosted the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic and 2010 Cambodian Open. That sort of introduction always makes your columnist nervous about a golf course. Surely if a layout has been designed to scupper the efforts of playing pros then the likes of him are bound to get quartered. The 7,145-yard layout, with sweeping fairways and deceptively generous greens looks much easier than it plays. Part of the reason is that, unlike Angkor GC, the water hazards comprise of natural lagoons and the traps are better integrated into the landscape, making the course feel, for lack of a better word, more organic in terms of design. After 17 holes of tiptoeing around the course the golfer is presented with one last risk-reward decision—to go for the island green on the 18th green in two or not. Hook, line, sinker and in the drink. Play Phokeetra by all means, but do yourself a favour and wrap things up in Siem Reap with a farewell round at the Angkor GC. The note you’re likely to end on is exactly what you need to end a golf vacation on—smug as smug can be. The idea is to have a good time, there’s no overstating the pure delight of losing less than three golf balls in your round at a genuine world-class layout. It would be no miracle if you didn’t lose even one. And since you bought a dozen—based on tormented memories of mayhem in the past—from the pro shop before your round you’ll just have to take them home. Imagine that—wonders never cease.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game.