On 28th October 2014, in the company of Her Majesty Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajjah Haminah, The Queen of Malaysia, Ernie Els, cut the ribbon on the latest course to be added to his highly impressive design portfolio.
Little more than two weeks later and it has already been named the ‘World’s Best New Golf Course’ and ‘Asia’s Best New Golf Course’ at the very first ‘World Golf Awards’.
Despite still being firmly within its formative days, The Els Club Teluk Datai, managed by Troon and situated on Malaysia’s paradise Island of Langkawi, has captured widespread media and public attention, igniting the imaginations of golfers around the world now eager to sample an undisputable masterpiece.
This week GBN.com caught up with ‘The Big Easy’ and The Els Club Malaysia’s Senior Vice President David Townend, as the four-time Major winner made a short stop over at his UK residence at Wentworth en-route to the final tournament of the European Tour season, the DP World Tour Championship.
Ernie/David, The Els Club Teluk Datai has just been named the ‘World’s Best New Golf Course’ and ‘Asia’s Best New Golf Course’ at the inaugural World Golf Awards. Tell us how you are feeling right now?
EE: The news just keeps on getting better for the island of Langkawi and golf in Malaysia. We knew that we had something special when we first set foot on the site and to see what we have been able to achieve fills me with a great sense of pride. Thank you to everyone who voted and a special thanks to the Troon management team on the ground who have made delivering such a world-class product possible.
DT: To come away with two highly prestigious awards gives us great confidence in what we have created here and the premium experience we offer our domestic and international guests at the Els Club Teluk Datai. These awards were nominated and voted on by international travel operators and media which tell us they really like what they see.
And, Ernie, we believe you hit the opening tee shot alongside the Queen of Malaysia, who is a huge golf fan?
EE: Yes, that was amazing and a great honour for a guy from South Africa to hit the opening tee shot alongside Her Majesty. The opening ceremony was a fantastic event and we were delighted to welcome so many members of the world’s leading golfing media and VIPs from the golf industry. Winning these two terrific awards has really put the icing on the cake on an incredible few weeks.
The golf course clearly something incredibly special. Can you tell us what makes it different to anything else golfers will have played?
EE: Well, we have worked on lava rock in Mauritius, on coral reef in the Bahamas, on rolling hills in South Africa, but never in a rainforest, so this was certainly a first for the whole team. In creating the golf course we had to take into consideration the amount of rainfall we get here in Langkawi. It dawned on us in that first afternoon visiting the course, when a storm came down, that it just wasn’t practical to have to drain out bunkers every time it rained. So, I think it’s the first course we have ever built without one bunker. It’s quite friendly and I don’t think you’ll miss playing out of bunkers.
For those who have yet to visit, tell us why you think the course has already received such widespread acclaim?
EE: This is, without doubt, the most spectacular golf course setting I have had the pleasure of working on. The course is truly breath-taking and I am delighted with what we have achieved here. I endeavoured to make the most of this unique location, nestled between ancient rainforest and the Andaman Sea, and I believe that we have done just that.
Langkawi has the rainforest, the beautiful ocean, jaw-dropping beaches and of course beautiful hotels like the Datai Langkawi. It’s just a wonderful spot. I speak to the tourists that come here, some of them have come here for over 20 years, they love what we’ve done with the golf course, it really is world-class now and I think the addition of The Els Club Teluk Datai will help draw a lot of tourism and golf enthusiasts to Malaysia.
DT: In his design, Ernie has achieved something truly spectacular. Nestling between the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea and stunning, centuries-old natural rainforest, complete with views over the Mat Cincang mountain range, I cannot think of a more memorable place anywhere in the world to enjoy a game of golf.
The island of Langkawi is one of world’s most idyllic unspoiled gems and, with the international recognition and reputation we are garnering, can only enhance the appeal of the nation’s golf tourism industry.
This is just the first of three The Els Club venues that will be opening in Malaysia between now and 2016. What it is about the country that makes it such a great place for golfing tourists?
EE: Well, Malaysia really is a hot bed for golf and tourism. When I think of the world’s most exotic destinations, it’s hard to look past this country that is blessed with such stunning paradise islands as Langkawi. They are really growing the sport of golf in Malaysia; our design group is currently busy down in the south of the country at Desaru Coast with a much bigger scale project that will open in 2016.
DT: As Ernie mentioned, in little over a year, our Els Club Malaysia portfolio will further expand, with the opening of two sensational new properties in the southern state of Johor, with the 27-hole Els Club Desaru Coast and the 18-hole Els Club Desaru Valley, designed by Vijay Singh in associating with Ernie Els Design, in 2016. This is just the beginning of what we believe will complete an unrivalled golfing proposition in South East Asia.”
Ernie, David, thank you very much.