A golf oasis rises in what was once a desert of lahar

In Photo: The 6th green at Pradera Verde with the Zambales mountain range in the background

Text & Photos by Mike Besa

When I last visited Pradera Verde in Lubao, Pampanga, only nine holes was truly ready for play. The clubhouse was unfinished so we checked in for our round at the wake park over a kilometer away. The yardage markers hadn’t been put in and the bunkers on the back nine didn’t even have sand in them. But what was there was most impressive. The fairways were plush and the greens, even though they had been recently sanded, rolled true.

The island green 15th at Pradera Verde

While not long enough to brutalize the average golfer, it was a course that posed a good challenge. The fairways wound around the numerous water hazards. If anything, the fairways were a bit too generous. There was little to challenge the tee shot and left easy approaches into the generous greens.

Almost a year passed before I could make a return trip back to Pradera Verde. Then I got a call from the architect and builder, Mike Singgaran inviting me and a few friends to the course’s grand opening. I couldn’t have been more excited.

The now-completed clubhouse is expansive. The lockers, and the rest of the facilities, have ample room to move around and things are far from cramped. The food, as befits any club in Pampanga, is delicious and was doled out in ample servings. But it was the golf course that I had driven three hours to see.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The golf course had been tweaked a bit since our last visit. Fairway bunkers had been added on a few holes, pinching the once overly generous fairways to put a bit more pressure on the tee shot. The fairways are better than ever. The ball sits up so nicely you feel like you could take a driver off the deck on longer approaches.

The greens stood up well to two shotgun starts on the same day. They’re still a bit firm so your approach shots aren’t going to stop dead but time will fix that. They still roll beautifully even after over 200 golfers played through. They can only get better still. Tif-eagle is proving to be the ultimate grass for Philippine greens. It stands up very well to our climate and the ball rolls perfectly on it.

The golf course isn’t overly long, playing right at 7,000 yards from the black tees. You do have to be mindful of the abundant water hazards that line the fairways. Successfully navigating them is the key to a good score here. On the best holes, you will need to challenge the water to get into the best position to attack the green.

Take the par-5 third for example. It’s a demanding hole with out of bounds all along the left and water on the right from 200 yards in. If one doesn’t take on the water hazard, the hole plays much longer than its 521 yards. The large green might seem an easy target for a third shot with a wedge but it has four distinct sections with varying contours to spice things up.

At 383 yards from the tips, the fifth hole might seem like a pushover but water is in play both off the tee and on the approach coming into the green. It takes a confident drive to take on the water for the optimum angle into the green. Bunkers on both sides of the fairway guarding that position add pressure to the tee shot. The green is generous but features water on three sides so you’ll need to be precise with the approach shot.

Both nines at Pradera Verde end with par 5s. The ninth is quite a test with water running all the way up the left from tee to green. Bailing out to the right won’t do you any favors as it’s littered with strategically placed bunkers. When the wind is up, this hole can be a real test.

The 15th should be the club’s signature hole. A true island green, there’s water everywhere. The green is large but that’s a double-edged sword. Find the wrong tier and you could be left with a 50 or 60-foot putt. Better players will feel good about attacking the pin even in the more difficult positions because two huge bunkers on either side are there to catch errant shots. The back half of the green is a mercifully flat section with a very slight slope down to the front. But halfway down, the slope steepens and the green breaks in varying directions along the way.

The shorter inward nine is home to one of my favorite short holes on the golf course. Seventeen is a devilish little par 4. From the tee one is hard-pressed to decide where to aim the tee shot. There seems to be sand everywhere with just small patches of green at which to aim. Challenging the bunker in the center of the fairway is the ultimate line to the ideal spot from which to attack the small green. It’s guarded by bunkers on two sides and water on the third so precision with the approach shot is of the utmost importance.

The finishing hole, as noted earlier, is a par 5 with a twist; another island green. There’s out of bounds on the left and a hazard all the way up the right so anything can happen here. It will take a massive tee shot to give you the confidence to go for the green in two. Laying up proves to be the best option as the multitiered green is no pushover.

All in all, Pradera Verde proved to be a very pleasant golf course. It’s not overly difficult but you’ll need to play thoughtfully to post a good score. The facilities are topnotch and are open to all who desire to walk its plush fairways. Green fees are P2,000 on weekdays and P2,500 on the weekends. Excellent accommodations are available at the wakeboard park at the entrance of the property, making staying the night and playing a couple of rounds here a good option. Best of all, work is still in progress on a second 18, which will make staying and playing a must down the road.

Pradera Verde is a welcome addition to the country’s portfolio of golf courses and makes the province of Pampanga one of the best destinations for golf tourists both foreign and local.


Image credits: Mike Besa


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