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During the golf boom of the 1990’s, the greatest concentration of golf clubs was South of Metro-Manila. The hills of Rizal, though closer in proximity to the city center were largely neglected due mostly to the higher costs and more difficult logistics of carving a golf course out of the mountains. But those that dared were rewarded with unique golf courses with spectacular vistas.
East Ridge Golf Club, set in the hills straddling the towns of Antipolo, Angono and Binangonan is a great example of this breed. Carved out of the limestone foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range some 200-meters above sea level, East Ridge is unique among mountain top courses in that it is a course that offers the stunning vistas one expects from such a location but can be played on foot without too much duress.
The design is the handiwork of James Martell, Jr., once an apprentice of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. one of the most successful golf architects in the world. Martell learned his lessons well. He built the course around most of the land’s natural attractions while creating many scenic spots from which to enjoy the marvellous vistas.
The golf course straddles a ridge with the front nine on one side, the back nine on the other with the clubhouse in between. The front nine has a more open feel to it while the back nine turns toward the mountain, is tighter and requires the golfer to put more thought into each shot. The course is very well constructed and drains better than most. The greens are hard and fast year round, further testament to the course’s build quality.
If I had to choose a word that best described this golf course, it would be balance. It’s a fair course to play and truly offers something for golfers of all abilities. It’s accessible for the novice and yet offers plenty to challenge the more skilled. It’s not overly long, but it’s no pushover either. There is great variety in the design and this is its greatest appeal. There are some great short holes here, something that so many other golf courses have in short supply. These are holes that make you think and if played correctly they are ultimately rewarding but will penalize the errant shot severely. There are some very difficult holes too; ones that most would be happy to bogey and move on. These are holes where pars feel like birdies and will easily bring you back to the course for more.
Four is a great golf hole; measuring 422-yards from the gold tees, the fairway drops far below the tees before turning upward to the large, very difficult green. Five is a gem; short and seemingly benign with water cramping the landing area of the tee shot. Six is a gorgeous par 5 whose fairway winds around a ravine then up towards another difficult green. Nine might not be the most difficult hole on the outward nine but it’s certainly the most intimidating. And spectacular. The ravine on the left plays havoc with the mind off the tee and seems to blind most golfers to the bunkers and hazard on the right side of the fairway. The green is a large two-tiered affair which places a premium on distance control with the approach.
Eleven is a gem; it’s a difficult tee shot with a hazard on the left of the fairway and out-of-bounds on the right. The approach shot to the elevated green is difficult to judge correctly. It’s imperative to get it right to score well here. Thirteen is a great risk-reward hole; a good tee shot over water is the key to reaching the green in two. Measuring 462-yards from the tips, seventeen is a beast of a par 4 and is the hardest hole on the golf course. It is a stern test of your prowess off the tee.
The clubhouse is a large, airy design and is one of the best around. There are comfortable locker facilities and ample space for tournaments and other functions. A stunning view of Laguna de Bay is mere paces from the veranda. The food is wonderful; the native specialties are very highly recommended. The gising-gising, sinuglaw and caldereta are very highly recommended. There are complete practice facilities at the golfer’s disposal. Ronnie Casas is the resident pro and Jun Cedo operates the golf academy on the weekends. There’s even an archaeological wonder, the Angono Petroglyphs just off the eleventh fairway. Combine that with the club’s proximity to the Thunderbird Rizal casino and resort and there’s plenty to do beyond the golf.
East Ridge is a golf course with so much going for it; it’s a wonder that there aren’t more golfers crowding its fairways. One thing’s for sure; the club will definitely be seeing more of me.