Will Yanagisawa (1995), former Stanford All-American and NCAA team champion, writes about his professional golf travels overseas. Next up for Will is the China Open in Tianjin, China April 19th to the 22nd. Follow his progress at www.chinapgatour.com. Go Will!
Ten thousand and four miles, eighteen hours eleven minutes in the air on a direct shot going five hundred fifty miles per hour. That's the distance and time it would take to fly from Johor Bahru, Malaysia (which was my location) to Augusta, Georgia in the event I was to get a last minute invitation to the place with gentle piano music, Azaleas, Magnolias and a golf hole named "Chinese Fir". The invitation didn't arrive so I was happy to make due w/ my afternoon start at the Johor Golf Club.
Formerly, "Royal" Johor Golf Club, this gem of a course is located just outside of Johor Bahru City which is a mere thirty minute taxi ride over the causeway from Singapore. It costs $50 Singapore dollars to have a specially designated "Singapore-Malaysia" taxi make the journey. Once in Johor City it's another seven minute, 8-20 Malaysian Ringit taxi to the clubhouse. Taxi's in Malaysia will invariably meander along the "scenic" route unless otherwise specified, running up the meter and separating a few extra ringit from the unsuspecting tourists' wallet. A guy tried this on me one day. Upon arrival he said, "Twenty ringit, sir." I said, "I've been here for three days, making two trips a day and it's never been more than nine." He didn't even bother to take me on the scenic route. I gave him nine, told him Allah is watching and went our separate ways.
"Royal" designations like those found on courses such as The Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews, Royal Calcutta, Royal Liverpool, Royal County Downes or Royal Colwood are granted by requesting a special charter from the Crown. Apparently, upon approval, the club gets a letter from Buckingham Palace that says it's o.k. to put "Royal" on the score cards and sign boards. Not sure what would de-list a course from the "Royal" designation but when I played the Iskandar Johor Open in 2009 (where KJ Choi emerged the victor) we played the Royal Johor Golf Club. Last week we played Johor Golf Club.
All said, it was the same course I remembered from 2009 complete with narrow fairways, elevated tees, blind second shots to severely pitched greens that tilted from front to back (!). Jungle was never very far from a wayward wood or iron and the native cow grass made chipping an extra delicate affair. Staying below the hole helped maintain sanity, especially on holes nine and eighteen. In the above mentioned Johor Open, I saw a guy four tap from inside 3 feet on 18 to make the cut on the number. The fourth was from a foot above the hole and it was the best putt I hit all week!
Rainfall in Johor this time of year has to be in "the meters", creating soft raised collars. This combined w/ sloped, firm greens made front pin locations difficult to attack. Play it too fine and it plugs short, hit it hole high and it bunny hops into places where only local monkeys feel safe. After 72 holes, I stood -3 which was good for a T4th finish and a fist full of ringit.
Next up is the China Open in Tianjin, China (April 19-22). I'll be giving it my best against the flashy buckle, tight shirts on the European Tour and the mostly Australian contingent of the OneAsia (or "G'die Myte") Tour. Followed by the opening event on the China PGA Tour.
Follow it online at www.europeantour.com or www.oneasia.asia. China Tour events at www.chinapgatour.com.
Thanks for reading...catch up again soon!