18 holes of wonder
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - April 6, 2019 - 12:00am

TAGUILON, Dapitan City, Philippines — It is only a 30-minute drive from Dipolog City’s airport, but it may as well be otherworldly. For many, their experience of Dakak was of the resort, and many years ago. For this writer, it was four years ago, at the launch of the golf club, and a face-to-face with golfing legend Greg Norman. But the course’s transformation since is nothing short of stunning.

For one, kilometers of new, smooth, concrete road undulate gently through the main gate into Dakak Golf and the adjoining resort. The breath-taking scenery serves notice that you are somewhere unlike any other place you have been. You feel your usually tense, city-grounded self slowing down, relaxing, as you get to the heart of the 50-hectare, 6,500-yard par 72 wonder. This trip was special, personally guided by Rick Gibson, Asian Tour champion and now president of Dakak Golf, Inc.

“Much of what you will see here is unheard-of in golf,” says Gibson, who is happily guiding the finishing touches on the back nine. “To begin with, there is a record 1.9 miles of ocean in play, beating the record 1.6 miles of Pebble Beach.”

 Gibson showed The STAR around both the finished front nine and the back half of the course, whose grass is being laid down in time for the full opening in November. There are three par 3’s, three par 4’s and three par 5’s on each nine, and every hole has its challenges. Seven of the first nine holes face the Sulu Sea, a feature unique to Dakak. The entire property is a seamless blend of blue and green, and there are seldom any man-made structures in sight. You will forget where you came from. Luckily for Dakak, they have all the earth and sand they need right on site, and the grass is specially grown for then nearby, tens of thousands of square feet at a time. And water is not a problem in this part of Zamboanga del Norte. Typhoons also rarely disturb the tranquility.

The first hole alone is already special. On an elevated position just below the property’s quaint chapel, you look down onto a long fairway with the beach all along the left side of the fairway. It seems like an unimpeded shot, because the wind blows in midway into your shot. This is just a sample of the varied and uncommon challenges one will face at every hole. 

For this writer, the most stunning vista – arguably in all of golf – would be the ninth tee. From an elevated position, you have a straight shot down onto the fairway, with water on the sides, embraced by greenery everywhere. Deceptive in its simplicity, distracting in its beauty. But, depending on the time of the year, the breeze will carry your ball to the left (as it does now) or right (as it will later in the year). It is also on another hill beside this unforgettable sight that Dakak Golf will construct 80 to 90 luxury villas, in gated enclaves of five units each. These homes will have their own access road aside from the golf club’s main road.

One of Dakak’s pet projects will be its golf academy, sitting on a large parcel of land within the course. You could drive hundreds of yards unimpeded, and play practically half a round in a creatively laid-out plot. Everywhere you turn is nature, not a single structure in sight. Best of all, it will be lighted, so young golfers can practice at night. It will be the premiere learning institution for the sport in the Philippines. 

On the back nine, you will also face Crocodile Point, whose fairway narrows like the snout of the said predator, with a sheer drop on each side. You aim to the side, towards Pacquiao Point (yes, he has a place here, too), and pray the wind carries you through. This writer also saw Chairman’s revenge, where you can barely see the green as you’re shooting over a small waterfall. Most who are cowed take a drop, but a few hardy souls try to get over and past the few indigenous trees guarding the green.

With all this fresh air and unencumbered natural beauty, it’s a wonder anyone would finish. True enough, at a Rotary Club tournament played at Dakak Tuesday and Wednesday, it was not uncommon for flights to take four hours to play through the finished front nine. Everyone wanted pictures from every angle of each hole, it seems. They knew they were in a special place. 

Once you’ve swung a club in this paradise, you wouldn’t want your round to end, either.

DAKAK GOLF GREG NORMAN RICK GIBSON
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