Getting to know a person takes time. It takes time and patience. Lots of both. The more time you spend with the person, the more of yourself that you invest in that person, the more open you become to that person, the better you will get to know him/her. When things are going smoothly, it’s lovely. But you have to take the good with the bad. Coping with the bad side of the person is the key to the relationship.
Despite calling Silay City home, I have not had the pleasure of playing the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club, which everyone calls Marapara, very long at all. Since I started writing about golf for 13 years now, I’ve only played five complete rounds here. There was that one PAL Interclub when I was covering the tournament for a magazine. I played the back nine and that was it. But including the two rounds played on this visit, my total rounds on this course comes to just five.
Previous visits were well timed, which resulted in fabulous golf in good to very good conditions. But the timing of this visit left us open to less than pleasant weather. Masskara isn’t the best time to visit Bacolod unless you want to experience the festival. Streets close, the airports are full and ticket prices are at a premium. Prices, thankfully, are stable in spite of the deluge of tourists.
The fly in the ointment was a tropical storm within the country’s area of responsibility. It brought erratic weather but mostly a lot of rain. Most of which coincided with the playing dates of the Mayor’s Cup golf tournament, which was being held to celebrate Bacolod City’s Foundation Day.
Bad luck. For me and for everyone else that played that week because the storm brought out Marapara’s dark side.
On my first article on Marapara, I wrote, “True to Golem Silverio’s preferences as a golfer, Marapara is a true ball striker’s golf course. The course is tight and lined with trees so keeping the ball in play is a must. You don’t have to be long to score well but you do have to play from the fairway. A fairway wood or even a hybrid off the tee is sufficient in most cases. The greens are receptive; a well-struck shot will hold or spin back. The greens roll very well for zoysia but do allow for the grain for which the stuff is famous for. The dry conditions made for plenty of roll and one needs to be mindful of that in the course of the round.”
When conditions were such as we encountered on this visit, you can throw the part about the course not being that long, as well as that last sentence right out the window.
The soggy golf course at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club was already playing a lot longer than memory served. The arrival of typhoon-strength winds really bared its fangs. There weren’t too many issues with wind on the first nine. The wind hits these holes from the South sweeping across the fairways. The tree lines negate much of it. However, on the longer, tougher inward nine, from holes 11 through 15, the wind was either with you or directly in your face making the longer windward holes unreachable in regulation.
Eleven is the 4-handicap and measures an even 400 yards from the tips. The hole doglegs around and over a hazard to a very difficult green. The front half of the green has significant slope to it with green speeds much quicker than you’ll find elsewhere on the golf course. The ideal tee shot just skirts the trees on the inside of the dogleg, leaving you a long iron or hybrid to the green. No issues with the tee shot but the approach to the green plays directly into the wind. When the wind is up you can hit a full 3-wood and not reach the green.
Twelve and 13 are short. No issues here. Fourteen plays downwind. This helps you get to the long par 4 over water in regulation in spite of the conditions. But 15 was almost unplayable. We all hit driver and the longest club we carried and were still 50 yards to 60 yards short of the green. Seventeen has always been a very difficult hole. Under these circumstances, it played even harder. Without any roll, it is well out of reach of the average golfer in regulation.
The finishing par 5 will break your spirit if you’re not striking the ball well. With the fairway soaked and squishy, you feel every single one of the final hole’s 618 yards. The relief is palpable as you saunter into the clubhouse, muddied and bruised but not broken.
As distasteful an experience as this may sound to many of you, I quite enjoy rounds like this. They teach you things about yourself. Your shotmaking is ruthlessly examined. Poor shots are punished, big numbers lurk on every hole. They test your guile and resiliency and toughen you up for your future battles on the golf course. It was…an experience.
Now that I’ve seen the ugly side of Marapara, I am more enamored with the golf course than ever. Yes, it isn’t the best conditioned golf course in the country. Yes, it gets muddy in the rain; in fact, some fairways are almost impossible to walk as they turn into mud bogs. And yes, the course is far from perfect.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good time. Every good score at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club makes me puff out my chest and fills me with pride. As the course designer, Golem Silverio would want, it is a ball striker’s course. It requires thoughtful aggression and exacting distance control to post a good score. It is ultimately exciting and exhilarating to play well here and there are ever so many reasons to return to the sock-shaped isle and not all of them are on the golf course.
The warmth and openness of the people here are legendary. Their hospitality and gentle manner will melt even the most callused of hearts and this is the most compelling reason to make Negros Occidental a favorite stop on any trip to the Visayas.
Personally, I can’t wait to return to challenge myself and the golf course again.
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