The Els Club Desaru Valley in Malaysia, designed by Vijay Singh in partnership with Ernie Els, launched today to significant fanfare. At the launch Vijay shared his thoughts on the site, the vision for the future and he also allowed us a quickfire series of questions – and we had The Masters on our mind!
What were your first impressions of the site prior to the construction of the Valley Course, and did you instantly recognise that it would make for a world-class golf course?
The impact was immediate. Even though it was densely covered in vegetation, the elevation changes gave us lots of routing opportunities, which as a designer gives you the challenge and prospect of creating something unique.
Given the scale of the wider Desaru Coast destination development, I felt we could create something iconic. We always strive to deliver a product that impresses and surpasses expectations. Combining with Ernie and his team allowed us to blend our visions to really get the most out of the property.
What goals did you have in mind while creating the Valley Course?
We wanted to create something that sparked interest in Desaru Coast. It was clear the rationale of the ownership group in bringing in Ernie and The Els Club brand was to put the destination on the map. This was a first for both myself and Ernie. We have enjoyed a great relationship on and off the course, so when the opportunity of collaborating with him and his design team came along, we were very excited at the prospect of working together.
On a personal level, I have always enjoyed golf courses that encourage me to try and play a range of shots. I also wanted to create something that left golfers with an image of each hole imprinted in their mind. You can leave some courses unable to really remember some of the holes. At the Valley, we wanted the guests to leave in awe. When you see the finished product, I think we you will agree we have achieved that.
Tell us what kind of challenge and experience golfers can expect when they play the Valley Course?
I feel that it provides a real element of escapism for golfers. You find yourself on this tranquil corner of south-east Malaysia, overlooking the ocean and to Singapore in the distance. The atmosphere and location really set the tone and we think the golf course only adds to the experience of the Desaru Coast.
I know from a service and hospitality perspective, the teams at Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels and Troon will provide the very best experience for anyone who comes. We want guests to be greeted by an immaculately-conditioned golf course, but at the same time a first-class off-course experience, and I know that our partners will be able to deliver this all year round.
Can you envisage a Championship ever being played on the Valley Course?
I think in time it certainly has what it takes to test the best in the world. I know Desaru Coast will be populated with several premier hotels and additional leisure attractions, so bringing the TV cameras alongside a tour event would make a lot of sense.
How has your experience as one of the greatest players in the world informed your creation of the Valley Course? Does your success in the game give you the upper hand over other designers?
First and foremost, I would say the range of golf courses I have played around the world over my career has shaped my opinion on what makes a great golf course design.
I have played some of the toughest-conditioned courses, that leave you feeling pretty raw about the experience, but at the same time relished the challenge a more difficult course poses.
You have to strike the balance as a designer and find your own sweet-spot. There is much debate about who the great designers are, but it is so subjective. I try and approach the design as I saw the game; needing all the shots and rewarding well-placed and executed shots. When you get your hands on a great piece of land, like Desaru Coast, you can do this.
Both you and Ernie are honorary members of the Asian Tour. Clearly a part of the world you have fond memories of. How has your experience been in Malaysia?
I have always loved my experiences in Asia. For me, the hospitality and the people really make visits that little bit extra special. Malaysia has been great. The ownership group have been exceptional; professional in their approach and steadfast in their ambition to deliver a world-class destination in Desaru and wider economic impact for the nation’s tourism economy. The region of Johor Bahru has also shown some real class in how it is innovating and planning for the future.
Quick Fire with Vijay
- Who is the best player on tour right now? Dustin Johnson
- What is the best shot you have hit at Augusta? During a contest at the Masters in 2009, I skipped my ball over the water and into the 16th hole for a hole in one.
- What is the best shot you have ever hit? My birdie on the 17th hole during the playoff at Whistling Straights at the 2004 PGA Championship, which I won.
- If you could only win one more major, which would you chose? The Open Championship.
- What is the worst shot you have hit in tournament play? There are too many to count.
- If you could have one shot back again, which would it be? My tee shot on the 14th hole at TPC Sawgrass in 2001 that went into the water resulting in a triple bogey. I was leading the tournament and ended up losing by 1 shot.
- What is your favourite golf course? Augusta.
- What is your all time 4-ball? Me, my father, my brother and my son.
- Favourite hole in the world? The 8th Hole at Pebble Beach.
- What is your proudest moment in golf? Winning the Masters in 2000.
- If you and Ernie played head-to-head tomorrow, who would win? Me.
- What is the biggest difference between the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour? The length of the courses.
- Who is the best player you’ve ever played with? Tiger Woods.
- Best round of golf you’ve ever played? My 3rd round at the 2000 Masters was the best round I ever played.
- Tiger/Vijay/Ernie/Phil? or Rory/Dustin/Day/Spieth? Tiger/Vijay/Ernie/Phil
- Favourite swing of all time? Ben Hogan.
- Worst & best pieces of advice you have been given? I’ve heard too many bad pieces of advice to remember but the best piece of advice is to maintain a good rhythm in golf.
- If you could give a golfer one tip what would it be? Hit the ball with 80% power.