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Laguna’s hidden gem

Pick a different set of tees and you can have a more enjoyable round with spectacular views of the lake and lush greenery

Like most golfers, when Laguna golf is mentioned, we think of courses along or just off the South Luzon Expressway or SLEX. If you’re coming from Alabang, there’s Hallow Ridge, Southwoods, Santa Elena, The Country Club, Canlubang Golf and Country Club, Canlubang Sugar Estate (Old Canlubang) and finally, Ayala Greenfield.

Not a bad collection of courses, if I may say so. But there’s another gorgeous championship golf facility with 36 holes in a part of Laguna that’s not so top of mind (yet) — Caliraya Springs Golf Club at The Hamptons Caliraya.

Caliraya is in the town of Cavinti, Laguna, about an hour and a half past Los Baños. Alternatively, you can also take the eastern route from Metro Manila and pass through Rizal. Caliraya Springs is a course many have heard about but haven’t tried.

When I first got to play it six years ago, I was surprised to discover a championship layout with so much character, nestled along Lake Caliraya’s picturesque shores. I have since played both courses a number of times. The older Arnold Palmer course plays long but fair.

With Caliraya being on a plateau high above Laguna’s coastal towns, constant winds provide additional challenge to the rolling course. A number of ICTSI events are regularly held there, proving the course is long and tough enough from the tips for even the country’s best professionals. Junior golf events are also regularly held at the facility.

Pick a different set of tees and you can have a more enjoyable round with spectacular views of the lake and lush greenery.

The Graham Marsh Course, opened just a couple of years ago, is a bit more friendly to the average weekend warrior. Playing shorter and with much wider fairways, it ensures a fun day out whether you’re new to the game or a competitive amateur.

For visiting golfers, Caliraya Springs general manager Jerome Baldoz has come up with innovative packages for individuals and groups of all sizes. There are tournament packages for groups as small as 20, yearly tournament passes for non-members who would like to join monthly tournaments and get discounted green fees, and other enticing packages for everyone.

On regular days, and even on weekends, Caliraya Springs doesn’t get too crowded. While the active members play regularly, you can still enjoy a nice relaxing round without crowded tee boxes and marshals breathing down your neck.

Playing Caliraya feels like having your own private course, where the staff attends to your every need. And that doesn’t end with the golf. Like any respectable course, dining is given utmost attention at Caliraya Springs Golf Club.

La Cucina de Caliraya Springs offers a good mix of Asian and Filipino comfort food at the clubhouse. Mr. David Du, the club’s VP for Operations personally curated the menu.

As a foodie himself, Mr. Du ensured that members and guests are served only the best and he is very hands-on, sharing his food expertise and discoveries to make La Cucina’s menu a nice mix of Filipino, Chinese, Korean and Japanese specialties.

Among the specialty dishes we got to try were their Special Sisig, Beef Caldereta, Sinigang na Bangus, Pinakbet and Gising Gising. I must say, all that attention to detail has resulted in dishes that are tasty and familiar — exactly what golfers need after a game. The serving sizes are for sharing and quite reasonably priced, too.

Aside from golf and food, Caliraya Springs and the Hamptons development offer activities for the entire family, not just for the golfing public. It truly is a family destination, complete with accommodations, adventure sports, great views and cool weather comparable to Tagaytay.

Caliraya Springs is definitely worth a visit, and it is advisable to stay a night or two to experience all there is to do. Of course, for us golfers, the course is the priority and Caliraya Springs’ Palmer and Marsh courses offer great golfing for all skill levels.

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