Best of the Maldives: Assisted Lagoon Chipping – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah - chipping green

For the golfers in need of a little safety net for their over water chip shots, One & Only Reethi Rah also have a floating green, but equipped with a back screen to provide a little more forgiveness to imperfect shots. They’ve also equipped the tee with an astro-turf topped platform for a stable surface…

  • “The floating hole-in-one deck at the Beach Club. The golf ball used at this platform is called ‘Ecobioball’ – which is a biodegradable golf ball that contains fish food at its core. Once the golf ball is submerged in the sea, it transforms into fish food, making it ecological. Any guests are welcome to practice their swings here – available daily from 10am to 7pm, at a charge of US$ 30 for 6 Ecobioballs. Price is subject to 10% service charge and applicable GST.”

Net dividends for offshore players.

Best of the Maldives: Golf Inflatable – Velaa

Velaa - golf inflatable 2

As if Velaa didn’t have enough golf course on the island, they have added a green OFF the island. With their special inflatable golf hole, guests can have a wedge masterclass on the beach with the floating green. The resort uses biodegradable balls which dissolve into fish food. This “Best of the Maldives” ticks another “finally seen” (#17, Post 19) and one step closer to my dream of a hole in the Maldives where the tee is on one island and the hole is one a neighbouring one. Like the Maldives, such a hole would be 90% water hazard. (I’m especially lovin’ the Piero-like effects on the shot below.)

Velaa - golf inflatable

Best of the Maldives: Golf Pro – Velaa

Velaa - golf pro

If you need a hand following you around the golf course with your game, Velaa resort offers its very own resident golf pro – Christopher Snape. He can wield Velaa’s armamentarium of space-age analytical tools or just join you for a round.

We caught up with Christopher to tap into a few of his tips and insights into playing in paradise…

  • How did you find yourself on a Maldives resort?
    I work for TROON golf who operate the Academy here Velaa. When I was asked by them if I was interested I practically bit their hand off at the opportunity.
  • What was the most luxurious course you have played prior to Velaa?
    Many courses, what I classify as my second home would be Praia Del Rey in Portugal where I spent 6 years as the Professional.
  • What is your favourite caddie tip for people playing the Velaa course?
    Be conservative with your approach shots, if you take on shots and don’t play them to perfection you will be punished.
  • What’s your best score playing the course?
    When we have low handicapped players in residence we play a very tough formation my best score around that formation was -2.
  • What are people most surprised about playing the Velaa course?
    The quality of the playing surfaces and the beautiful landscape

At the FOOOOREfront.

Best of the Maldives: Links Golf – Shanrgi-La Villingili

Shangri-La Villingili - golf course start

Golf is a good walk spoiled” – Mark Twain

And if you are going to “spoil” your walk, you might as well make it a great one along the coastal beauty of Maldivian paradise. According to Shangri-La Villingili (and I haven’t been able to find any examples to contradict them), their 9-hole golf course is the *only* course in the world where *every* hole is on the ocean. Of course, Scottish links are the world showcases for links play, but even the legendary St. Andrews only has its front nine on the ocean (the back nine returns inland).

I love it when Maldives resorts push their activities out to the ocean. For years, the “activities” (eg. spas, fitness centres, sports areas) were sequestered in the middle of the island. I guess this made use of this interior and they figured that people would be so busy doing their thing that they wouldn’t need breath-taking views. But the whole point of doing these activities on holiday in the Maldives is to enjoy them *with* the bonus of the enchanting ambiance. Now, the top properties put their spas and gyms and other activities right on the water which lured people to the destination in the first place.

During our Tour visit to Villingili this summer, Lori and I actually got to play a proper round of golf on this distinctive course. As I noted in my tour report, it might be just a par 3 course, but it is still a serious course – seriously laid out, seriously challenging, seriously beautiful surroundings and seriously fun. Not our best round of playing (see Twain quote above), but certainly one of the most spectacular rounds we’ve ever played.

The course does require a very precise approach game as the fairways are narrow (limited real estate) and unforgiving (eg, the big, blue ocean looming to the right of every shot). Elite golf these days is all about the approach. Everyone on Tour can drive plenty far enough with accuracy, but the birdies are made on heroic approach shots landing close to the pin or heroic putts from further away from the pin (and the former are a bit easier to achieve for a pro).

Also during our stay, I had a chance to meet one of the course designers and architect, Kai Smit, and ask him a few questions about this Olympic calibre course. As the Rio Games finish up today (including the first ever Olympic Golf Tournament), here is an in depth look at Maldives’ own tropical golf course…

• What was the inspiration to build a golf course on such limited space?

The southern tip of Villingili Island was undeveloped and the location where the Project Contractor Dormitory was located. This parcel of land was also the logistics centre for materials and equipment that had to be imported to construct the Hotel. It also served as a centre for project waste collection before shipped off the island. The Challenge was twofold, namely 1) to restore the natural habitat and environment to be consistent with the rest of the Island and 2.) try to introduce a value added recreational activity for Resort Guests without harming the environment. The orientation and scale of the peninsula lent itself to be a superb 9 hole – Par 3 Golf Course. Providing a pleasant walk at Dawn and Dusk. All Golf Holes could be routed alongside the ocean, creating 9 greens next to water and ensuring that when playing at dawn or dusk – the players did not look into the sun on the first five outward holes and the last three inward holes. The only hole that the player may look into the sun at Dawn is the signature 6th Hole that faces eastward – and what a sight that can be!

• What was the biggest challenge to building the course?

The limited supply of sand and elevation of the land . Neap tide also presented some challenges as the course is low lying and the eastern shoreline on the peninsula can experience some rough sea conditions.

• What is your favourite hole?

The signature 6th Hole with the ocean backdrop of breaking waves.

• Any tips for playing for course?

Ensure that you have enough golf balls and stay out of the ocean. Generally, the course favours the player hitting a draw as opposed to those players who like to shape the shot from left to right. Below is a photo tour of the course with the overall layout map directly below, with the individual hole layouts below that. Then following is each of the (a) tee shot views, and (b) green views.

Clubbing at its best!

Shangri-La Villingili - golf course layout

Shangri-La Villingili - golf course card

(click on picture for a zoom in)

1st HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 1 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 1 - green

2nd HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 2 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 2 - green

3rd HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 3 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 3 - green

4th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 4 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 4 - green

5th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 5 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 5 - green

6th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 6 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 6 - green

7th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 7 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 7 - green

8th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 8 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 8 - green

9th HOLE
Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 9 - tee view  Shangri-La Villingili - golf course - hole 9 - green

Best of the Maldives: Kids Golf – Velaa

Velaa - kids golf

Not only do the Olympics introduce you to some sports you might not have seen regularly on TV, but the Games themselves are introducing new sports keeping up with the athletic trends around the world. One of the new sports is Golf. Well, not totally new. It was a part of the Ganes back in 1904, but dropped ever since. Assuming it will stick around a bit longer this time, you have the chance to get junior or lil miss ready for Paris/Rome/Budpest/LA 2024 at Velaa’s elite links. Maybe a lil’ course for the lil’uns, but make no mistake…these are no toys. Velaa kits even the little ones out with top of the line Callaway equipment (see above).

Best of the Maldives: Golf Analysis – Velaa

Velaa - golf analysis 2

Golf seasons kicks off with the US Open this week. Lori and I have gotten our clubs out this week and I shot my best ever round. If I want to improve further, it seems like the modern game has become as much science as any art or athleticism. Weight training, nutritionists, sports psychologists. And an entire armamentarium of gadgets to dissect every nuance.

No surprises that the titan of the tees in the Maldives, Velaa resort, has some of the most space age technology available to help with your game. Among their tools is a Science and Motion (SAM) Putt Lab, but the centrepiece is their Flight Scope Doppler Radar. A $50,000 piece of kit. Velaa Golf Pro Frank Murray took me through a few pointers on my swing during my Velaa visit see below) so hats off to him and his armoury or arm analysis for whatever contribution he made to my progress.

Velaa - golfd analysis

Best of the Maldives: Pro Shop – Velaa

Velaa - pro shop 1

Black Friday – The biggest shopping day of the year in the USA (and probably the planet). Now is the time to start pulling out that Christmas shopping list and finding those elusive perfect presents. Fortunately, in our family, Lori and I have started playing more golf lately now that the kids have grown up. And there is no one easiser tro buy for than a golfer. There is no end to the gear and paraphernalia that a golfer can make use of. Not to mention all of the golf-themed day-to-day items like mugs, paperweights and statuettes.

By far the best golf shop (“Pro Shop” in the vernacular) in the Maldives is Velaa’s own at their Golf Academy. They carry Tilelist balls, FootJoy shirts and all manner of golf items. They also provide Addidas shoes, Callaway and Taylor Made clubs for complementary use by guests using the facility.

Lori and I had our biggest shopping spree of our nearly two decades visiting the Maldives as the Velaa Pro Shop. Here’s hoping your Black Friday is as successful and easy for you.

Velaa - pro shop 2

Best of the Maldives: Golf – Velaa

Velaa - gold sand trap

There’s “Best of the Maldives”…and then there is “Best of the World”. Velaa’s golf academy is not just a Maldivian high point, it is world class paragon of pars. One could make the case that it is one of the best short courses in the world. It is certainly one of the most exclusive.

I know that I have featured Velaa’s golf academy already. I did so on the basis of the press reports which made clear that the resort had introduced something special. But only when I visited it was I able to appreciate how extraordinary this feature of the resort is.

So expect to see a good number more pieces on various special aspects of this one piece of the island that all stand out among the resorts in the Maldives, such as…

  • Kids Golf
  • Golf Store
  • Hazards
  • Golf Pro
  • Golf Technology
  • Inflatable Hole

The course itself consists of 8 tees and 6 holes which can be combined into a 48 possible “holes” ranging from 55 to 194 yards. No worry of bumping into other golfers or being rushed or held up since when you play, the entire course is devoted to you. Sometimes when we play locally and for some reason our course is particularly deserted, we like to fantasize that we are playing our own private course. At Velaa, you actually can make that fantasy come true.

The grass on the fairways could very well be the most expensive in the world. It is made of a special variety – Pure Dynasty Sea Shore Paspalum – suited for the sand and heat that has to be planted a seedling at a time. When the resort was being developed, it took an army of workers over a month to hand plant each blade of turf.

Just the week before my visit, I had been up at the British Open at St. Andrews (coincidentally, so had the Velaa Golf Pro Frank Murray). As a result, I’m reminded that holes that overlap and share each other’s space is nothing new for links golf. In fact, Velaa sort of reminds you of St. Andews – unparalleled quality, smell of salty ocean nearby, and a pervasive carpet of short grass across fairways and greens (the weather similarities between the Maldives and Scotland are another story, however).

Furthermore, one of the lessons of the Open is the criticality of the short game. Not just the adage of “drive for show, putt for dough”, but also underscoring the importance of the approach shot. Essentially, none of the Open competitors varied much in the tee shots. In fact, very few hit their drives anywhere near as far as they could have (is that an oxymoron?). On a Par 4 (which all but a couple of the hole were), everyone drove a near identical 200 yards give or take, clean and placed precisely where they wanted it. Then, they made their birdies on either amazing approach shots landing within 10 feet of the pin, or amazing putts they sunk over 10 feet. Everything else was approach and 2-putt for par. All the birdies depended on the short game.

So if you want to perfect your short game on a course as gorgeous as the paradise that surrounds it, then Velaa is the resort for you.

Ace!

 

Velaa - golf course map

 

Velaa - Golf Digest

Best of the Maldives: Golf Academy – Velaa

Velaa - golf academy beach

Welcome to the neighbourhood to Velaa resort which opened this week. The latest of the super-premium gold-plated rush. In line with its elite spec, it includes another addition to the under-represented pastime of golf in the country with its own golf academy…

“Golf enthusiasts can enjoy the only ‘Short Game Golf Academy’ in the Maldives, 170m of greens and a swing studio carefully crafted by Masters Champion Jose Maria Olazabal”

 

Velaa - golf academy close up

Best of the Maldives: Golf Simulator – Holiday Island

Holiday Island golf simulator

 

 

 

Despite the limited hectares for full fledged golf courses (for the time being), you can still get in some coaching on your shots with the high tech golf simulators available. The Beach House at Iruveli features one (as noted before), but Holiday Island has *two* for twice the fun as well as the opportunity to bring a partner to share the fun and tips with.