Not for sale

It’s no longer for sale.

Yes, Virginia, Club Intramuros Golf Course (CIGC), which prides itself as the only course in the country that offers night golf along with expanse of the historic walled city, is now off the market.

Heard from the golfing community that Tourism Secretary Ma. Esperanza Christina Garcia Frasco has decided to keep the CIGC, which is being managed by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) - an agency under the department of tourism (DOT).

“The Secretary is keeping the course,” a muted golf enthusiast tells me Tuesday when I played for the first time since the heat index soared to its dangerous levels.

As a student of history, I fully subscribe to keeping CIGC in the hands of the government because of its heritage and it is a national treasure. But then, again, it was heart wrenching to see the deterioration of the course.

CIGC is a daily sight when I passed through a portion of the 20.8-hectare expanse six days a week when I was still wearing a different hat more than five years ago. Back then, the view from my office window was a sight to behold with its lush greenery situated at the center of the busy streets of Bonifacio Drive and the Anda Circle with all the delivery trucks and vans going to the port area. Also, I love the sight of the course whenever the lights are turned on for the night golf.

It feels like a deja vu. It was the familiarity, but the experience Tuesday was different with a tinge of disappointment. Though some of the facilities have been upgraded with the locker room now equipped with hot water and other essentials, the course, at par 66 and 4,326 yards, has significantly deteriorated.

I am not pretty sure if it’s the scarcity of water due to the weather phenomenon, El Nino, we’re experiencing at the moment, that the tee areas in most parts of the course are sparsely covered with grass.

What was more disappointing was there was plastic grass mat to cover portions of the tee area in a number of holes. It was a painful sight considering that Andy Dye of the famous golf designer, redesigned and transformed “what was once a flat and shapeless course into a challenging layout” as well as did the rehabilitation of its facilities.

Being one of the first golf courses in the country, CIGC was said to be established in 1906, which now confuses me. Based on my research, Santa Barbara Golf Course renamed Iloilo Golf Course and Country Club, established by a group of Scottish expatriates that built the Panay Railways, is considered the first golf club in the country and the oldest existing golf course in Southeast Asia as well as the first Philippine golf club to be accepted in the world, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, based in Scotland.

While I fully support the government holding on to CIGC,  owning is altogether different from managing the course. At its present sorry condition, it may be high time for the tourism authorities to consider going into a joint venture (JV) with the private sector for its management.

Aside from putting the course on the auction block prior to the pandemic, a business venture was also an alternative. With national coffers in dire strait, JV is a good option as it “utilizes the expertise of the private sector in managing operations and maintaining a golf course facility and turn it into a sustainable profitable business venture providing first class golfing facilities and ancillary services while preserving its historical and cultural value.”

Talkback to me at [email protected]