Nelson & Haworth leads 36-hole renovation in the Philippines

  • Mimosa
    Nelson & Haworth

    Nelson & Haworth is progressing with a renovation project at Mimosa Plus Golf Course in the Philippines

  • Mimosa
    Nelson & Haworth

    Nelson & Haworth's master plan includes renovations to all 36 holes

  • Mimosa
    Nelson & Haworth

    The master plan retains the routing for both the Mountainview and Acacia courses, while four holes on the Lakeview course will be moved

  • Mimosa
    Nelson & Haworth

    Tiger Woods playing the par-five eighteenth on the Mountainview course in 1997

  • Mimosa
    Nelson & Haworth

    Construction has been completed on nine holes, with 18 more in progress and work on the final nine due to start soon

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Nelson & Haworth Golf Course Architects is progressing with a 36-hole renovation project at Mimosa Plus Golf Course in the Philippines.

The Mimosa golf complex was built in the mid-1990s on Clark Field, a former US air base that was damaged in 1991 by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. As a result, the US military abandoned the base, and its 18-hole course, and returned it to the Philippine authorities.

In 1992/1993, the government redeveloped the Clark area, which is approximately 100 kilometres north of Manila, as a free port zone, and appointed golf architecture firm Nelson & Wright to design a completely new 36-hole golf complex on the former Clark Field. To help with the building of the golf complex, a group of locals bulldozed and cleared playing areas of thick volcanic ash so grass could be grown.

Twenty-seven holes opened in 1994 with the final nine following shortly afterwards. Mimosa now comprises the 18-hole championship course (Mountainview) and two nine-hole layouts (Acacia and Lakeview).

“After the Fidel Ramos presidency, the original developer was removed and the government essentially took over the course,” said Brett Mogg, partner at Nelson & Haworth. “Years of lack of investment and poor maintenance standards took their toll on the courses until they and the adjoining land were taken over in 2016 by Filinvest, a major Filipino property developer with extensive interests in hotels.”

Following discussions about what could be done to improve conditions at Mimosa, Filinvest appointed Nelson & Haworth to create a master plan for renovations of all 36 holes.

“The client wished to develop a shopping mall and other developments on part of the existing golf course, and several holes needed to be rerouted to achieve this,” said Mogg, who is leading the project for Nelson & Haworth.

The course deterioration had seen greens shrinking, various grass and weed infestations, overgrown bushland, and washed-out bunkers. “The client wanted to improve the course conditions while also making improvements to the course’s playability, mainly to make the courses more enjoyable and playable by their primary clientele, a mixture of local members and visiting golfers, principally from Korea,” said Mogg.

Aside from four holes on the Lakeview course being moved to create land for the new shopping centre, Nelson & Haworth’s master plan has retained the existing routings.

“A large part of the modifications, especially to the Mountainview course, was to make them more playable for higher handicap players,” said Mogg. “The Mountainview can be tough to play, particularly off the back tees, but we wanted to make it more playable from the middle and forward tees, so some bunkers that only come into play for higher handicappers were removed. Now there is more room to run the ball on to the green and more bailouts.

“It is a fine line though, and dramatic, visually exciting holes are part of what visiting golfers are looking for, so the bunkers that remain, and are in play, have been re-finished and rebuilt to be more visually striking. New bunker liners help achieve this goal, and these were not around when the original courses were built.”

Greens also needed regrassing. “Cost-wise, there wasn’t much difference in completely rebuilding the greens, so that was ultimately the route we took,” said Mogg. “Now, greens are not only larger, but have more internal contouring than the originals, which were generally quite simple in terms of grade and contour. We also corrected a few of the problem greens.

“Over the many years that the course was abandoned, the original 419 bermudagrass had been overtaken by various other grasses and weeds. The grass that was best able to cope with the reduced maintenance and lack of irrigation was Zoysia – a local Zoysia matrella. It was clear that this grass was the best for the local conditions, and we have encouraged this grass to take over the remainder of the course. Ultimately, the owner is hoping to convert the entire golf course to Zeon Zoysia, which is a more improved version of Zoysia, with better aesthetics and playing characteristics.”

Construction has been completed on nine holes, with 18 more in progress and work on the final nine due to start soon. Green Dynasty is managing construction on all 36 holes, with contractor BGC Philbuilder working on the Mountainview course and Netforce International working on the Lakeview and Acacia nines. Randy Lewis is the lead shaper for the project.

A new Rain Bird irrigation system and pumping station will be installed, and lakes will have a new liner. AquaFUSION polyethylene fusion training will be provided by AquaFuse, which includes a three to five-day onsite training course with the construction personnel who will assemble the system.

“As with most projects around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been difficult reviewing the construction of the golf course remotely,” said Mogg. “We are doing the best we can via calls, photos, as-builts and the like – however, there really is no substitute for walking on the site and feeling the contours beneath your feet. Dirt does not photograph well so it is difficult assessing shaping remotely. You must take a leap of faith and put trust in the people on site.”