Golf may have been first introduced in Indonesia over a century ago with the first golf course built in Rawamangun, East Jakarta, but the sport has failed to catch on across all sectors of society.
Courses owners have been struggling with major obstacles for decades and the common perception that golf is a rich person’s sport has pretty much jeopardized the sport’s development.
Christine Wiradinata, Secretary General of the Indonesia Golf Course Owners Association (APLGI) said owners had long faced discrimination when it came to taxes.
“The government has been charging 35 percent tax on golf courses, the same as recreation places such as Waterbom since early 2000. After we had the regulation reviewed by the Constitutional Court in 2012, we were told golf belongs to the rich people,” said Christine in a one-day seminar at Jakarta’s Pondok Indah Golf Course, last week.
“Golf courses are not fully recreational destinations, because it helps boost the country’s sport development as well. It is just unfair.”
Christine claimed golf courses bring more advantages both to local people and the environment.
“A course may recruit up to 500 people and attract service industries in the area. They undeniably improve the locals’ economy.”
“A golf course stands as green open spaces in a crowded city like Jakarta. Research released in 2008 by Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) stated they play an important role as the city’s water reservoir and habitat for few unique species.”
Though struggling, Christine said, Indonesian golf courses are showing progress.
Indonesia, with 149 courses nationwide, 72 on Java alone, was appointed the second Best Golf Destination in Asia Pacific after Thailand at this year’s Asia Pacific Golf Summit.
The country even defeated its neighbor, Malaysia, which boasts more courses and China with its outstanding progress in golf development.
“Our golf courses have more to offer than other Asia Pacific countries. They are international standard designed by the world’s top designers. The weather also allows people to keep playing all year long. It is all supported with good quality service, good price, and of course, unique views,” Christine added.
“Tiger Woods first came to Malaysia in 1999 after a state-owned enterprise agreed to support the golfer’s $ 1 million appearance fee.
“Thailand has proclaimed itself one of the world’s top golf destinations in 1997 and the Chinese government agreed to reduce taxes on courses to help development.
“Here in Indonesia, it has been very difficult for us to get sponsors to even hold junior tournaments. But we will stick to our commitment to golf development by giving helping potential young players with cheap or even free green fees.”
A ray of sunshine has come from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy announcing it would promote sports tourism including golf.
“It’s a breakthrough that needs supports from us. We thank the government for that,” Christine said.
George Gandranata turned pro last year. He said he used to practice for free on several golf courses when he was a kid.
“I played for free in Serpong on Monday, Matoa in Depok on Tuesday, and Pangkalan Jati from Wednesday to Friday. It helped me a lot improve my skills until I reach what I have now,” George said. (Jakarta Globe)