A Secret Garden of Golf (Mind the Jungle) - Tourism Indonesia




Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Secret Garden of Golf (Mind the Jungle)

Think Indonesia and tourism, and the first thing that comes to mind is probably Bali. Think golf holiday, and most people would dream of Scotland or Ireland. But Indonesia harbors one of the best-kept secrets in the world of travel: it is a golfer’s paradise.

Within an hour or so of Jakarta, there are more championship golf courses — designed by the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Robert Trent Jones Jr. — than probably in any other comparable geographic place on the planet; and the cost of a round is often less than the cost of a caddy at St. Andrews.

I’M not the only foreigner who took up golf while living in Jakarta. Many ambassadors and expatriate executives who had never played before become true believers, routinely getting up at 4:30 or 5 on a Saturday morning (not easy in a city with a vibrant night life).

For one thing, with the pollution and traffic, and little green space, golf offers a rare chance to get some outside activity. And the cost of playing is a fraction of what it would be in the United States, Europe or Australia — only on Bali does it cost more than $100 a round, and on most courses the greens fee during the week comes to less than $50.


I took an informal survey of playing colleagues for courses they would recommend to visitors. The panel, whose handicaps ranged from 2 to 28, included five ambassadors, several foreign business executives and an Indonesian, Winston Wiharto, who owns a courier company, is a member at several clubs and is the intrepid organizer of a motley bunch for Saturday golf (groups.yahoo.com/group/wwfriendship).

Here are their recommendations:


Jagorawi Golf and Country Club (62-21-875-3810-15; www.jagorawi.com) is about 45 minutes south of Jakarta on the Jagorawi toll road. This is the rare course that is difficult to get on without a member sponsor. But guests at the Lodge at Jagorawi (62-21-879 02483), where a double is 550,000 rupiahs, about $60, and a suite 880,000, or $95, can play, as well use the 25-meter pool and the tennis courts.

Another option is to stay at the Gran Melia, a 428-room, luxury hotel in central Jakarta (62-21-526-8080, www.granmeliajakarta.com), which has an arrangement with Jagorawi, allowing guests to play. John Richards, the general manager at the Park Lane (www.parklanejakarta.com), and managers at other hotels, including the Shangri-La and Mandarin, can get guests at their hotels privileges as well.

Emeralda Golf Club (62-21-875-9019; www.emeraldagolfclub.com) is just down the toll road from Jagorawi, as is the Riverside Golf Club (62-21-867-1533; www.riverside-golf.com), where there is a meandering swimming pool for children or a spouse who might not play golf.

Bukit Pelangi Golf and Country Club, or Rainbow Hill (62-251-270-222, www.bukitpelangigolf.com), is not far from those courses, but is at a higher altitude in Bogor, and so is delightfully cooler.

Bumi Serpong Damai (62-21-537-0290; www.damaiindah-golf.com) in North Jakarta is another course that is supposed to be for “members and guests.” But I had no trouble getting a tee time on a Monday morning a couple of months ago.

Bogor Raya (62-251-271-888; www.bogorlakeside.com/golf.html) is a verdant course in pleasant climes near Bogor. Its clubhouse has a locker room that offers views of the greenery.

Rancamaya Golf and Country Club (62-251-242 282; www.rancamayaestate.com) is a resort-housing-golf development near Bogor Raya. It is hard, but not impossible, to play without a member sponsor, but it has a long list of courses in the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia with which it has reciprocal privileges.

Cenkareng Golf Club (62-21-5591-1111; www.cengkarenggolfclub.com) is so close to the international airport that the local name for a high tee shot is a Garuda, after the national airline. One of the most popular courses in Southeast Asia, it gets more than 70,000 rounds a year. But the wear doesn’t show on this well-maintained course. The biggest drawback is that if a military general or high government official shows up, he and his entourage are given priority, and a round can take six hours.


Bali Nirwana (62-361-815-960; www.nirwanabaligolf.com) at Le Méridien Nirwana Golf and Spa Resort was designed by Greg Norman, and has a feel of Pebble Beach or New South Wales. It is often on lists of top 100 courses in the world. The par 3 seventh hole abuts the Indian Ocean, with a view of a Hindu temple on an adjacent spit of land. With Bali out of favor because of the recent terrorist incidents, it is relatively easy to get a tee time, but at $150, it is the priciest course in the country ($88 for resort guests).

Bali Handara Kosaido Country Club (62-362-22646; www.balihandarakosaido.com) is the opposite experience of Bali Nirwana: it is in the mountains, above 3,700 feet, which keeps it cool, amid lush vegetation.

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