Around 35 kilometres to the south, New Kuta is Bali’s newest course, under a decade old. Located at Pecatu on the Bukit Peninsula, the area surrounding the course is undergoing huge evolution with numerous hotel and accommodation developments underway that will place it in the middle of a boom area.
Not that it is currently lacking anything in pure golfing terms, offering a challenging course and benefiting, like Nirwana, from its coastal location. The front nine is in a natural tropical lowland setting with creeks, long grasses, scrub and creepers. It’s a great course until this point, but on the back nine it really comes into its own as every swing of your club brings you closer to the clifftops. The 14th takes you up to them while the signature 15th hole, named the Cliffhanger, allows you to fully appreciate the majesty of the Bali coastline. And you’ll happily allow your playing partners all the time in the world to play their tee shots at 16 in order for you to enjoy the magnificent view. The New Kuta Condotel offers neighbouring accommodation and the future will see more stay and play options.
One course that doesn’t suffer from a lack of accommodation is the Bali National Golf Club (formerly known as the Bali Golf & Country Club) nestled into a corner of the Nusa Dua complex that is home to a wide array of 5-star hotels. If you feel the need to be closer to the action, course-side villas are available and will soon be complemented with a hotel running parallel to the 18th fairway.
But these developments, and even that of the sumptuous new clubhouse that provides a classy and welcoming environment to new arrivals or those completing their 18 holes, pale into insignificance compared to the recent redesign of the course.
18 months of work went into reimagining the course and the results are fantastic. Much of BNGC was merely remodelled, keeping faithful to the original design, but some new elements have improved the course immeasurably. The course is split into three segments, with a back nine on relatively flat land with the occasional glimpse of the ocean in the distance. A short hop to a different part of the complex offers differing challenges with sand the major feature, in some cases ‘bunkers’ replace almost any kind of fairway. Water is another challenge and a highlight is the temple hole.
Coming back home, the 16th is a par 5 with extensive bunkering before the course finishes with a great climax. Back near the clubhouse the 17th is an island hole reminiscent of that at Sawgrass in the US. Finally, a par-four over water takes you back to the clubhouse where your final putt will go down watched by fellow golfers relaxing after their round. BNGC does not benefit from hugging the coastline, but on a clear day you’ll revel in a view of Mount Agung in the distance and the course itself is immaculately kept.
Essential Bali guest reviewer Darren McBride, a member at Hindhead golf club in the UK, recently met up with his friend Andy Heywood, who is based in Sydney and plays at clubs in the area, to explore the island’s golfing possibilities. Between them they have played around 250 courses in 25 different countries and they were hugely impressed with what they discovered playing both Nirwana and BNGC on a long weekend trip.
Darren, 43 years old, said: “The standard of the fairways and greens at Bali National were excellent; added to the shape and flexible tee arrangements it makes it an ideal test for all standards of golfer. My particular favourite was the Sawgrass-like 17th par 3 with island green. Overall, come and play it, you will enjoy the golf and the excellent facilities.”
Andy agreed with his sentiments. “The facilities and caddies were top class and I’m already planning a return visit so I can play the courses again. The views of the temple from the ocean holes at Nirwana were just fantastic and I can’t wait to get back there. It was my first visit to Bali and I was hugely impressed with the beauty of the island, the fantastic people and then to be pleasantly surprised by the golf courses was an added bonus.”
Andrew from New Zealand is a huge fan of New Kuta, having played the course on more than one occasion, with his admiration growing visit by visit. “Wonderful golf, staggering views of the “impossible” surf break, Dreamland and Balangan beaches, great condition, medium-paced greens, excellent undulating fairways, long enough from the appropriate tees, strategically-placed fairway bunkers – a totally different experience. That’s the beauty of this course: it changes depending on the season and how the astute management set it up to meet different players’ needs of the time. It can be a monster or it can be a fun hit and giggle for the less intense golfer. All around are signs of a continuous commitment to improving the golfing experience. I can’t wait to return and see how it will present next time.”
But Bali isn’t just for established golfers – it’s also a great place to learn the sport, with lessons available from the likes of Australian PGA professional Robert Turvey at BNGC.
Bali may not yet be a famed golfing destination, but its courses are gaining recognition and picking up awards from a variety of sources so its popularity is set to go on an exponential upward curve. Whether you’re an amateur hacker, an aspiring superstar or even a complete novice, a day on the fairways in Bali will be a golfing memory you’ll cherish.