| Small is Beautiful
Duncan Forgan reports on the opening of Bukit Pandawa Golf & Country Club, the first 18-hole par-3 championship course in Indonesia designed by Bob Moore.
Let’s have a look on the Bukit Pandawa Golf & Country Club, the first 18-hole par-3 championship course in Indonesia designed by Bob Moore.
For a destination of relatively miniature dimensions, Bali sure packs a lot in. The so-called “island of the Gods” has been Indonesia’s tourism superstar for a number of decades and it is not difficult to gauge its appeal. From buff surfers looking for the perfect break to more cerebral types seeking spiritual solace and yogic advice in the new-age hub of Ubud, the island caters ably for all sorts.
Given its ability to make the very most out of a small package, it might not be quite so surprising that the latest world-class golf course to open on the island, Bukit Pandawa Golf & Country Club, is the furthest thing possible from your typical 7,000-plus-metre monster.
The course certainly looks the part. Manicured fairways play towards imaginatively landscaped greens, some cut into cliffs, others back dropped by verdant rice paddies. The layout, meanwhile, enjoys grandstand views of the brilliant blue Indian Ocean from its perch on an elevated chunk of land on Bali’s fabled southern coastline. The views can be enjoyed out on the golf course or from the sanctity of a truly stunning clubhouse, with high-tech facilities and top-notch F&B offerings that are the equal of any club in Indonesia.
What’s unusual about this new addition to Bali’s golfing firmament – a line up that also includes the Greg Norman-designed Nirwana Bali, the challenging layout at New Kuta and the acclaimed track at Bali National – is that each of its 18-holes is a par-3. In fact, it is the first 18hole par-3 championship course in Indonesia.
Designed by Bob Moore of California-based JMP Golf Design Group and managed by AccorHotels, Bukit Pandawa G&CC (www. bukitpandawagolf.com) is also the first phase of an unprecedented hospitality project taking shape on Bali’s southern coastline, where the club’s ownership group, luxury resort developer PT Bali Ragawisata, is planning to add hotels and residences managed by world-renowned brands Mandarin Oriental, Waldorf Astoria and Swissôtel and a soon-to-be-announced enterprise that has long been synonymous with the finest things in life.
“We’re setting the stage for everything that’s to come here,” said Stephen Banks, general manager of Bukit Pandawa G&CC. “We’re equal parts ground-breaking, eye-popping and extraordinary.”
Located on a spectacular limestone cliff top overlooking the world-famous surf breaks of Bukit Peninsula, AccorHotels’ flagship course in Asia offers 18 exquisite par-3 holes ranging from 117 to 244 yards in length.
From the back tees, it plays 3,027 yards, a few hundred yards longer than lauded Turtle Hill Golf Club at Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda, which ranks among GOLF Magazine USA’s top 10 par-3 courses in the world.
Some holes at Bukit Pandawa G&CC are back-dropped by the Indian Ocean. Others are
accented by waterfalls, lakes or terraced rice paddies, all are subject to the wind.
“It can be a real test,” said Banks, a former playing professional from Manchester, England. “When the breeze is up - and it almost always is - there’s a good chance you’ll use every club in the bag. Even a driver.”
I can certainly attest to the veracity of the challenge presented by the course. Although I’m not a particularly confident or accurate driver of the ball, shorter holes tend not to create quite as much of a psychological bind. And with 18 of them in front of me, I approached the 1st tee at Bukit Pandawa in a pretty bullish (for me anyway) frame of mind. Moore, however, has pulled some rather ingenious tricks out of his design bag with judicious length variations and changes in elevation that range from subtle to dramatic forcing golfers to think their way from hole to hole. A pitch and putt this most decidedly is not.
One standout hole is the 148-yard 13th, which is framed by three bunkers and features curved walls in the foreground and a traditional Balinese kul-kul tower in the background.
In designing Bukit Pandawa G&CC, Moore, whose firm is responsible for championshipcalibre designs all over the world including the acclaimed Royale Jakarta Golf Club in Indonesia’s capital, embraced the contours and characteristics of a site that was rife with rock outcroppings, architectural ruins and sea views. Indeed, the ocean is visible from 15 holes.
To round out the total golf experience at Bukit Pandawa G&CC, a 3,000-square-meter clubhouse inspired by the ancient temples and towers of Bali has been constructed.
Conceived by accomplished architects Antony Liu and Ferry Ridwan from StudioTonTon in Jakarta, the imaginative, twin-block structure was designed to blend into its natural surroundings through the liberal implementation of local materials (such as stone and wood), native grasses and, above all, water, which flows seamlessly through many of the building’s spaces.
That includes the singular facility’s signature component, the rooftop restaurant, which overlooks the ocean and course and features al fresco dining and lounge areas that ooze exotic elegance.
Following a round that followed my usual pattern of hideous golfing dysfunctionality interspersed with flickering glimmers of hope, an ice-cold Bintang beer is a welcome reward. The following day I will travel to Ubud to get my head together at the wonderful new Padma Resort in the heart of the jungle there. For now, however, I take in the views of the course and the ocean beyond and reflect on a golfing experience that encapsulates Bali’s “small is beautiful” ethos.
The 186-yard 13th hole
The hazardous 183-yard 9th