FIND­ING FIJI

CO­RAL COAST CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

Golf Vacations - - Front Page - By David R. Hol­land

NATA­DOLA, FIJI -- Thank good­ness when Nata­dola Bay Cham­pi­onship Golf Course was fin­ished in 2009, V.J. Singh, a na­tive son and ar­chi­tect didn’t go all Don­ald Trump on us and de­clare it was the great­est course ever built.

The host course of the Fiji In­ter­na­tional is cer­tainly breath­tak­ing – lo­cated on a pris­tine, spec­tac­u­lar ex­panse of the Co­ral Coast of this boon­docks na­tion in the South Pa­cific.

It’s also a blast to play with ad­ven­tur­ous, fun holes that have turquoise-ocean views on 15 of the 18 as the surf breaks on co­ral reefs in the dis­tance.

Singh, how­ever, ac­tu­ally left the de­sign team be­fore it was fin­ished and praises the fin­ished prod­uct, but says it just doesn’t al­low enough room for the gale-force wind that bat­tered this year’s Fiji In­ter­na­tional.

OneAsia and Aus­tralasian tours co-sanc­tioned the event, won by the USA’s Matt Kuchar. It was so windy count­less pro­fes­sional golfers were seen mut­ter­ing as yet an­other hat blew down the lush fair­ways.

“That is the hard­est wind I’ve played in my en­tire life,” said Singh of Tues­day’s prac­tice round. If it keeps blow­ing (30 to 50 mph gusts caused by a rare trop­i­cal de­pres­sion) the win­ner will be plus six in­stead of the 10-un­der 278 that won last year by Steven Jef­fress.”

“It was a lot like this year’s Bri­tish Open at St. An­drews when they had to stop play,” said Kuchar. “Con­di­tions like this test a golfer’s best abil­i­ties.”

Kuchar was up to the task. He shot 3-un­der 69 on Satur­day and Sun­day, when the wind slowed, for a four-stroke vic­tory prov­ing why he is ranked No. 16 in the world. The seven-time PGA Tour win­ner fin­ished at 4-un­der 284. No other player was un­der par.

On the sec­ond hole of the first round Kuchar was jubliant as his putt went two feet past the hole only to watch, sec­onds later, the wind blow the ball back in to the hole.

“This golf course is tough and tight,” Singh con­tin­ued. “As soon as the tour­na­ment con­cludes we will make a plan to in­crease the size of the green com­plexes and widen the fair­ways be­cause we do want peo­ple to come back and play.”

Trans­la­tion – novice golfers have been known to lose 12 or more golf balls play­ing the 7,169-yard lay­out on such windy days eas­ily making it one of the hard­est tracks in the world.

Fiji golf hol­i­day? Start with the In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Fiji Golf Re­sort & Spa

The lux­u­ri­ous, sprawl­ing In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal has 35 acres of ho­tel and out­doors ac­tiv­i­ties -- a sandy beach, four swim­ming pools, kids club, spa, and con­cerige ready to sched­ule snor­kel­ing, scuba div­ing, deep-sea fish­ing and even a Si­ga­toka River Sa­fari.

The 271 rooms, suites and vil­las in­clude a pri­vate ter­race com­plete with a deep bath­tub for two, daybeds and view of the ocean.

Five restau­rants (my fa­vorite was Nuvo), bars, con­fer­ence fa­cil­i­ties and a wed­ding chapel make this an all-in­clu­sive re­sort. No need to leave the grounds ex­cept for the shut­tle bus ride to Nata­dola Bay golf a mile away.

The Port at De­na­rau

About an hour away near the Nadi In­ter­na­tional Air­port is The Port at De­na­rau. Lo­cated on the wa­ter’s edge this is Fiji’s largest sin­gle col­lec­tion of shop­ping and din­ing and is a launch­ing point for is­land hop cruises, deep-sea fish­ing, pad­dle board­ing, kayak­ing and the oc­ca­sional ocean liner.

It’s also a couple of min­utes from sev­eral lux­ury ho­tels that can be your base for De­na­rau Golf & Rac­quet Club, a 6,513-yard, par 72 golf course de­signed by Ei­ichi Mo­to­bashi. The course plays firm and fast and wa­ter tra­verses your sight line con­stantly with gi­ant co­conut palms. The ocean comes in to view on a couple of back nine holes.

Stay across the street from the golf course at the Sof­i­tel Fiji Re­sort & Spa and check in to the adults-only Wai­tui Beach Club. That sim­ply means that out­side my sliding porch door was a swim­ming com­plex, infinity pool, cham­pagne bar, restau­rant, pool­side ca­banas and work­out area where no chil­dren are al­lowed.

By no means is Fiji not chil­dren-friendly. In fact Aus­trail­ians and New Zealan­ders love Fiji be­cause some ho­tels of­fer free kids ac­tiv­i­ties at cer­tain times. Nanny ser­vices are very af­ford­able.

I also checked out The Pearl South Pa­cific Cham­pi­onship Golf Course about two and a half hours away. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. lay­out is lush and green get­ting more rain­fall than the De­na­rau Is­land area. Canals, 66 bunkers and nu­mer­ous wa­ter haz­ards makes this a fun trop­i­cal rain­for­est golf ad­ven­ture.

Fiji Is­lands -- get away from the hustle and bus­tle Fiji, a rugby crazy na­tion, in­cludes about 330 is­lands and one, Monuriki, was where “Cast Away” was filmed with Tom Hanks.

Fiji is renowned for its stun­ning beaches, beau­ti­ful warm cli­mate, and its unique re­laxed is­land at­mos­phere. You won’t be able to es­cape the friend­li­ness of the Fi­jian peo­ple or the sheer nat­u­ral beauty -- sway­ing palms and warm, clear wa­ter. Con­sult Tourism Fiji for com­plete in­for­ma­tion.

Most of the Fiji Is­lands are not in­hab­ited. The main is­land Vitu Levu con­tains the cap­i­tal Suva in the east and Nadi (pro­nounced “Nandi”) on the west coast. The Ma­manuca Group of is­lands are lo­cated very close to Nadi and con­tain a num­ber of pop­u­lar is­land re­sorts. Trans­fers to the closer is­lands are eas­ily fa­cil­i­tated by boat with air trans­fers be­ing more com­mon for the outer is­lands and those fur­ther away.

Fiji Air­ways your gate­way to friendly is­lan­ders

Get­ting to Fiji on Fiji Air­ways sets the tone for a va­ca­tion that will slow your pace and bring a smile to your face. Ev­ery where you go you will be greeted by “Bula” -- Fi­jians’ hello.

Go in style -- fly Fiji Air­ways busi­ness class from Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port and be pam­pered with two hot meals, movies and a vast se­lec­tion of al­co­holic bev­er­ages.

It is 10 and a half hours, but you will ar­rive al­ready with a taste of this is­land’s fa­mous hos­pi­tal­ity. Your spa­cious busi­ness class seat as­sign­ment re­clines to al­most flat on an Air­bus 330-200 and sleep can re­duce that flight time sig­nif­i­cantly.

De­na­rau Golf & Rac­quet Club

Nata­dola Bay Cham­pi­onship Golf Course

Matt Kuchar - photo by PGA of Aus­tralia

De­na­rau Golf & Rac­quet Club

Nata­dola Bay Cham­pi­onship Golf Course

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