When it comes to satisfying high expectations, Bali has long been hailed as a dream destination, even for seasoned travelers. The combination of natural beauty, scenic landscapes, sprawling luxury resorts and colourful island lifestyle make for an intoxicating concoction for a nearby getaway. Add golfing in the mix and for many, this triples the pleasure.
One of the main reasons for this is because the courses in Bali stand on par (pun intended) with the best in the world. Nirwana Bali Golf Club has won numerous awards, perhaps the most prestigious of which is being ranked 52 in the first World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses 2013-14 list by Golf Digest US; it was the only course in Indonesia that made the list.
Then there is the newly rejuvenated Bali National Golf Club (what used to be Bali Golf and Country Club in Nusa Dua) offering postcard quality views of the Indian Ocean as it sits prominently against the stunning backdrop of the volcano, Gunung Agung. A complete redesign by Nelson and Haworth, this 18-hole stunner is now concurrent with the finest resort course around the region.
Then, there is New Kuta Golf Club as well, set as a cliffside spectacle in the Jimbaran area. While hardly a best-kept secret, what keeps golfers addicted to Bali are these three world class sites that are sidled amongst luxury resorts and splendid views. Today, what were once congested roads have given way to smoother transfers between airport to resort to golf course. Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation; take your pick from luxury resorts to private villas that seem to multiply year on year.
Shopping and dining have also reached another level on the island of the gods, as if owners and investors are perennially eager to add on to their creation of heaven on earth for hedonists on holiday. So even though there’ll be other lands more exotic and further beyond the region calling out, there is no doubt that Bali will forever hold a special place for golf vacationers everywhere.
Nirwana Bali Golf Club
The oldest amongst the three is Nirwana Bali Golf Club, currently managed by IMG is sidled next to the luxury Pan Pacific hotel. The newly restored 278 key property offers residents both garden and sea-facing rooms, suites and villas plus the added advantage of special in-house green fees for the course.
The Greg Norman designed 18-hole course was built in 1997 in a 103-hectare plot of rice paddy. The 6,308 metres par 72 course is sea-facing cliffs, as is the Balinese standard for golf courses, but what is perhaps most poignant is the sight of the spiritual Tanah Lot Temple that juts out from across the property, as best captured when golfers play the signature par 3, 7th hole.
Numerous websites and magazines have lauded the club for offering both intermediate and even advanced golfers a stimulating experience as they traverse its fairways and green. Norman has effectively used the natural landscape that includes, apart from the seventh, two other gawking tee shots from cliff top positions, five holes with grand ocean views and another eight that runs along a 10-hectare rice field.
The newly restored 278 key property offers residents both garden and sea-facing rooms, suites and villas plus the added advantage of special in-house green fees for the course.
Jalan Raya Tanah Lot, Kediri, Tabanan, 82171, Indonesia
Tel : + 62 361 815 960
New Kuta Golf
The first of its kind in Indonesia, New Kuta Golf is a links course overlooking a stunning view of the Indian Ocean on Pecatu-Bali. Getting here is relatively easy - only a 20-minute drive from the airport at Denpasar or five minutes from the famous Uluwatu Temple.
As a championship golf course in Asia, it has developed a recent reputation to be one of its best and most challenging. In the past two years, this Golfplan designed course was named among the top three best course in Indonesia. A rolling, links-styled layout with thick semi rough and large, undulating greens, this is as close as you can get to the shores of St Andrews.
The outward nine ventures inland and plays over varied terrain, encapsulated by a tough 191-yard par 4 6th hole. It has an island green literally surrounded by sand, is multi-tiered and requires precision club selection and shot making to reach the correct spot, otherwise, three-putting here is almost a certainty. At the par 4 7th, a dogleg right appears to confound and additionally, at 470 yards, it takes the longest drives to even consider a tiger line. Finally, an elevated green is guarded by hillside bunkers ready to trap any ball that fall astray.
On the inward nine, in addition to the unique landscape, prevailing sea breezes factor heavily on each hole. Look out for hole 15, perched as much as 70 metres on a limestone cliff, overlooking one of Bali’s famous surf beaches Dreamland at Balangan Beach. The stunning spot has also made it a favourite among bridal couples to hold their nuptials. But watch out for strong winds blowing inward from the Indian Ocean, which can wreak havoc with your club selection – it could be a gift or a curse depending on where it is blowing.
Golfers can also sharpen their game at The Golf Academy Bali (GCB) based here since January 2013 under the direction of British PGA professionals Neil Douglas and Rory Young in the state of the art facilities which include a covered grass driving range, expansive short-game area, and 9,000-square-foot putting green, and back at the clubhouse, the Link restaurant serves up local and western dishes, a bar, spa and function rooms with views over the verdant fairways and ocean.
Jl. Raya Uluwatu, Kawasan Pecatu Indah Resort
Pecatu – Jimbaran, Badung 80361, Bali - Indonesia
Tel: +62 – 361 8481 333
Bali National Golf Club
The BNGC is an international standard par 72 tournament standard golf course of 7,166 yards from the back tees, sure to delight golfers of every size and skill. After one year of opening, the seeds of labour that was sown has finally settled and the course is looking as resplendent as when it first welcomed golfing enthusiasts from all over the region.
The confidence BNGC exudes for golfers is succinctly reflected in their tagline, “Where Every Day is a Great Golf Day”. And it’s hard not to believe them when teeing off on a course set in lush tropical forest set on hilly parkland. As you drive your ball over spectacularly landscaped coconut groves, your eyes will wander across the green directly in front of the clubhouse terrace, and wonder if you’re putting up a good enough performance for the watchful audience sipping their drinks.
From the get-go, the generous fairways belie one into thinking this is an easy walkabout. But further play will reveal subtle nuances in terms of bunkering and green site design, meant to test even the best of putters. The sight of Gunung Arung at the 4th green will seek to soothe the soul if the scorecard does not and a high ocean view on the long par 5 7th (620 yards from the championship tees) makes this an experience to remember.
Among the many interesting holes that the Bali National churns out, the biggest test of nerve comes at the signature par 3, 17th hole, which, with its island green, requires a precise tee shot to safely navigate. And finally, the 18th, a 400-yard dogleg left hole that is draped by a lake all the way down the left side of the fairway, brings one to a greensite directly in front of an elevated clubhouse terrace, where many others who have completed their round will be watching those that come after them.
Bali National also boasts of a golf academy operated by Ancora Golf Institute, one of three golf academies owned by Ancora Sports and managed by the Professional Golfers Association of Australia, where visitors can engage the services of its professionals for game saving tips or simply to enjoy a round of golf with. With all that, it may be well worth to take on a membership here at Bali National. Today, they even have a dual membership program with Senayan Golf Club in Jakarta and golfing villas for even greater ease of stay and play.
For business travellers, there is also a board meeting room fitted with state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment and a VIP lounge with amenities for private catering and a private restroom for groups looking for a pow-wow with a difference. Complimentary shuttle services between the course and hotels in Nusa Dua, Tanjung Benoa, Sawangan, and Jimbaran is also available by arrangement at the clubhouse reception.
Kawasan Wisata , Lot S-5, Nusa Dua Bali
Tel: +62 361 771 791
NIRVANA IN NUSA DUA
From fancy family resorts to convention centres on an epic scale, the Nusa Dua neighbourhood is larger than life and covers pretty much all your accompanying activities to golf.
It is noon in Nusa Dua and I’ve just finished a heavy buffet lunch while my two-year old wades around in the shallow blue waters of the pool at Sofitel Bali. In the afternoon we’ve planned for sand play on the long white stretch of beach, safe with gentle, non-surfworthy waves while Daddy traverses the championship golf course at the Bali National Golf Club (BNGC) nearby after his morning conference at The Westin.
After my two-hour session at the Mulia Spa, it will be a quiet night, with a family dinner at Bebek Bengil - yes, the iconic Ubud eatery has a slightly fancier outpost here now - and perhaps quick drinks at the King Cole Bar in St Regis before turning in before midnight in our vast two-bedroom villa at Amanusa resort.
Welcome to Nusa Dua – an elegant, upmarket locale where business, golf and 5-star family fun intermingle fluidly against a backdrop of wide, well-tended beaches and surrounding mountains inland. Don’t expect the hustle and heave of stylish Seminyak but Nusa has a gentrified charm all of its own.
Located on the southern part of Bali, with direct access to the Ngurah Rai airport at Denpasar via the Jalan Toll Bali Mandara bypass road, this luxury enclave has been long regarded as one of the vacation gems of the island. It is now shinier than it has ever been, with new epic-sized resorts sprouting like mushrooms and attracting all manner of destination-focused events such as trade conventions and corporate types on a retreat.
And yet if you’re looking for a little indie escape, there is always Tanjung Benoa with its shabby-chic beaches and laidback Bohemian vibe just a little north of Nusa Dua and also Geger beach with its picturesque seaweed farms to the south.
Get in with style
Nusa Dua may be 40km away from the airport but since the building of the toll road, hour-long drives are a thing of the past. Now your golfing vacation is only 15 to 20 minutes away the minute you clear customs and into your waiting drive. And you can even speed things up some more.
The Bali Concierge will fast-track and handle all your immigration procedures (including baggage collection) while you lounge in style at their plush waiting room. Not having to stand in line and queue makes visa on arrival less of a pain in the neck. A couple of drinks also go a long way to soothe the tired traveler. They can also help plan custom itineraries and handle personal requests during your stay.
Want to move it along even more? Forgo your resorts’ car pick-up and make the transfer in style with a chopper from Air Bali, so you can enjoy a scenic view from up above instead of via roads.
Recommended stays in Nusa Dua
Aman Resorts tend to stand out compared to others and Amanusa certainly lives up to its pedigree. Holiday like royalty on this garden hillside retreat with sweeping views of the Indian Ocean. When the sun goes down, rest with drinks atop one of the nine private bales at the in-house beach club. Candlelit barbecue at sunrise with breakfast picnic on the beach? Your wish is granted. Tired on the beach? Retreat to the 30-metre long square pool with fountain fixtures bordered by a trellis of Bougainvillea and framed by fragrant Frangipani trees. And by far the ultimate villa stay would be at one of the 4,000 sqm three (or more) bedroom villas that are two-storeys high imbued with a generously-sized lap pool at the heart of the digs.
The iconic white triangular structure of the resort’s Infinity Chapel has graced many a socialite’s wedding album or Facebook update. For those in the know, the Conrad is the place for bespoke nuptials of high-powered couples and celebrities in the region. Guest rooms and suites are tastefully and lavishly appointed and the grounds of the resort well-manicured for picture perfect vacation snaps. Pamper yourself at the in-house Jiwa spa or get your Zen on with a yoga or meditation class at the fitness centre while younger ones get tended to at the classy Kura Kura Kids Club.
MICE gets a luxury treatment at the newly restored Westin located at the heart of the Kawasan Pariwisata or tourist enclave of shops, resorts and restaurants in Nusa Dua. Part family hotel, part business convention space, the Westin is a solid, island resort complete with sprawling pools, neatly arranged loungers on the beach and some 26,000 square feet of meeting space including two ballrooms, one auditorium and up to 26 break out rooms for meetings and operations. Since its rejuvenation, the resort now boasts upgraded fixtures and furnishings in all its 433 modern luxury rooms, carefully curated by Singapore-based interiors designer FBEYE International.
Nusa Dua Beach Hotel
One of the older resorts on the strip, the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel may not have quite the sparkle and shine of her younger counterparts. But like the familiar comfort of home, this stalwart keeps welcoming back travelers who have remained loyal to her laidback charms and friendly staff. It’s the little touches that make a stay here worthwhile, from the free set of baby toiletries for your little one to the authentic garden dinner parties they can arrange for your company dinner, complete with traditional dancers in costume.
If it is reliability in lush surrounds that you are looking for, you can’t go wrong with the Grand Hyatt. With not one, but five swimming pools surrounded by low rise Balinese architecture, it definitely brings island vacation to the next level, for both water babes and mermaids alike. The 636-room property is one of the larger ones in the Kawasan Pariwisata area, making it a prime choice for business events and large groups. The Grand Hyatt boasts perhaps one of the most comprehensive kids club among the resorts, known as Camp Nusa. Daily activities include fish feeding as well as sports and games, catered for those from age three to 13 years. Available as a half, full day or hourly sessions, the paid club offers a myriad of kid-friendly activities to keep your young ones mesmerised while you take your time at the in-house Kriya Spa.
One in the premium range of properties handled by the Accor group, the Sofitel Bali holds its own with its unique blend of French elegance and Balinese culture. The 415 room and 22 suite resort features stylishly appointed rooms, some with their own private plunge pools. Go one grade up with a suite or villa and access to Club Millésime for extra VIP services. There are two trendy restaurants in the house for your dining indulgence: Cut Catch Cucina, featuring three types of cuisine (Osteria, seafood and Italian-style steak) and the more Asian-styled Kwe Zeen in a buffet-style format.
The Mulia and Mulia Resort & Villas
“Mulia” means “nobility” and judging from the scale of these two properties and the scope of their offerings, they certainly do aim to please those in the higher echelons of society. The grand swimming pool of The Mulia is fringed with towering statues, which also act as fountains – a majestic sight from the high-ceilinged lobby. Its sister property, Mulia Resort, features a more subtle tableau with its serene, streamlined pool and clean design. Have a penchant for indulgent Indonesian high-society lifestyle? Either would be the dwelling for you.
Inaya Putri Bali
Prefer something other than a chain hotel? Check out the Inaya Putri, a hip little resort with a youthful vibe. You’ll be further away from the madding crowd on this exclusive Penglipuran village-style property even though it offers more than 400 rooms. Its lawns are wide, spacious and uncluttered by superfluous structures so there’s plenty of room for kids to run around and for you to take wide, empty panoramic shots. Premium rooms are spacious and well-appointed with marble bathroom with deep-soaking tubs or go for a deluxe pool access room to plunge right in.
Sundowners in Seminyak
Make no mistake, Seminyak can seem a little saturated with tourist-centric offerings.
But if glamour is what you’re after, then this is the place to be.
It’s no secret that for the many who worship her, Bali isn’t Bali without a few great beaches, hip hotels and some cool places to party all night long. And the temple they play at is none other than the stretch called Seminyak, where sunsets are best enjoyed with a cocktail in hand, preferably from the balcony of one of the many fabulous hotels or private villas dotting the coastline.
Then later it’s on to dinner at one of the slick, award-winning establishments in the area, perhaps Metis, Sarong or Mosaic – serving modern Italian, French or fusion cuisine that won’t be out of place in big cities like New York or London. After which, some post-prandial partying can be had at a suitably fashionable beach club like Potato Head, Mint or Cocoon.
And don’t say you have nothing decent to wear. Seminyak’s myriad of boutiques on the boardwalk (or rather “Beachwalk”) offers no end of island-fabulous togs, many of them locally designed and also stocked in department stores of the likes of Harrods and Barneys.
So doll up yourself, Instagram the sunset, down your drinks and come out to play. After all, the night in Seminyak is forever young. Bottoms up!
Live the role, look the part
All the shopping you need for some Seminyak stylishness.
An oldie but goodie. This French designer is the grande dame of all Bali brands to covet. Any of her island-chic outfits in silk, lace or organic fabric spells out Seminyak royalty on a crowded dance floor.
Jl. Raya Seminyak no.65
If hanging out at the mall is more your style, you won’t find one better than Bali’s newest lifestyle addition to Seminyak. At Beachwalk, you’ll find all the usual suspects like Levis, Topshop and Make-Up Forever under one roof along with some local favourites like Satu and luxury Indo spa providers Martha Tilaar for good measure. There’s even a cinema, a Museum Kain (fabric museum) and something for the young ones: Miniapolis, the fun playzone.
Jl. Pantai Kuta, Badung
WRKSHP 13 by Johnny Ramly
Sexy cool accessories and bags for both sexes. This is the local designer’s only Indo store. His other flagship outlet is in Amsterdam - where he has many Dutch fashionista fans – and elsewhere in Europe and also Tokyo, China and New York City.
Jl. Petitenget 198
Sunglasses, tcotchkes and gifts. Step in for some choice picks for souvenirs and trendy treats right this way.
Jl Kayu Cendana No.1 (Opposite Bali Bakery, Seminyak Square)
Bali living meets Danish design. For when you need clean lines and a pop of colour to mix it up with whatever you’ve already outfitted your work-in-progress Seminyak villa.
Jl. Petitenget No. 9A
Part concept store, part café and all fashionable see-and-be-seen kind of hangout. Grab a muffin, a t-shirt, free WiFi and a dinner date with a new friend, all in one place.
Jl. Laksmana No.10 A, Kerobokan
Where to set up base camp
What’s Sup? Only the best flavours on the island.
If the road to Zen is paved with a wooden deck (and a private pool to boot), then iVilla will definitely show you the way. With an option of either one or two bedroom villas, the units here are contemporary, glass-walled luxury dwellings that can easily turn into party central (private barbecue anyone?) whenever the mood hits.
Address upon reservation.
The Villas at Seminyak
Want ultimate bang for your buck? The exotic atmosphere at the sprawling Villas at Seminyak is also venue for a surprisingly affordable vacation, with many packages to suit every traveler. Pick a yoga and spa, honeymoon, family fun or yes, even a golf package for maximum enjoyment on minimum dime. They also have a “Pay 5, stay 7” package if you really want to stretch your dollar.
JL. Kunti No.118X
W Retreat & Spa Bali
If you want a resort that’s actually a club, then this should be your home away from home. At the W, the pool is WET, the business centre WIRED and you can get AWAY to the spa while keeping body, mind and soul FIT (at the gym of course), all against the spectacular backdrop of the Seminyak beach. Keep the music thumping.
Jl. Petitenget, Kerobokan
Eat, drink & be merry
What’s Sup? Only the best flavours on the island.
Art deco, 1920s Shanghai-inspired décor meets gussied up street eats from the region such as Indian thali and a “Singapore chicken” dish. Helmed by Sarong’s Will Meyrick. ‘Nuff said.
Jl. Raya Kerobokan No. 135, Banjartaman, Kuta
If it is super-exclusivity that you’re after (preferably sans screaming babies), then Sarong is your best bet. A dinner-only establishment with two dining pavillons, Sarong will bring you on a gastronomic adventure through Indochina in a journey of celebrated Asian flavours.
Jl. Petitenget No. 19X
If ever a family restaurant (that is eco-aware to boot) could be grand, this would be the one. Oversized chesterfield loungers compete with soaring columns supporting a translucent Art Deco-style roof. The tapas style menu transforms familiar Indonesian dishes into small and large plates meant for sharing, to be eaten with your hands and in good company.
Jl. Petitenget No. 100X
Feeling low key? End the night by satisfying a sweet craving at Cuca. Local flavours like coconut, pandan and Javanese black pepper are transformed into granola, gelato and custard, paired with simple yet magical accompaniments such as papaya jam, frozen shredded pomelo and tarragon, yes, just tarragon.
Jln Yoga Perkanthi, Jimbaran
If you like the laidback vibe served up in their Singapore location at Kampung Bugis, you’ll love the cool offerings of the Kilo crew in Bali. Think freshly prepared local produce with minimal fuss and all flavour. Come in casuals.
Jl. Drupadi 22XX (near Uma Sapna)
The place to go if you fancy a spot of fine-dining on the island and a chance to show off your jewels. Let them gleam while you enjoy the robust flavours of Chef Nicolas Tourneville’s French Mediterranean cuisine in the restaurant’s stunning open-air main dining area.
Jl. Petitenget No. 6