Parts of Asia have often been referred to as the land of smiles. After my 3rd visit to the east it is easy to believe that all of Asia can fall under that label. Certainly when it comes to your golf experience. Kudos to the golf course owners as a sense of pride is evident in the immaculate conditioning of the courses, clubhouse facilities and hospitality fit for a king and even your worst shots on the course are greeted by smiles, maybe the odd giggle if you are really bad by the charming caddies that guide your round for the day.
So many think that the Asian caddy thing is just a gimmick and maybe it was in the beginning but all my experiences have shown that these girls have been trained, they are knowledgeable, pick up on your club selections quickly and can certainly read greens! Try it you’ll like it, and you will smile too!
The island of Java is just one of the 18,000 islands that make up the country of Indonesia, Jakarta being the Capital. In the 15th century Jakarta was a fishing village at the mouth of the Ciliwung River, today you can label it as one of the world’s megacities with over 10 million people on the northwest coast of Java.
They say that there are about 35 courses within an hour’s drive from the city center. I believe the number 35 to be accurate, the hours’ drive may be questionable as the traffic around Jakarta at any given time of the day might be compared to rush hour in Chicago on steroids. Give yourself plenty of time to get around.
While the staying in the hustle and bustle of this sophisticated city attending the Asia Convention of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators I just could not resist coming in a few days ahead and staying an extra day or two to get in a few rounds of golf and seeing some of the sights. We had the pleasure of playing 3 magnificent tracks in Jakarta.
- Emeralda Golf Club a 27-hole complex unique in the fact that 18 holes designed by Arnold Palmer, the other 9 by Jack Nicklaus. Makes you wonder if there is another 9 to come!
- Another Nicklaus design Bumi Serpong Dami course (BSD) under the Damai Indah Golf family of courses which also includes as Robert Trent Jones Sr. gem along the Java Sea, Pantai Indah Kapuk (PIK). PIK next time!
- Royale Jakarta located close to the hustle and bustle of downtown Jakarta another 27-hole complex whose West and South Courses have hosted the Indonesian Masters.
Jakarta is a very diverse city rich in culture and economic and political center of Indonesia. Tourism is a major industry and while thoughts of Indonesia lead towards tropical beach settings there is so much more!!!!! The shopping is perhaps as good as it gets, one of the top shopping centers in South East Asia. Modern shopping centers provide wide selections of luxury brands while your best bargains and haggling is allowed in traditional markets such as Block M, Glodok and Tanah Abang.
Flavorgazims for foodies are everywhere. It is a culinary experience second to none. Fine dining to street side food stalls, you want it you will find it. Two of my most memorable meals were a sushi feast and an Italian dinner – go figure!
If anything to do with water sports is your thing then you are definitely in the right place. Doing the tourist thing you will never get bored. Some of the more popular points of interest include:
- Meredka Square where the National monument stands in the middle.
- Old Town Jakarta will give you an insight into the history of Jakarta and the influence of the Dutch.
- Taman Mini Indonesia a 250 acre mini park reflecting Indonesian culture in miniature form.
- Anacol Dreamland a sea world theme park.
- Sunda Kelapa the old port in North Jakarta.
Jakarta and all of Indonesia is a hot hot place with daily temperatures on average in the low 80’s all year long (28 degrees Celsius). For us golfers note that the rainy season begins in November and runs through March. Our weather at the end of April was hot although we did have some rainy evenings. Never while we were on the course but we did have some welcomed cloud cover!
You only get one chance to make a first impression so it is no wonder that our first round was on the BSD Course (Bumi Serapong Damai). This Nicklaus design should be on your must play list when visiting Jakarta. Built alongside the Cisdane River and within the Serpong Valley it is relatively flat layout but Jack did add in the countoured fairways, plenty of water in the mix, large white sand bunkers and greens to test even the best putters in the world. The layout is spectacular but it is all about the greens on this course. No such thing as an easy 2 putt – 3 and 4 putts are not uncommon here. Immaculate conditioning.
The Emeralda Golf Club has played host to the Indonesian Open, Johnnie Walker Super Tour and the Volvo Masters. The combination of 9 holes on the Palmer designed Lake Course and the Nicklaus designed Planation 9 make this the most challenging of the combinations of 18. That is what we played and again, and for the last time I will stress the immaculate conditions that you generally find throughout Asia were again par for the course here. The Lake Course had relatively open fairways and fair share of water hazards to avoid. The Nicklaus 9 perhaps a little more challenging having been carved out of a coconut plantation estate and much more natural and unforgiving vegetation coming into play. Greens excellent, with contours and undulations but fair.
The Royale Jakarta Golf Club is a 27-hole complex located pretty much in the center of the city!
When getting around Jakarta can be an issue having a great course in the heart of the city is certainly convenient. Host of the 2011 Indonesian Open the course is a fair test of golf. Fairly wide landing areas off the tee with strategic bunking protecting undulating and quick greens, at least when we played they were quick. The par 3-6th on the south course might just be the signature hole at over 200 yards with bunkers protecting the right side and water all over front and left.
It is a long way to go from North America but well worth the effort and a tick off the bucket list.
Golf Wonderful Indonesia is one of the top tour operators handling golf and so much more in Bali, Jakarta and anywhere else in Indonesia that may suit your fancy.
And don’t forget…SMILE