Four exceptional and unique 18-hole courses truly worthy of this magical island
There are only four 18-hole golf courses in Bali and each in their own way offer a unique experience and you should not visit Bali without playing at least one of them. You can play along the cliff tops in the shadow of Tanah Lot Temple at Nirwana Bali. Make your way to the centre of the island and experience golf in the crater of an extinct volcano at Bali Handara or perhaps you prefer the links experience at New Kuta Golf Club which also enjoys a dramatic cliff top setting. The best of all is the totally remodelled Bali National Golf Club which is one of the best golf courses in Asia. Finally we must mention the 9-hole Bali Beach Golf Club – built more than 40 years ago and still going strong.
A unique golfing experience in the Central Highlands of Bali
This is one of the oldest golf courses in Bali and is a golf course that you will talk of long after you have returned home. The course has garnered numerous awards over the years including being honoured by Golf Magazine as one of the “Top 50 Greatest Golf Courses in the World" – one of the very few courses in Asia which have ever made this list. The biggest problem with this course is its location as it’s at least two hours’ drive from the southern beaches of Bali which makes for a long day. The course is actually located inside the caldera or crater of an extinct volcano at a height of 1,400 metres. The scenery is spectacular and the resort has great views over the surrounding mountains, the lush green vegetation and the lake in the distance. One big advantage of playing up here are the cooler temperatures which average 14-25C most of the year. At certain times of the year the courses can be affected by early morning mist but it usually clears after the sun comes up.
The course itself is a pretty standard layout with plenty of doglegs and elevation changes. The jungle runs close to the edge of most fairways and circles many of the greens so there is not too much room for error. The greens have the reputation of being amongst the best in Bali – not too many undulations and they run true and straight. There are quite few blind tee shots so you need to play the course more than once to avoid some of the trouble – during the dry season the fairways can get quite hard which means that even the perfectly hit drive can sometimes bounce off into the rough. There are quite a few hills to negotiate here so unless you are pretty fit it is probably advisable to take a cart.
Enough about the golf course because playing here is all about the experience: when did you last play golf inside a volcano in such a spectacular setting? The have considerably upgraded the resort which is attached to the golf course so an overnight here with two rounds is a great solution to the longer journey.
Other facilities here include a surprisingly good pro-shop, a driving range which offers golf lessons and a Japanese bath with sauna and massage treatments. You can hire clubs and shoes here as well if you don’t have them with you. We have special prices at Handara and you can see them here.
A totally new course which sets the standard in Bali
We played the original course a few years ago and thought then that it was a great layout – indeed good enough to be voted by Fortune magazine as one of the Top Five Golf Courses in Asia back in 1997. Unfortunately the course went into a gradual decline and the decision was made to totally renovate the course and the design team of Nelson Haworth have built a virtually new course which is unrecognisable from the previous layout. Since the course reopened in 2013 it has been receiving rave reviews and has won a host of awards and even made the list of the top three Best Renovated Courses in The World.
The course sits right in the middle of the Nusa Dua Beach hotel complex and is very conveniently located for anyone staying in the area and following the completion of the bypass road it is now only 15 minutes from the airport. The course offers a choice of four tee boxes called Championship, Tournament, Resort and one for Ladies – unless you are a real masochist or a seriously good golfer then it’s probably best to have a relaxing round off the Resort Tee Boxes (equivalent to the Whites). The greens are particularly challenging with plenty of undulations and quick as well so if putting is not your strong suit then you are in for a long day. The caddies are usually excellent – some of best in Bali and you will need their help on these greens.
The course is in immaculate condition with hardly a blade of grass out of place and it’s a pleasure to play – we loved the way the way they have used native grasses in front of some of the tee boxes and also around the bunkers – really softened the look of the course. The front nine are played in amongst the trees but the back nine opens up a bit and the course finished on a really high note with two superb finishing holes. The 17th is a spectacular par-3 with an island green and the only solid ground are the tees boxes and the green – everything else is water. Just aim for the centre of the putting surface and pray! The 18th is a 400 yard dogleg par 4 with a waste bunker all along the left and a water hazard fronting he green and your approach will be made all the more difficult as you will probably have an audience watching you from clubhouse as you finish.
Outstanding locker rooms and great restaurant and terrace overlooking the 18th green. They also have a driving range and offer a free bucket of 25 balls for you to use prior to your round. It’s not cheap to play here but the price compares quite favourably to other top courses in Asia. They do offer some great 3-round deals and a late afternoon Twilight rate.
Challenging links-style clifftop course
Another relative newcomer to the Bali golfing scene which has been showered with awards since it first opened and amongst these was its inclusion in the Rolex list of the top 1,000 golf courses in the world. The course has been built in a dramatic cliff-top location on the southwest tip of Bali about 20 minutes form Nusa Dua and 30 minutes from the airport.
Although the aerial pictures of the course look spectacular you do not get a sense of its dramatic location when you are playing the course except on those holes that run close to the edge of the cliff. The course claims to be a links-style course but this is only true on a handful of holes where it is wiser to keep the ball low instead of targeting the flag. We also found that the views around the course were somewhat blighted by the numerous hotels and resorts in various stages of construction quite close to some of the holes. Some of them looked as though they had been abandoned and were particularly ugly.
Some of the more memorable holes include the 6th hole which is affectionately know as “Fream’s Island” after the course designer Ronald Fream. The island green is created not by water but a huge expanse of sand waiting to swallow the mishit tee shot and on this hole club selection is very tricky as it is very exposed to the prevailing winds. The best holes on the back nine is the stretch from 14 thru 16 as you get near the cliff edge. The view from the tee boxes on the 14th tee box is spectacular as you try to negotiate the numerous fairway bunkers and as you progress toward the green the view gets even better as the bay comes into sight. The 15th is a very short par 3 perched right on the edge of the cliff with incredibly 360 degrees views over the sea and the beaches either side. The heavily sloping greens is well protected by bunkers and the swirling winds add to the difficulty. You have wonderful views over Balangan Beach as you stand on the 16th tee. Once you have admired the view it’s time to tackle this difficult par 5 with its undulating fairway, thick rough and a large green surrounded by bunkers – this hole definitely is reminiscent of a Scottish links course.
.By the time you have finished your round you will have earned a cold beer, meal or even a massage in the spacious clubhouse overlooking the 9th and 18th greens. The proshop has a large selection of golfing goodies from some of the most famous brands in golf and there is an excellent driving range and Golf Academy if you wish to brush up your game. The prices here compare to the other premium courses in Bali but they do offer some Twilight rates which are very good value.
A truly magical experience that might not be around for long
Nirwana Bali Golf Club has captured the essence of Bali in its design and Greg Norman has created a magical golf course and the gods that reside in the very sacred Tanah Lot Temple which lurks just off the coast must look down on the course with their wholehearted approval. This course has everything: incredible views over the ocean, fairways lined by rice paddies still being tended by local farmers and numerous temples scattered across the course.
Asian Golf Monthly went so far as to give this courses the accolade of the best golf resort in all of Asia and those who have played here would not argue with this.
There are some dark clouds on the horizon with rumours that Donald Trump has bought the course and intends to totally remodel it – I don’t see how he could possibly improve the layout and maybe by the time you read this he will be too busy to worry about messing with this course.
This course is a real delight with three clifftop tee shots and several holes running beside the ocean. As you start your round and drive across the rice paddies you know almost immediately that this is the start of something special. Greg Norman has gone to great lengths to retain the natural features of the site and as a result you are faced with some of the most challenging and exciting holes in golf. The 7th hole, with Tanah Lot Temple in the background, is a good example and demands a medium iron from a tee box perched on the cliff tops across the ocean to a green surrounded by bunkers. The 13th is another wonderful hole which will test your powers of concentration as you negotiate your way along the cliff tops and the 14th is a fabulous par 3 with the waves crashing below.
The Balinese-style clubhouse excellent views over the course from a large open-air veranda, a great place to enjoy a drink or meal after your round. There are large and comfortable locker rooms, an above average pro shop and plenty of dishes to choose from if you are hungry.
If there are plans to remodel or rebuild this course then it’s more important than ever to play this course as it is a truly magical experience and everything you hoped for on the Island of the Gods.
Bali Beach Golf Club
A really friendly and fun 9-hole course
Bali Beach Golf Club is not going to satisfy the avid single handicap golfer but it’s ideal if you happen to be staying in the Sanur Beach area and fancy a quick practice round to tune up your game before tackling the other courses on the island. Also if you are on a family holiday and you have kids who play or are learning the game then this is a very friendly course where they will not be bothered by bad tempered members.
The course has a history dating back to 1974 when there were hardly any hotels on the island, let alone golf courses and for many years it was not in great condition. It was quite extensively upgraded in 2004 and they remodelled all of the greens, added several water hazards and re-built the clubhouse. They also built a double-decker driving range which is open until 10pm – a very convenient addition if you happen to be staying in the area. One of the big advantages of such a mature course is that instead of seeing small, recently planted saplings, you will be confronted with large, mature trees lining the course which certainly gives it a unique character.
This is not a course that is going to be on anyone’s bucket list, nor is it going to be a course that you will look back on as one of the best courses you ever played but it may well go down as one of the friendliest courses you have ever played. If you read the reviews left by those who have played here then they all speak of the friendliness of the staff and the politeness of the caddies.
Now on to the course itself: The layout is a little unusual but the designer was obviously constrained by the available space and so there are seven par-4s, a single par-3 and a solitary par-5. Despite the addition of the lakes, few of them have ended up as water hazards as not many of them come into play – one exception is the second hole which is the only par-3 on the course and demands a carry of more than 160 yards to a slightly elevated green. This is especially challenging when the wind is blowing off the sea. The only other time you may have to flirt with the water comes at the sixth hole, the longest par 4, which has water running in front of the green. Most of the other holes are fairly straightforward providing you can keep out of the trees although many of the greens have been well-protected with bunkering and some are multi-tiered. One important point if you are unfit or not used to the heat – this is a walking course and carts are not available and your caddie will follow you with your clubs on a trolley.
The other facilities on offer are worthy of a much more high profile course with spacious and quite luxurious changing rooms, excellent practice facilities including the driving range. There is also a reasonably up-market bar & restaurant overlooking he courses called the Sector which serves Western and Asian food.
Prices are not that cheap and 18 holes will set you back around US$100 although they have a sunset deal after 3.30pm for just over US$60. You can rent all equipment here including shoes and umbrellas and they have a number of different instruction packages if you wish to take lessons.