For golfers seeking to play a round or two whilst visiting the idyllic island of Bali, the coastal courses of New Kuta and Nirwana Bali are a good bet, but Chris Hogben ventured off the beaten track and discovered a hidden gem at Bali Handara.
Bali Handara is the highest mountain golf course in Indonesia and amazingly, sits in the crater of an extinct volcano, around 1,142 metres above sea level.
It was designed by five-time Open Champion Peter Thompson and opened in 1974, when it was the first course on the island. It’s in the north of Bali overlooking Lake Bratan.
If you stay in the tourist hot spots of Seminyak or Kuta the journey to Bali Handara will be unforgettable.
Journey to remember
Allow two hours for your transfer and you’ll experience Bali traffic at its best. Think Italy’s mopeds racing along narrow English country lanes and you come close to the chaotic reality.
As you start to climb up the volcanic terrain, the true beauty of Bali starts to unfold beneath you, offering a panoramic view that few visitors ever see.
Walking into the clubhouse it’s like stepping into a time warp. The 1970’s decor of the locker rooms adds to the charm, though from a luxury perspective, it trails the other courses on the island.
Bali Handara has previously ranked in the world’s Top-100 courses according to U.S publication Golf Magazine and it lived up to its billing as an excellent test of golf.
Heading out onto the course the first hole is a generous par-five, and, at only 475yds gives you a chance to start with a birdie.
Thinner air bigger drives
Playing at altitude will mean you have to think twice about your choice of clubs. This is particularly important on the sharp dog leg right par four third hole.
It’s almost certainly the first time I’ve hit a three wood 260 yards resulting in my ball running out of fairway and ending deep in the local vegetation. Allow at least 10% extra for further ball flight.
The par-three 14th hole offers a chance you test your long iron skills, at just over 200yds, uphill and requiring a fade to hit a viciously contoured green, a par will almost certainly see you pick up a shot on your partners.
If there’s one lasting memory from Handara, it’s not any specific hole with the “Wow” factor, but a series of well thought out holes perfectly framed by tall trees with either mountainous terrain or lake as a backdrop. Simply beautiful.
Like most other course in Asia, caddies are compulsory, however in stark contrast to others, our caddies weren’t local girls in their 20’s but a couple of guys that not only played but had been members of Handara for over 20 years.
This certainly helped when it came to reading the grain on the greens and it is great to see golf accessible to the locals and not just to wealthy western tourists.
In summary, although Handara is not as manicured as other golf courses on Bali, it makes up for this with stunning views and tranquillity that the other courses can only dream of.
Green Fees may seem steep at $150 (£95 at current exchange rate) but that does include a buggy, an experienced local caddy and a bottle of mineral water.
A round of golf is only $85 dollars if you are staying in one of the rooms available at Bali Handara, which range from a Garden View Cottage $95 per night to a Deluxe Villa with Golf Views, from $150+.
Clubs are available to rent from $25, with premium sets at $50, and golf shoes at $7. A bucket of practice balls at the driving range is $5.
*Prices accurate at time of publication in November 2012, please check incase of changes.