Does Bali qualify as a golfing escape?

Bali, the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, has long been popularized as a holiday destination that brings together beautiful beaches, idyllic culture, and the hustle and bustle of city life. Sure there are golf courses on the island…but do they warrant a golf holiday in their own right?

A few years back now, I visited Bali with my wife over Christmas and traveled to most of the standard tourist haunts; Kuta/Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Ubud, and the Gili Islands name a few. My overall memories of Bali are that it is a great value for money holiday. There is a combination of beautiful spots and locations where rubbish and pollution are a bit overwhelming. My lasting memory is of suffering from ‘Bali belly’ for a few days, which certainly did impact my ability to get out and about.

Like all good holidays with my partner, I also managed to squeeze in some golf on my trip, and I was impressed by what I found. In many ways, golf offered me some of the more idyllic parts of my overall holiday, and I certainly enjoyed time away from the throngs of people in the more built-up areas.

I would not say Bali is designed around golfers, but there are certainly a handful of quality courses that can complement a wider holiday. They are not all located in the same area by any means, so be prepared to travel a lot if you want to play them all, or do your research and pick a couple of my favorites.

The Courses

The Southern tip of Bali is certainly the place to base yourself if you want the maximum amount of golf. 4 of the 5 internationally recognized courses are located within an easy drive of each other and the majority of the larger beach-style resorts.

  1. Bali National Golf Club

The most awarded golf course on the island, Bali National, is beautifully manicured and reasonably priced at USD 100 per round, including a caddie and cart. You will not be let down by Bali National and enjoy true resort-style golf.

  1. Bukit Pandawa Golf & Country Club

Opened in 2016 and set amongst limestone cliffs, Bukit Pandawa is an 18 hole par 3 course, which may in itself put off some avid golfers. Rest assured, the course is spectacular in its own right as many holes are set within limestone cliffs. You would not make this course the focus of your trip, but it is worth a late afternoon round over some cocktails.

  1. New Kuta Golf Club

Surrounded by the sea, cliffs, and beautiful scenery, New Kuta is the other must-play course in the island’s south. New Kuta golf is the closest course to most tourist locations, slightly to the north, and is similarly priced to Bali National. If you are only going to play twice on your trip, I will pick New Kuta and Bali National as the easiest combo to enjoy

  1. Bali Beach Golf Course

A nine-hole course only; this would be the lowest on my golf wish list. Bali beach represents value for money but not the same quality as the other courses but not the bucket list experience you will remember for years to come.

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The other currently operating course on the island is located at the north of the island.

  1. Handura Golf and Resort

Not as well known, primarily due to its remote location, Handura is a wonderful course, albeit quite different from the other courses on the island. Located inland, the course is set amongst rain forests and mountains. Given it is a 2 hour plus drive from the main tourist haunts, Handura is really only a must-play if you are basing yourself in the north of the island.

Bali Golf and Travel Tips

  1. Caddies may be different than what you are used to 

There may very well be traditional golf caddies on the island, but in my experience, the caddies included at many courses are possibly best described as gloried assistants. They will drive your cart, offer directions and support, and generally keep you company. But in the case of my caddies, I quickly discovered that they had never played golf before in their lives but had been taught the idiosyncrasies of the course they worked out. It’s a painless experience but be aware it may not be what you are used to.

  1. Rental Clubs may be worth it

Normally I am dead against rental clubs but given Bali is not what I would class as a golf holiday, I would suggest hiring clubs and saving yourself the issue of lugging around your own clubs for the rest of your trip.

  1. Drink bottled water only … and think carefully about food

As per my lasting memory of Bali, it is not uncommon for tourists to have some downtime in Bali due to stomach aches and illness. Drinking only bottled water is a good starting point to avoiding these ailments and thinking carefully about how your food is being prepared.

Investigate Private villas for your accommodation

Whilst there is a range of top-class beach resorts, particularly in the south of the island, hiring a private villa in Bali can be desirable and affordable. Private villas normally come with chefs and childcare also.

Use Uber or private transport for any longer journeys

Driving in Bali can best be described as madness. Taking paid transport is cheap, and you will enjoy yourself a lot more than trying to survive with the locals. Enough said on this.

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Summary

If you find yourself in Bali, you will have a great holiday. I would not venture to the island specifically for golf, but there is enough value to get around or two in.

Interestingly there was the 6th course on the island that many regarded as the finest available. Nirwana Bali Golf Course is, however, shut currently and has been since 2017. There are no clear updates on the remodeling activity, so it is hard to be sure about its future status.

Certainly, if Nirwana Bali Golf Course reopened, this would tip Bali back towards a more recognized golf location.

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