Bali • Sensual Asian
Bali is not afraid of reinventing itself. Up until the early eighties, the majority of western visitors to this small tropical island, one of the thousands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, were the hordes of happy-go-lucky European and Australian kids backpacking their way along the Southeast Asian hippie trail. These budget travelers were welcomed with open arms by locals who for centuries had made their living from agriculture and fishing. Since then, massive investment has turned the island into one of the most popular holiday destinations in Asia. Although backpackers can still be found hanging around the cafes and bars of Kuta beach, the rest of the island has gone considerably upmarket. Posh hotels and resorts have sprung up all along the south coast and have even penetrated the jungle and mountains of the interior.
Where to Play
Nirwana Bali Golf Club * * * * 1/2
Bali’s finest course also happens to be one of Asia’s best. This seaside layout, attached to the five-star Le Meridien resort, gallops across rice paddies and through dense jungle. The crashing surf of the Indian Ocean comes into view on many of the holes, most memorably on the par-three seventh, where a crisp mid-iron is required to carry waves and beach to a well-guarded green.
Jalan Raya Tanah Lot, Tabanan; 011-62/361-815-960, nirwanabaligolf.com. YARDAGE: 6,805. PAR: 72. GREENS FEE: $150. ARCHITECT: Greg Norman, 1997.
Bali Golf & Country Club * * * *
Situated amid the resorts and hotels of the Nusa Dua peninsula, this palm-fringed course may lack the jaw-dropping beauty of Nirwana Bali, but it has its moments and should certainly be on the itinerary of any visiting golfer. Elevation changes and abundant landscaping make the front nine the more attractive of the two, although the flatter final stretch features vast sandy wastes and finishes along the ocean.
Nusa Dua; 011-62/361-771-791, baligolfandcountryclub.com. YARDAGE: 6,871. PAR: 72. GREENS FEE: $142. ARCHITECT: Nelson & Wright, 1991.
Best of the Rest
Despite some scruff around the edges, the island’s only other course, Bali Handara Kosaido Country Club (balihandarakosaido.com)—situated high up in the central mountains—is worth the trip. The course lies in the crater of an extinct volcano and offers amazing views of Lake Bratan.
Where to Stay
Le Meridien Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort (rooms from $190; lemeridien.com) is an obvious choice for those who want to stay within pitching-wedge distance of Nirwana Bali Golf Club, while the Grand Hyatt Bali (rooms from $300; bali.grand.hyatt.com) is the pick of the many resorts located near Bali Golf & Country Club. Given the island’s size, however, it’s perfectly possible to stay away from the rather hectic southern coastal strip and still get in some golf. The serene Como Shambhala Estate (suites from $495; cse.comoshambhala.bz), fifteen minutes from the ancient city of Ubud and about an hour’s drive from all three courses, is an exclusive jungle retreat that specializes in holistic and detoxification therapies and ranks as one of the world’s unique hotels.
Where to Eat
Contrary to popular belief, fine dining can be found on Bali. Try Kafe Warisan Restaurant & Bar (kafewarisan.com) in Kerobokan for Balinese and French cuisine and the trendy Ku De Ta (kudeta.net) in Seminyak for Asian-Pacific fare.
Cathay Pacific Airways (cathaypacific.com) flies daily from New York to Bali via Hong Kong (twenty-three hours flying time). Bali’s aiport, Ngurah Rai, is four miles south of the capital city of Denpasar, within easy reach of the island’s main resort areas.
The majority of vacationers still come for the sun, sand, surf and scuba diving, but Bali also offers much more. The Balinese art scene flourishes, and a trip to the galleries and museums of Ubud, in particular the Neka Art Museum, is well worth the diversion. For the more active, Bali has some great hiking trails, and a dawn climb up the still-active 5,635-foot Ganung Batur volcano rewards those who make it to the top with breathtaking views of the rising sun.