BALI, Indonesia - Bali's evolution into a legitimate international golf destination gained some remarkable new standing last weekend with the opening of Bukit Pandawa Golf & Country Club, the fifth golf venue on the Island of the Gods and the first 18-hole, par-3 championship course in Indonesia.
Designed by Bob Moore of California-based JMP Golf Design Group and managed by AccorHotels, Bukit Pandawa G&CC is also the first phase of an unprecedented hospitality project taking shape on Bali's southern coastline, where the club's ownership group, luxury resort developer PT Bali Ragawisata (BRW), is planning to add hotels and residences managed by world-renowned brands Mandarin Oriental, Waldorf Astoria and Swissôtel and a soon-to-be-announced company that has long been synonymous with the finest things in life.
"We're setting the stage for everything that's to come," said Stephen Banks, general manager of Bukit Pandawa G&CC. "We're equal parts groundbreaking, eye-popping and extraordinary."
To drive home the level of excellence golfers can expect at Bukit Pandawa G&CC, the course partnered with iconic automaker BMW — which is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year — to hold a novel, grand opening tournament on Oct. 8 for 160 invited players, each of whom had 18 chances to win a range of BMW-brand vehicles.
"I'm not sure there's ever been a tournament where at each hole you could win a car — let alone a premium car — with an ace," said Djie Tjian An, president/director of BRW. "Even though we didn't see a hole-in-one, everyone sure had fun trying."
The tournament was followed by a surprise unveiling of the futuristic BMW i8 — a cutting-edge hybrid supercar — that was celebrated with a champagne toast sponsored by French multinational luxury good conglomerate LVMH.
"Throughout its 100-year history, the BMW Group has constantly reinvented itself," said Karen Lim, president/director of BMW Group Indonesia. "The i8, the most progressive sports car in the world, is testament of that. And Bukit Pandawa, with its immaculate playing surface, is the perfect platform on which to roll out such a revolutionary driving machine."
Located on a spectacular limestone clifftop overlooking the world-famous surf breaks of Bukit Peninsula, AccorHotels' flagship course in Asia offers 18 exquisite par-3 holes ranging from 117 to 244 yards in length.
From the back tees, it plays 3,027 yards, a few hundred yards longer than lauded Turtle Hill Golf Club at Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda, which ranks among GOLF Magazine USA's top 10 par-3 courses in the world.
Some holes at Bukit Pandawa G&CC are back-dropped by the Indian Ocean. Others are accented by waterfalls or terraced rice paddies. All are subject to the wind.
"It can be a real test," said Banks, a former playing professional from Manchester, England "When the breeze is up — and it almost always is — there's a good chance you'll use every club in the bag. Even driver."
One standout hole is the 148-yard 13th, which is framed by three bunkers and features curved stone walls in the foreground and a traditional Balinese kul-kul tower in the background.
Given how short the par-54 layout is compared to standard 18-hole setups, Djie Tjian An anticipates it will be especially popular with short-stay visitors and families.
"So often, a golfer might pass on the opportunity to play on vacation or during a business trip because it can burn a large portion of the day," he said. "But here, that's not an issue. A round takes no more than a couple hours to complete."
In designing Bukit Pandawa G&CC, Moore, whose firm is responsible for championship-caliber designs all over the world including the acclaimed Royale Jakarta Golf Club in Indonesia's capital, embraced the contours and characteristics of a site that was rife with ridge lines, architectural ruins and sea views. Indeed, the ocean is visible from 15 holes.
To round out the total golf experience at Bukit Pandawa G&CC and provide visitors a feeling of rapture when they arrive, a 3,000-square-meter clubhouse inspired by the ancient temples and towers of central Bali has been constructed.
Conceived by accomplished architects Antony Liu and Ferry Ridwan from StudioTonTon in Jakarta, the imaginative, twin-block structure was designed to blend into its natural surroundings through the liberal implementation of local materials (such as stone and wood), native grasses and, above all, water, which flows seamlessly through many of the building's spaces.
"We're extremely proud of this project," said Liu, who is one of Indonesia's foremost modern tropical architects. "It perfectly harnesses what's so great about the location — the views — and it has so much character."
That includes the singular facility's signature component, the rooftop restaurant, which overlooks the ocean and course and features al fresco dining and lounge areas that ooze exotic elegance.