It may well be that I’ve played my last golf round for 2010. This is the reality of Maine residence. However, if that’s the case (and I’m not invited to Augusta National next week), I can say that my golf season went out with a bang. I finished par-par-birdie-par after an otherwise dreadful scoring display, but it was the venue, and the finishing holes at said venue, that provided the epic coda to my golf year.
I had toured Bali Nirwana Golf Club two years ago. (Yeah, I know: why go all the way from Maine to Bali and merely tour one the top 3-4 resort tracks in all of Asia-Pacific, what many feel to be Greg Norman’s best work? It’s a long story. And this is a blog, wherein I’m supposed to be concise and punchy. And look how long I’ve gone already…) Well, I played Bali Nirwana this time and it’s something, boy. The kind of course that keeps you thinking about golf all through the long New Gloucester winter.
There are 13 Hindu temples located out and about on this diverse routing, and just off the cliff-to-cliff, 185-yard par-3 7th sits the oft-photographed island temple at Tanah Lot. It’s right there, just offshore, perched on its own rocky cliff, and the devout wade out at sunset in the hundreds amid a faintly orange, billowing cloud of incense. A moving scene. So moving I drilled a 5-iron to 20 feet. Then birdied the next.
As Mickey Dolenz once said, I’m a believer.
There are four more seaside holes at Nirwana nearly as good as the vaunted 7th, and a dozen strong inland-jungle holes on terrain that made it pretty darned incumbent on Norman to conceive killer golf holes. It’s riven by rushing streams and bounded by working rice paddies, which are elegantly tiered and in several spots integrated into holes as hazards. Pretty cool. Then there’s the long and superb par-4 4th playing along a plateau that takes you way up high all of a sudden, with long views to the sea. The opening hole plays gracefully up and around a hillside of rice cultivation, capped by a bold pod of steep-faced bunkers at the elbow. When I toured the course I was struck by how hard an opening hole this seemed to be. When I played it, I found it plenty generous out right of all this eye candy. I also loved the hole; the green is cleverly sunk beside a brook. There’s nothing like putting with the sound of water rushing by. There’s a lesson here on the matter of touring vs. playing a golf course.
We played the back nine first and finished on the front side which, to be honest, is the way the golf course is mostly dramatically routed — for chops like myself and tournament studs. This sorta matters because Bali Nirwana GC, part of the swank Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali, is under new management as of July 2010. They have big plans for place. Big televised-tournament plans, and the two pros I played with — new Bali Nirwana Director of Golf Paul Lightbody and Howie Roberts, his counterpart at the sterling, new Norman-designed Danang Golf Club in Vietnam — both felt an event would better finish on the front side, as it were, along the Indian Ocean at 7, and home to the 9th green with its natural amphitheater setting.
That the amphitheater is tiered with working rice paddies speaks once again to what makes the course, and the experience on that course, so memorable. Enough to last a winter.