My work has given me the opportunity to travel to many parts of the globe. I am not counting but I think I have been to# 43 countries so far…..if my math is correct:)
I had been to Bintan island (Indonesia) once before…. that time it was a quick work visit. I arrived by boat (50 min trip) in the morning from Singapore and then departed that afternoon. Back then, and at the time I was working on the renovation of Laguna Phuket, the Banyan Tree group asked me to review their 18 hole course at Laguna Bintan (designed by Greg Norman back in 97).
This time when they asked me to return to help with design input (given that they are proceeding with revisions to the golf course including revisions to all the green complexes, the course strategy and overall sustainability with my work colleague Mark Lawson leading this work on the ground) I made sure I took the opportunity to spend a bit more time exploring both the islands of Bintan and Batam.
The small island of Batam has 7 golf courses and is a bustling place. The Island really is only a few minutes boat trip from Singapore (although I got a ferry from Johor in Malaysia which took about 90 minutes). On the first day I visited Batam Hills, South Links and Padang Golf Sukajadi – all mostly inland golf courses. Batam Hills traverses some wonderful terrain with many of the holes bounded by junglescape. South Links has a mix of everything and good variety (some holes have a two green system which makes for more flexible play I suppose – the owners are Japanese) and Padang is the newest golf course on the island with wall to wall paspalum grass (for now that is)
On the second day I toured Indah Puri and Palm Springs. I liked Indah Puri a lot but it’s getting on in years. Having said that I have no doubt that if upgraded properly it has the potential to be one of the best in Asia – such is the quality of the site. My favorite golf course on the island was Palm Springs – particularly the Resort and Island golf courses (there are 27 holes at the facility). Palm Springs was the best maintained golf course I saw and some of the holes are special particularly given how they sweep through the mangroves and rise and fall with the topography.
The boat trip from Batam Island to Bintan Island (Resort) took roughly 30 minutes. The 3 resorts (Laguna Bintan, Ria Bintan and Bintan Lagoon) are within a few minutes of each other and a pitch and putt away from the ferry terminal. I never got to Bintan Lagoon although was told, from a reliable source, that the Ian Baker Finch course was a good bet and the best (there is a Jack Nicklaus course at the facility as well).
Add to that I toured Ria Bintan – the Gary Player golf course – with management. The golf course traverses spectacular land and this gives it real “wow” factor. There are a number of holes that hug the ocean but the close association with the jungle (Note: It’s golf or jungle) is as memorable as it gets and gives the course a real sense of place (add in the monkeys and you gotta a hit). I suspect a high score (and this is possible given the depth of some of the bunkers) would be nullified such is the spell bounding scenery.
Laguna Bintan has a wonderful variety of features across the board (jungle, sea, rocks, water, topography etc). It really is a spectacular place with lots of potential. My business partner Mark Lawson has been on the island for a few months project managing and shaping (reshaping) many of the features and doing a marvelous job as usual. Whilst I have been liaising with him by phone an email it was good to get out and help with design input. I am positive that when complete the course will be so much better in so many ways.
The key changes to the golf course will include:
1.) Course strategy and interest. Make the course more interesting and fun to play.
All 18 green complexes are to be revised as well as the re-positioning of all bunkers (in fact bunker sizes and numbers will be reduced. Instead low maintenance features such as grass depressions, fairway tiers and mounds will make up some of the strategy). Add to that the grassing lines will be improved immeasurably – new wider fairways will increase the number of shot options making it more playable and indeed fun to play.
Add to to this all the impressive features across the site will be much better highlighted (some of which are completely out of site at the minute) including some spectacular trees, rock outcrops and the sea. This will add to the courses character and give it more sense of place.
2.) Course Sustainability: Reduce the overall golf course maintenance and help improve sense of place.
The amount of grass area – particularly in the rough – will be reduced by as much as 20% and instead this grass will be replaced with natives ferns (from site and propagated on site). These ferns need little maintenance moving forward and will provide a striking color contrast with the fairway and green grass. Add to this the golf course will have more links like characteristics. Golfers will need to plot their way around the course using the humps and bumps – located in strategic areas – to propel their ball towards the target….it is going to be a lot of fun to play and something very unique for the area.
Some progress pics so far.