Golf in Papua: Birdies in the Jungle

Dennis G. Kloeth

Feb 7,2014

Once playing golf in Papua, diving the crystal clear waters of Raja Ampat is highly recommended to any golfer or non golfer for that matter © Dennis G. Kloeth

Papua is a genuine off-the-beaten-track destination. Rather undiscovered by mass tourism. Of late, however, Papua is putting itself on the world tourism map, and predominantly because it is home to two of the world’s most remote natural wonders. Call them the last frontiers, if you will!

The first is Raja Ampat. This enchanting archipelago is located off the coast of Sorong and on the northwestern tip of Indonesia’s West Papua province. It is home to a collection of hundreds of small islands that offer not only jaw dropping scenery and a pristine environment, but certainly some of the best diving to be found on this lonely planet of ours.
The second remote natural wonder, surely, is the Baliem Valley. This rugged mountainous tribal land, in the Central Highlands of Papua, is also known as the Grand Valley. In a total area of about 1,600 square kilometres, it is here that the Dani, Lani and Yali tribes thrive from agriculture activities.
Not expected by many, Papua is also home to two enchanting golf courses. Recently, I played both courses with a group of golfers from Germany. And while we were in the area anyway, we decided to end our Papua golfing trip with a couple of days of diving in the world-renowned crystal clear waters of Raja Ampat. It’s highly recommended to any golfer, or non-golfer for that matter.

We played two courses. The first was an 18 hole course in Timika on Papua’s southern coast while the second was a simple but pretty nine hole affair in Jayapura.
Let’s start with the Klub Golf Rimba Irian in Timika. The first time I played this course was back in 2003 when I was invited by Freeport Indonesia, a mining company that operates a copper and gold mine that sits some 4,500 meters up the Carstensz Mountain Ridge, and today better known as Puncak Jaya. Since then, I’ve played the course a dozen times and each and every time it remains a marvel in my extensive Indonesia golfing experiences.

Klub Golf Rimba Irian – Tee Box #11© Dennis G. Kloeth

It was designed by 1995 Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw, who instead of celebrating comprehensively, traveled to Timika the very first day after his Major win in Augusta. That in itself was rather unique, to say the least! There, and in the middle of nowhere, he found a pretty remote piece of jungle land for which he was tasked to create a course that would hopefully elate golfers and employees that work for PT. Freeport Indonesia.
In what was a former Amungme tribal lowland swamp, Crenshaw was able to create a course of international standard. Cut from the dense rainforest and Papuan jungle, way up in the tree tops of the (sometime more than one hundred meter high) Fig trees, hundreds of rare bird species thrive. Among them are the world-famous Bird of Paradise, the White Sulfur Cockatoo, the multi coloured Parrot and the impressive Hornbill. Together, they create a cacophony of many different bird calls. Hence, golfers that play their maiden round at Rimba Irian, may well find it pretty difficult to keep their head down while executing their next shot.

The Green on #10 – Klub Golf Rimba Irian © Dennis G. Kloeth

Down on the forest floor, and from up close, golfers can see the Cassowaries and Wallabies, and sometime even the infamous, but well-protected, Boelen’s Phyton. By the way, golfers are advised to leave wayward shots that land balls into the dense jungle just where they are.
Playing golf amid such an imposing, genuine and living jungle is something utterly different. We played three days in a row and I strongly recommend if you ever get the chance to play Rimba Irian, take it.

From Timika, it’s a short one hour flight to Jayapura. Basically, we traveled there because we were told of a tiny 9-hole course that goes by the name of Cenderawasih Golf Club Jayapura. Without any high expectations, we made the trip up the hills that overlook the harbour and the city of Jayapura, a place that I first set foot on as a  5-year-old kid during the days my dad decided to set up a business there in 1950.

Looking at the clubhouse and the caddies – of which some walked the cow-grass fairways barefooted – my expectation level dropped way below par. Past hole number two, however, soon I got more and more excited by the incredible vistas that were on offer. By the time I reached hole #6, I was elated even. Here, we had a ‘bird’s eye view’ on the city of Jayapura that we enjoyed all the way until the tee box and green of hole #8, where the views truly are at their very best.

Padang Golf Cenderawasih – Jayapura © Dennis G. Kloeth

While my German friends and I were taking in the marvellous vistas, to my surprise, there and then I realized that I’d very much enjoyed playing this little course. Later in the week, we even returned twice to play it again.
What my golfing buddy had told me about Padang Golf Cenderawasih Jayapura was actually right; if you’re not too critical about poorly maintained clubhouses and fairways and greens, and if you are able to indulge in the charm of a ‘locally-managed’ course, then this little 9-hole beauty is the course you want to play when visiting Jayapura, the provincial capital of West Papua. It surely is part and parcel of an off-the-beaten-track golfing holiday in Papua.

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