INDONESIA'S FREE GOLF TABLOID
Posted on 06 June 2013.
By: Simon Reynolds
Since the early 1960’s, Senayan National Golf Club has been favoured amongst golfing enthusiasts working in Jakarta. Due to its fantastic location in the heart of the CBD area, an early tee-off and a round of golf can be enjoyed before heading back to the office, starting work at noon.
Playing golf as a teenager growing up in Jakarta I used to relish and be grateful of any opportunity to play the short, tree-lined course. Despite the old course’s rustic charm, people often complained about the tight fairways and the overgrown oak trees that would devour any chance of a green in regulation or the dated clubhouse.
In May 2011, the course was closed for a thorough renovation by the JMP Group and Golf Course architect Bob Moore. In December 2012, the course was re-opened again to its loyal members and paying nonmembers.
After all the teenage golfing memories and lost balls in the Grogol River, I was eager to test the course after its facelift. We played the course on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and for reasons unknown, the course was lovely and quiet.
The new Senayan National is a short par 69, playing a humble 5,600 yards off the blue tees. My first impression is that the course looks visually stunning, thanks to the freshly planted grass, glowing green along with the mature tree-lined fairways. In the past, Senayan Golf course had the less appealing elephant grass. Today, Bob Moore has carefully chosen the tee-box areas, fairways and rough to use Passpalum grass, and the greens are Tiffeagle grass.
Hole #1 is a worthy opening hole, a 540 yard Par 5. The daunting, thin fairway area is very reminiscent of the old course where accuracy rewards. Have fun with your driver here, although with the large lake to the left hand side, a fairway wood would not be a bad strategy. Due to the short total yardage and the abundance of trees dotting the fairways, accurate and conservative golfers can happily post an impressive round.
After a short Par 4 on Hole #2, you reach back to back Par 3’s of 175 and 140 yards. Hole #3 was one of the stand out holes during the round. The elevated green is well guarded by Senayan’s largest bunkers and a large pond in front of the tee box. Ideally, a well struck long iron or a hybrid will head towards a putting green that slopes back to front.
Playing back to back Par 3’s is a unique experience. Hole #4, albeit short in yardage, is protected by numerous traps, two well placed bunkers and a large lake – under club and you will find yourself in the water hazard.
I would not be surprised if Hole #7 develops into the course’s signature hole. It’s a very short Par 5 of only 428 yards off the blues, but it’s worth slowing down to admire the view. A huge oak dominates the end of the straight fairway ready to catch any golfer going for the green in two. A lay up is not a bad play, under the shade of the tree’s branches. The hole allows golfers of all abilities to use their imagination and golfing skills to navigate their ball towards the green.
Walking around the course on a glorious Sunday afternoon, an air of nostalgia engulfed me, it had been nearly 10 years since I had played here previously. The course, under the guidance of Bob Moore, has a complete different feel to it. Today, as you walk around the 32 hectares and play golf, the course feels far more vast and less confined, and also more friendly to the golfer.
The management have introduced golf carts as an option, whereas in the past walking was the only option. Today’s layout is to be enjoyed in leisure – forget the surrounding buildings around you, there is an impressive amount of birdlife on the course to enjoy, noticeably more so then previously. During our round, my caddy and I spotted a small flock of Javanese Green Parrots in the trees on fairway #7.
The old course used to have a lingering sewage smell drifting from the Grogol River. Since the re-opening, the river is still the same murky brown, but the smell unnoticeable.
The new club house and its facilities have been modernised with the drive-way and the main entrance cleverly designed to give you the feel that you have arrived at a country club, albeit in the heart of a metropolis. The clubhouse is large and spacious, with the high ceilings and luxurious yet minimal décor that oozes a sense of quality, zen and calm. There are large balcony areas where you can look out onto the course while you enjoy your food and beverages.
Interestingly enough, on the ground floor, by the starter area and the putting green there is a French style café du jour, where one can enjoy an Italian coffee and a panini before playing a round. There is also a fine dining Japanese restaurant called Takumi located in the clubhouse, thus a wide variety of cuisine is catered for within this impressive clubhouse.
The range of F&B is indeed impressive, the management perhaps have recognised the opportunity in catering for nonplaying clubhouse guests using the good location as a useful venue for wining and dining.
It’s refreshing to see the quality of the putting green. The large putting surface has numerous holes and interesting brakes to test all levels of golfers, as Senayan National, like in the past, continues to test even the best putters. It would be a wise idea to make use of the putting green before heading out on the course.
The locker room is well equipped and roomy, and the pro-shop is well equipped selling all the top branded golf fashion labels, with lots of brightly coloured golfing apparel to suit even the loudest golfers.
The quality of the course was really impressive, thanks to the chosen grass for the fairways and rough equal to the very best in Indonesia, as well as the sand in the bunkers. If anything was to disappoint, it is that on some holes I felt too many of the old original trees had been removed leaving the fairways slightly too sparse.
Still, with the quality of the grass and surrounding tree specimens, the flourishing birdlife, and the prime location, it is fair to say that Senayan National is worth the money. Senayan National Golf course is by no means a difficult course and it is not meant to be. For me it feels like an oasis of luxury in the heart of Jakarta’s central business district, where one can celebrate the joy of a well designed golf course and a well facilitated and luxurious club house.
Take a break and indulge in fine cuisine in a country club environment 100m from the usual CBD traffic. On a golf course perspective, I think the course has been made slightly too user friendly, the old course was far more challenging.