There are two courses at Indonesia’s tropical Bintan Lagoon Resort, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Sea View course and Ian Baker-Finch’s Woodlands layout. A short ferry crossing from Singapore will bring you to an island that has become the country’s golf capital – even Bali struggles to match Bintan for quality.
The premier course on Bintan Island is undoubtedly Gary Player’s excellent Ocean course at the Ria Bintan Resort, but the Golden Bear’s Sea View course at Bintan Lagoon, which opened for play in 1996, is not a million miles behind.
Five tees make the Golden Bear’s Sea View course very playable for golfers of all handicaps. The tips should be treated with caution as they stretch the course out to a very challenging 6,443 metres. Factor in the cooling winds, which blow in from the South China Sea, and you can find yourself in a quandary over club selection, especially at the par three 12th, which plays directly towards the aquamarine sea. This is certainly one of Indonesia’s finest seaside holes.
The Sea View course is not only about the panoramic South China Sea views it’s also about strategy. The front nine plots its way through native, tropical jungle where Nicklaus has made good use of his trademark bunkering throughout the rolling topography. However, it’s all about South China Sea views on the back nine as the course tumbles towards the sea.
This is a nice resort golf course and after a morning shower had cleared, I had the best weather of my time on Pulau Bintan, to play golf here. But unfortunately I'd played the other course (Woodlands) at Bintan Lagoon and the adjacent Ria Bintan before this one, so the sense was, nice, but just not comparable to those other two. This course is the more open, forgiving, and flatter of the courses and therefore the easiest; certainly I scored a number of shots better on this course. The best example of this being that I hit twice as many bunkers on this course compared to Woodlands, but a ball in a bunker isn't lost in jungle and a penalty, as is usually the case on the other course.
Also, although the course is called Sea View, the course only approaches the sea on two and a half holes (approach 11th through 13th). The remainder are views over the resort with a thin line of sea toward the horizon.
My recommendation is for those more serious about their golf to prioritise playing Ria Bintan and the Woodlands course and for those looking for an easier resort course experience, to play this Sea View course. There is still plenty of interesting shot-making challenges with the bunkers and water hazards and the conditioning is good. Final note, beware the sucker pin left on the par 3 15th!
The par 5 522-yard 5th consists of a dogleg to the left with various impressive bunkers in front of the green. The drive is a little downhill from the elevated tee and the second and third shots are uphill. The second shot offers many options. The most risky one is to take a short cut over the bunkers. The less risky one is to hit to the fairway on the left, 70-80 off the green and go for birdie with good approach shot. The safest one is to lay up in front of the bunkers and hit a 120-yard uphill approach shot and go for par.
The par 3 173-yard 12th is a very beautiful “signature hole”. The tee shot is over natural sand beach that becomes a huge bunker when you are short of the green. There is a great ocean behind the green and on the right side of the hole. The green is deep, guarded by the bunker on the left and by the coastline on the right, and is as narrow as 20 yards. A very precise shot is required and moreover you need to read the sea wind. This is the hole of “no rose without a thorn”. To read more about the Jack Nicklaus Sea View course click here to visit my website.