The Imperial Klub Golf is a public facility situated in the new town development of Lippo Karawaci, half an hour’s drive west of Jakarta city centre. It’s here that Desmond Muirhead, one-time associate of Jack Nicklaus, set the course out around a “lucky 8-shaped lake” that sits in the middle of the property.
The architect, who became known for his slightly eccentric course layouts, certainly pushed the boundaries of conceptual land form at Imperial. The course was, in his own words, “designed so that each hole is a separate event, an individual theatre where every golfer can give his maximum performance”.
The island green at “Temple,” the par three 5th hole is certainly not a unique idea but border the square-shaped putting surface with a low lying stone wall then fill the gap between green and water with sand and the result is pretty much a one-off hole.
Preceding that hole, the doglegged par four 4th sports a specially constructed island fairway in the middle of a lake, allowing golfers to use this route as a shorter way to the green. Whimsical to some, others will find this just too contrived to be considered sound architecture.
Then there’s the swirl-shaped bunkers by the green on the par three 7th, the volcano bunkers along the fairway at the next hole (the appropriately named “Krakatoa”) before golfers reach the saw-tooth bunker that projects into the lake beside the green at the par five 9th. And that’s just the front nine.Not everyone will appreciate, never mind understand, the geometry of the design but the course at Imperial is one of the most memorable you will ever play.
You play the course and think, "some of that was pretty different", but it's when you get a look at the layout via Google maps 'Satellite View' that you really understand just how different it is. I make no judgement on whether it is the 'mickey mouse' confected kind of different, or the 'interesting to do something different' kind, as everyone will feel, well, 'different' on the matter.
However, I think the designer (Desmond Muirhead) may have been, to use the local term, on the 'narkoba' when coming up with some of the design features. They serve little to no purpose on the round of golf except to simply exist: the saw-tooth bunker edging doesn't change the angles of play or risk-reward nature of holes, and the slightly hollowed out hillocks (are they meant to be little volcanoes?) alongside some of the fairways are a different king of grass-bunker hazard, but they're well off the line of play. It's design effect, for the sake of design, not for the actual round of golf. Now there may well have been method in the madness: like most Jakarta (and many other South East Asian city courses), the land is flat and has to cope with tropical rains. So fairways are built up by digging out lakes and channels along those fairways: it reduces the effects of flooding and provides plenty of water hazards around the course. The downside is that it becomes rather repetitive. Maybe, by adding in a few crazy design touches that don't really affect the golf, this course is trying to stand out from the plethora of other flat tropical parkland courses. All share the same expansive and/or ostentatious clubhouse; young, mostly female caddies; excessive use of golf carts and a rather formulaic and forgettable course. Maybe Imperial is just trying to stand-out from the crowd.
Much like Pondok Indah, PIK and a number of other Indonesian courses, this course was good, but nothing more if the game of golf is really what you're after, rather than obsequiousness and cart paths.
In the capital, I've not yet played Royale, but BSD seems to be the standout option thus far. Better again I believe, to head an hour (or two, or three in Jakarta traffic) south to Bogor where the hills provide more interesting landforms and there really are plenty of choices.