The Old Course at Jagorawi Golf & Country Club was the first of two 18-hole Thomson, Wolveridge & Perrett designs completed for the club and was built under the supervision of Ronald Fream. The New Course is almost as good, but it is the maturity and idiosyncrasies of the Old Course that make it the real treat here. The surrounding tropical vegetation has reasserted itself over the course's years of existence so that most of the holes are played in verdant isolation. It is also one of the few remaining walking courses in tropical Asia. The fairways are largely of the grass commonly referred to as cow grass, an indigenous variety no longer used in Asian course construction. The ball neither sits as well nor comes out as cleanly as from Bermuda or bentgrass varietals.
A round on the Old Course is also a walk in West Java. You are never quite isolated here as the course borders country villages, teeming with life. The island of Java is home to over 100 million people. You are made aware of a thin slice of this life when you play the back nine which borders some rural kampongs. An attacking shot from the tee at the 15th is played over somebody's vegetable patch.
The 1st hole, a par five, maybe the toughest opening hole in Asian golf and has undergone modifications to draw some of its teeth. You play from a perched tee some 80 feet above the fairway. The tee shot will float above the canopy of jungly trees before descending toward a narrowing ribbon of fairway. The hole was made more treacherous by subsidence caused by the land's former use as a rubber plantation and corrective work has been required to correct the camber that encourages balls out of play. If anything the second shot is even tougher as you play uphill to the narrowest neck of the fairway. A bunker encroaches from the left side, trees from the right. If your progress has not been interrupted by the multitude of hazards, the third shot is a pitch to a green with a severe slope from front to back. The contours of the green are severe enough to reduce grown men to tears.
The 2nd is a more appealing hole, also played downhill but to a generous fairway. From this point you play a short iron to a tiered green protected by bunkers at the front and rear. The 3rd, from the back tees, is one of the most difficult par threes in the region. Something between a 4 iron and a 3 wood is needed to reach the long thin green which is well protected by bunkers. Putting is rendered difficult by the severe contours and pronounced grain. The par four 4th and the par five 5th take you out to the far extremities of the property. The tee shot at the 5th is made difficult by the vegetation that juts in from the right side. This poses problems for the pronounced hooker of the ball who is deprived an angle from the back tees. The land falls away very sharply on the left into a hazard area. The attacking line that aims to fly the edge of a bunker at the apex of this left leaning dog leg is a very dangerous option and the better way to play the hole is to aim at the fairway's centre, which is further right than you would think with a view to landing on the brow of the hill. From this point the fairway disappears beneath the golfer's feet and the second is sharply downhill to a large green. The two par fives that follow are even more contorted. In both cases a sliding fade (for the right hander) is the optimal tee shot. Both greens can be reached in two by the longer hitter. The best way into the 9th is with a low, sweeping hook shot that runs onto the green. The approach to the 10th, perhaps the most claustrophobic on this jungly course also calls for a hook, but a high one this time. The green can only be properly viewed if the complex of bunkers to the right of the fairway have been taken on to some extent and a high faded tee shot at this hole, if executed properly is one of the great joys available to the golfer on this course.
Although most Javanese golfers' preferred time of play is early in the morning to secure some hours of play before the furnace of heat descends on the course, mid afternoon has its charms as well. You need to tee off before 2pm to be sure to finish before the precipitous fall of darkness and you have to cope with the heat of the day in the front nine. Provided you have hydrated properly, the last five holes can be a magical experience. The heat and glare of the day retracts and the light softens to a golden glow. Dangdut music - an Indian-Arabic inspired blend carries across the padi fields from the neighbouring villages. As the light fades, the call to prayer from the mosques reverberates around the course. The last few holes also mark the point where the golf course gets closest to the surrounding villages. The 15th is the last of the curvilinear par fives, a left to right slider is the best shot across the fields. Despite being at least 10% shorter than most modern championship courses this old lady of Javanese golf defends its par well.The above article is from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
October 12, 2011