Gary Player's excellent Ocean golf course at Ria Bintan offers two distinct playing atmospheres. For the most part the course cuts through the native jungle of Riau, a lightly populated part of the Indonesian archipelago. You are more likely to come upon monkeys, small deer or wild boar than other humans. It also has its seaside holes and, with their traditional lure, it is probably these holes that will be best remembered by visiting golfers. In an experience somewhat akin to the way in which the sea is unmasked at the 6th at Nirwana Bali, here at the par five 7th the sea is revealed to the golfer halfway down the fairway. From here you get closer to the sea via the short dogleg 8th and then play along it at the par three 9th. This hole, whose photograph appears on most of the club's materials, requires a medium iron played parallel to the beach to an archipelago green. The last touch of the sea is felt at the par four 10th where you descend almost to the same level as the sea itself and play along beside the beach. The waves here are benign and you don't experience the exhilarating thump of surf that characterises the beaches on the western shores of Bali.
There are also some internal water features on the course – the first five holes play their way around a large lake – and the four holes from the 11th are grouped around another lake. Individual ponds add feature to the closing three holes. I'm of the view that there is more artificial water on this course than there needs to be. The semi-hidden pond on the left side of the 1st is a bitter pill for the golfer that hooks his first shot. The body of water that runs along the right flank of the par four 4th hole renders the steeply downhill tee shot even more difficult. Completed in 1999, Ria Bintan's Ocean Course has now bedded in properly and the conditioning and presentation of the course is the best in Indonesia and is as good as the best courses in nearby Singapore. From the medal tees the course is long enough to keep the par fives honest and it at its full extent the course measures 6,470 metres.
A good score at Ria Bintan is going to hinge on playing the par fours well. This is a well-bunkered course, as you would expect in a course designed by Gary Player. The bunkers are well located but not too intrusive and fairly easy to escape from. The shape of the greens permits wide scope in the challenge of the pin settings. The greens are on the fast side and very consistent in their roll.
The tougher parts of this course lie in the opening and closing holes. The above mentioned water is not the principal hazard at the par five 1st, and only a truly bad shot will find it. The fairway is split in two and the water runs along the right side dissuades you from an attack on the green. However there is no easy lay up. A pulled shot will land in one of the three bunkers that guard the left of the fairway. In that event the golfer faces a long bunker shot with the lake on view directly behind his or her line. The second is a very short par three where a single large bunker cut into the centre of the green will have some bearing on your line of attack. Despite its short length, the water that runs up the par four 4th will prey on the mind and its influence carries through to the second shot even if water is avoided from the tee.
At the other end of the course, the 18th ranks as the toughest par on the course. The stroke index of 6 understates its menace. A good tee shot will be both long and with some fade spin. The alignment of the green and gulley that protect it requires a draw shot for the second. A straight approach leaves no room for error. Even strong swingers of the club will often find themselves approaching this difficult green with a 3 or a 4 iron.
Although its the seaside holes that linger in the mind here, it is the difficult holes to the interior of the property on which the business part of any round is based. Part of Indonesia but close to Singapore, Ria Bintan is distinctly different. Singapore has some good courses but most of them are cheek-by-jowl to the noisy airport. In Java and Ball you never escape the press of people, even on the golf course.The above article is from The Finest Golf Courses of Asia and Australasia by James Spence. Reproduced with kind permission.
A championship resort course that has everything: elevation changes, doglegs, challenging shots, conditioning, spectacular aesthetics and the only downside was that they'd lost areas on most of the greens, apparently due to an overly wet, wet-season. Was advised of this when booking however.
The feature holes are definitely 7, 8 and 9, taking advantage of the ocean site and views, but I also enjoyed the challenge straight up from the opening drive with holes 1-4 routing around a lake. The extract above on this webpage gives an excellent overview of the course.
In comparison to the Bintan Lagoon Resort courses next door to this one, Ria Bintan is clearly the superior. I found the Bintan Lagoon (Woodlands) course to be very interesting but this one had a similar layout, not surprisingly as they share adjacent terrain, but a little more polished in almost every area. I found the Bintan Lagoon (Sea View) course to be flatter and more open and aside from the single par 3 adjacent to the beach, a bit of a let down after the other two courses. Their relative positions in the Indonesian top 30 would seem correct with Ria Bintan definitely in the top ten, Woodlands in the next tranche and then Sea View in the group 20-30.
The par 5 500-yard 5th is a gentle downhill, dogleg to the right. A long hitter can reach the green in two, but the key to success is how to manage the pond in front of the green. There is also a hazard behind the green, guarded at the back by borders which have the South China Sea as a backdrop. The par 4 396-yard 8th is an excellent hole with a sharp dogleg to the left. You do not need to drive more than 250 yards to avoid the hazard. The second shot is sharply downhill with the green 14 meters (50 ft.) lower. The green is 50 yards deep with the ocean in the immediate background
The par 3 171-yard 9th is a signature hole over a sea inlet. The double-tiered green is deep and it features a bunker to the left. To the left of the bunker, rocks cascade down to the sea. It’s very beautiful, the views will take away your breath. To read more about Ria Bintan Golf Club, click here to visit my website.
Fully agree with your review Kimi, it is a wonderful course. Minor typo: the par 5 you've listed as the 5th above, is of course the 7th and the start of the course feature holes. I was fortunate enough to hit 4-wood just sweetly enough over the pond on approach, but unfortunate to be playing in the wet season and have the ball plug rather than bounce onto the green...