Nirwana Bali gets tournament treatment

19 November 2010 Respond to this article

Renovations and tournaments slated for feted Bali Nirwana GC

TABANAN, Bali, Indonesia (19 Nov. 2010)

The maturation of Bali as a golf culture has coincided with a brace of high-profile developments at the island's top course venue, Greg Norman-designed Bali Nirwana Golf Club at the Pan Pacific Nirwana Resort.

Pan Pacific Hotels Group assumed management of the golf course and 278-room, seaside destination resort sanctuary in July 2010 and, since that time, the upgrades have come thick and fast. A new director of golf and head of agronomy have been imported from Scotland and Canada, by way of Dubai, while new club membership packages have been made available for the first time in 10 years.

At the same time, ownership has made no secret of its desire to host a professional tournament and made-for-TV events at Bali Nirwana GC in the future -- which explains why strategic course renovations and agronomic improvements have been planned for the duration of 2011.

These are telling commitments from Pan Pacific, as Bali Nirwana GC, built in 1998, already considered among the top resort courses in all of Asia and perhaps Norman's finest work anywhere.

"It's true: There is no finer golf course in a more spectacular setting than here at Nirwana," said Paul Lightbody, the new director of golf at Bali Nirwana GC. "But golf travelers, and golfers who live here in Bali, are ever more sophisticated, and we're determined to stay ahead of the competition."

A native Scot, Lightbody arrived in Tabanan after stints at Archerfield, a new members club set beside Muirfield in Scotland's East Lothian region, and the celebrated Jumeirah Estates in Dubai, where Lightbody and the team played host to the 2009 Dubai World Championship.

Lightbody brought with him some coveted recognition. Pan Pacific Nirwana was recently honored as Indonesia's top golf course, at the 17th annual World Travel Awards, while the clubhouse at Bali Nirwana was named best in all of Asia-Pacific during October's Asia-Pacific Golf Summit in Bangkok.

"A wonderful achievement, the clubhouse honor, and much deserved -- but that's not about to stop us from upgrading the pro shop in 2011," said Lightbody. "We're looking at aligning ourselves with 4-5 leading golf brands, creating a truly complete golf retail outlet in the clubhouse. The idea is to offer a better selection and attractive prices to our members and guests. They can also expect one of the finest coaching academies in Asia, with sophisticated video equipment that helps players properly align their swings."

Lightbody is joined atop the Bali Nirwana GC brain trust by the new golf course superintendent, Adam Calver, a Canadian national who also arrives in the tropics via Dubai and Jumeirah Estates, where he oversaw construction and grow-in of both the Fire and Earth courses. At Nirwana, Calver is charged with keeping in the finest fettle an extraordinarily diverse golf course whose 18 holes play along the oceanfront, dart through thick jungle, skirt working rice paddies and feature no less than 13 Hindu temples -- including the sacred island temple at Tanah Lot.

7th green overlooking Tanah Lot "Like many golfers, I had seen pictures of the wonderful par-3 7th at Nirwana, which plays across an ocean inlet with the temple just out to sea," said Calver. "You can see why it's among the most photographed golf holes in the world. But I wasn't prepared for the experience in person -- with hundreds of worshippers wading out to the island, through the surf, and the smell of incense blowing past. It's quite something."

The first four holes at Nirwana loop inland from the award-winning clubhouse and serve as a fitting introduction to both the golf course and the Balinese landscape. The opening drive is actually played across rows of staggered rice paddies; it must avoid deep bunkering inside the dogleg to set up a downhill approach to the putting surface, where the sound of rushing water reveals a jungle stream surrounding the green's edge.

"We aim to cut back a bit of the vegetation there, so golfers can see the stream and not merely hear it," said Lightbody. "The same applies to several of the temples out there on the course. These are such unique features. Just gorgeous. However, several have been somewhat overtaken by the rapacious vegetation here. We want to show them off to golfers and show them the proper respect by giving them a little breathing room."

Bali Nirwana GC operates as a members club and the new managers at Pan Pacific have introduced several new benefits, including improving club discounts and privileges throughout the resort.

"The Indonesians love their golf," said Lightbody. "And the members here give the place an atmosphere, a sense of collegiality that is unusual for a resort club but very welcome indeed. It's another aspect of golf here at Nirwana that sets us apart."

Press release: Tom O'Brien | Strategic Partner | Mandarin Media | Bali, Indonesia | Phone: +62 8121.888.3334
Skype: tomsriobrien | Email: [email protected] | www.mandarinmedia.net