The Cut : The Cut - Winter 2016
164 THE CUT Borobudur, the world’s biggest Buddhist temple, is worth the flight to Yogyakarta and in the same area are the 9th-century Hindu temples of Prambanan. Both temples present steep climbs, but tourists flock to them. At a market near Prambanan, a hawker was determined to sell me a bamboo blowpipe, shooting the dart into his pock- marked jandal. Malioboro Street, in Yogyakarta, is an endless jalan of shops selling everything for a song. When we arrived at the very Indonesian clubhouse at Merapi Golf we were assured that although it was the rainy season, rain had stayed away this year. Then, boom! No, not the volcano, but two thunderstorms with lightning that twice sent us scurrying back to the clubhouse. The frights weren’t over, though. Once on our way, the caddies riding on the back of our cart screamed as our driver almost plunged us into a precipitous bunker. Scary stuff. This is a stunning course, but talk about tough! Every fairway slopes into jungly bits to catch drives slightly offline. The caddies spoke little English, only Bahasa, aside from the ominous “50- 50” and “penaltee!” – both of which spelt doom for the departing golf ball. We got the idea early on when local people kept emerging from the bush selling golf balls. So when you play Merapi take plenty of ammo. At 800m above sea level, almost every putt was uphill. But at least it was pleasantly cool, as opposed to the sauna of Jakarta. Did I say uphill? One terrific hole, a 160m par-3, was almost vertical. Out came my big driver and I put the ball on the green, the only one in our party to do so. That won me 200,000 rupiah (a princely $22) for being closest to the pin – 50 feet away. The other golf courses among the 35 in the Jakarta-Bogor area are green oases in Java’s massive urban jungle. Indonesia has only 30,000 golfers but they are among the country’s wealthy and the courses are elite layouts. Jakarta is the third most visited place in Indonesia behind Bali and Bintan (near Singapore) and ahead of the Javanese cities of Yogyakarta and Surabaya. Drive for up to two hours in most places and you never seem to get clear of housing until the driver turns into a nondescript little jalan and – bingo! – up pops a high-end golf course. At least two grandly uniformed security men are always on duty to raise the barrier arm. The courses are every bit on a par with the more celebrated resort layouts of Thailand and Malaysia, but cheaper. And for Kiwis, it’s a reasonable seven-hour flight from Sydney to Jakarta. Take Bogor Raya, less than an hour’s drive down the highway from downtown Jakarta (through countless toll booths). Jakarta, a surprisingly modern metropolis, gets a bad rap for its traffic, but an early-morning drive south is against the rush- hour flow of the hordes pouring into the capital. In New Zealand there would be road rage on an industrial scale; in Jakarta everyone gives way with a minimum of fuss and while it might take ages, you get there. Never forget that in Indonesia the heat goes on, as they say, so respect it. Pack salt tablets, electrolyte drink and a towel for wetting thy red neck, and swill bottled water like it’s going out of fashion. We found Bogor Raya, the satellite city south of Jakarta, botanically splendid. I have since been trying to remember the signature 18th but when we came within sight of the clubhouse after the round I was experiencing external combustion. As the only non-Asian in the group, a diet of jetlag, two hours of sleep and too little pre-loading with water had me the colour of beetroot while the Asian guys, feeling fine, happily tucked into a grand Indonesian lunch. Water and more water revived meanhourorsolaterandI also made sure to stay within the shade of an umbrella as often as possible. Bogor Raya’s Garden Course has some beautiful holes, the signature a daunting 164m par-3 that suited my 20-degree hybrid and, thank goodness, my habitual fade. The next day, at Damai Indah Golf in Pantai Indah Kapuk (PIK), next to Jakarta’s massive Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, I was very much on heat alert. So much so that I told my two opponents from India they would not get to perform mouth-to-mouth upon me if I collapsed. “No, the pretty caddies will do that. Then we’ll take the photo and send it to your wife,” they joked. The carts stocked with bottled water became my salvation. We had sensible early starts to avoid the afternoon downpours. Our wake-up call each day was at 6am, although twice I didn’t need one because the guy in the next room was chanting his morning prayers. Indonesia, with 252 million souls, is the world’s most populous Islamic country, but a very liberal, pleasant nation to visit. On every golf course we heard the muezzins calling the faithful to prayer and reminding us we definitely weren’t in New Zealand. Gunung (Mount) Merapi erupted in 2010, killing 353 people.
The Cut - Spring 2016