ALUS, HERONS AND VOLCANOES
The 18-hole, championship course, just a shank shot away from Amanusa, in southern Bali, was named one of Asia's top five golf courses a few years back by Fortune magazine. Defined by terraced lime-rock walls, by lush vegetarian, tall coconut palms, and an undulating landscape cut by creeks and canyons, the 10-year-old course ripples with surprises from tee to glossy Bermuda greens. Mount Agung shows its sacred face from the Bali Golf and Country Club more often than the alu does, while the Sahara, a 16th hole bunker of spreading sand, is large enough to lose a golf cart in.
On the par three 12th, the course's signature hole, an underground stream feeds the lagoon. The alang alang roofed temple, just back of the water, is used on special occasions by nearby villagers. The Indian Ocean, all blue, glitter, and bright, foam freshens the tropic air over holes 17 and 18. Finish with the sea at your back and the sound of surf in your ears.
The Merapi Golf Course, hugging the very slopes of mercurial Mount Merapi in central Java, is less than an hour's pleasure drive from Amanjiwa. Once past Muntilan and its markets, the road shimmers with coconut and banana and salak and neat, red tile roofed homes. Come out of a bend to find volcanic Merapi herself, magnificent cone cutting cloud, peering down at you.
There is a welcome mood about the Merapi Golf Course, from its cool highlands calm to the Clubhouse with its soarina, joglo-style roof. From some holes, the country surrounding the course reveals itself: cattle and their sun shaded keepers wondering by from nearby Canakringan village. But it's Merapi 12 kilometers to the summit from the clubhouse that makes the manicured Piers Thompson-designed course a marvel to play. Several holes offer stilling views, including #4, with its wide-angle vista to the south face and the western flanks falling toward Muntilan.
The 17th gets you as close as your want without going walkabout. From there, you can see the rise and the fading of forest along Merapi's southeast slope. On an active day, Merapi smoke colors the clouds that cling to it like supplicants to royalty. Look closely, and you may see the silhouette of Parangtritis, jagged cliffs hiding black sand dunes that give way to the Indian Ocean. Golf never looked so good.
OTHER AMAN GOLF COURSES