Ahead of the second Yak Golf Invitational on April 29 & 30 we talk to GM Mark Holland about the journey so far at Bali National Golf Club. Photos: Lucky 8.
Hi Mark. The Bali National Golf Resort hasn’t always been under that name. How did it start out?
The course first opened in 1991 and was called Bali Golf & Country Club – it operated that way until 2011 when there was a change of ownership. After being closed for a complete renovation we reopened in March 2014 as Bali National Golf Resort.
Talk us through the major changes that happened when the course was upgraded?
Prior to the closure, the course and clubhouse had been in gradual decline over many years and so it was time for a major change. Firstly the course underwent a major redesign with holes 17 and 18 being completely replaced and several other holes changed, some were made longer or shorter and changes were made to the location of several tee boxes, not just in location but also height. The old grasses on the course were killed off and new grasses, more suited to our climate and local conditions, were seeded in all areas. The results have been amazing as reinforced by our returning players.
At the same time the old clubhouse was completely demolished and seven luxury villas, the Bali National Golf Villas, were built in that area. A new modern clubhouse with full Pro Shop, lockers, meeting and function space was built. By re-routing holes 17 and 18, an area was made available for the soon to be constructed hotel and an additional 33 Villas.
Which is the toughest hole, in your opinion?
Based on the feedback from golfers, hole 17 is the most interesting and challenging. It’s a par three island green, fully surrounded by water. With varying winds the hole can make or break a player’s score and definitely the biggest talking point by golfers enjoying a cool drink after their round.
How many hole-in-ones have you had at the course?
Our par threes are all different and challenging. We get about 10 hole-in-ones per year. We are pleased that Emirates have come on board as the hole-in-one sponsor on hole 17 with the winners eligible for an international trip courtesy of the airline.
What’s the course record, and who was that?
Last year we hosted our first professional event, the Bali National Championships, part of the Asian Development Tour. The event helps to get us established and respected as a tournament venue. We will continue to host similar or bigger events in the years to come. At that event, Gyeongjun Lee from Korea shot a course record 65 being 7 under par off the back tees, which was very special and one of the highlights of the event.
You’re from the golf world prior to BNGR, where was that, and how do you find Bali different to your previous gig?
I have been fortunate to have lived overseas for many years. After a career playing professional tennis I joined Hyatt International and spent 10 years setting up and managing their clubs and recreational facilities in Kuwait, Macau, Seoul, Pusan and Brisbane, with the last role at Grand Hyatt Bali, so it is interesting coming back after almost 25 years. There has been a tremendous amount of positive change in that time. More recently I was managing a premier club on the Gold Coast in Australia.
The clubs in Australia cannot offer the same service levels as here in Bali and as a manager you are frequently very hands on due to the limited resources available. It’s refreshing that here we can offer all the services and facilities expected in a premier club, supported by the warm Balinese service.
What’s planned for 2016 at the course?
Operationally we are continuing to re-establish ourselves within Indonesia and the region and we are pleased with the progress we are making. This is also shown by the great awards that we have won including 3rd Best Renovated Course Worldwide 2015 and 5th Best Golf Resort Asia Pacific. We want to be the “must play” course in the region where we become known for the great quality of the course and maintenance and the service levels we offer.
We now have attractive membership options for golfers who appreciate the premier course and service levels that we offer. Soon we will be making the transition from a golf course to a full golf resort with the commencement of construction of our new 340-room hotel and 33 villas. Watch this space.
We spoke about it being more than a golf course there, what else have you got going on at BNGR?
We have the Bali National Golf Villas, seven luxury villas each with their own private pool overlooking hole 17 or 18. We offer full butler service and stay-and-play options for golfers, though interestingly we receive many bookings from non-golfers wanting a quiet setting yet close to all amenities.
We are just launching ourselves into events as with the clubhouse, course, the Villas and private beach we have several great locations for all sorts of celebration events, ideal for weddings, parties, dinners and exhibitions.
How many players can you handle on a single day, and what will be your biggest event this year?
We can accommodate up to 240 players in a day, which we do for certain big events. However being a high-end premium course we want to ensure all players have a great experience, so we tend to scale back from that number.
Our biggest event each year is The Bali Classic, which has been held here for over 15 years. It’s a three-day event for the oil and gas industries, with many players flying to Bali from overseas just for the event. The event has a complete social program and many of the players make a complete week’s trip to enjoy Bali, the event and the club.
And how many caddies do you have? Are they mostly from Bali?
We have around 105 caddies at this time and trying to add more as our needs are increasing. The majority are from Bali but in recent times, with employment competitions from the hotels, we have to recruit from farther afield. We have a full training and development program for them to ensure they operate to the professional standards we expect.
Can we bring the helicopter along to The Yak Golf Invitational 2.0 on April 29&30?
Sure, we have a helicopter landing pad on the property and we do have several players and Villa guests who make use of this.
What are the principles that really guide you at BNGR?
We want golfers to leave the club knowing that they have had an enjoyable golf experience and received value for money. For this to happen, we need good systems and structures in place, including a high priority of training of our team members, who we believe are our greatest asset.