The last time I played in Kemayoran Golf Course was almost 10 years ago. I remember exactly how it felt. Narrow fairways, short holes, patchy greens and fairways. But what stuck with me most was the fact it was surrounded by jungle of abandoned concretes. Finishing the round that time, my mind was hardly refreshed. The sight of Indonesian property crash examples left sore sight to my eyes. That probably explains why I never came back playing on that course again.
Until last week.
For the past 1 year, my friend Richard keep on asking me to play in Kemayoran, citing the course is “not bad”, and although it’s quite far to reach from our home, the access is actually quite easy through toll road. I didn’t buy onto his words. Well, apparently he was right all along.
As I need to pick up my wife from her business trip in the afternoon, I decided to try playing in Kemayoran, given it’s close proximity to Soekarno Hatta airport. Playing with my other friend, Anung, who live nearby (Kelapa Gading), we had very good round and happy with what we found.
Let me start with the course.
I know 10 years is a long time, but it’s apparently long enough to make significant changes to the course. First, the abandoned concrete jungle has transformed into modern and beautifully-designed apartments. Suddenly we feel like playing in Dubai or Singapore, with high rise buildings as the backdrop. Gone is the feel of depressed I had last time I played here.
The fairways and greens are in better conditions too. Although it’s not at the same quality as Royale or Pondok Indah GC, but it is better than the low-cost public course we normally play on weekend: Halim or Pangkalan Jati. I can comfortably hit down on my irons and expect a soft impact on divot. The greens are okay. Not a fast green nor undulated with sharp slopes. When you hit the green, you can safely assume to have 2 putts.
The course character is still the same as the last time I played. Narrow fairways, but relatively short. Long hitter is not as much rewarded here. Accuracy is preferred over distance. Last time I played, I remember there was not much variety on the course. It’s either you hit it straight in fairway, you bounced it over the sideway wall or net, or you made it out-of-bounds. My friend’s caddy said that given it’s narrow but short layout, player here can either score a really good score, or a really bad one.
The first couple of holes still make me feel it’s the same old course, albeit with a much improved condition and surrounding scenery. Approaching the end of first nine, however, then I realized some holes have been changed, and I hardly recognize the back nine. One Par 4 hole is now being re-designed into Par 5. And what used to be Hole 9 is now Hole 10. It makes my Golfshot and GameGolf app, which I use the GPS functionality, go bonkers. Geez.
But the best thing is the back nine. My caddie said that these are new holes, as before Kemayoran was only 9-holes course. I don’t exactly remember if it was. That’s probably why I didn’t recognize these holes. But anyway, these are turning into some proper holes with nice layout. Using the pond across the course, these holes offer not only challenging game of golf, but also quite nice scenery. Almost all of your tee shots have to clear the water at front, or at least there are waters on play, on either side of the fairway. Again, accuracy is primary weapon here, as these are still relatively short holes. Hit your tee shots straight and land it on fairways, you have great chance to hit the greens with mostly wedges or short irons on Par 4. The only exception where long hitter may have advantage is at a Par 4 Hole 14. As it’s only 220+ meters, a long hitter can drive the green. This is still within my driver range, actually, but unfortunately the hole layout is a dog-leg to the left. And I can’t draw my ball, hence, no chance to drive the green (but I hit a good fade tee shot, and made par anyway).
We played on Sunday, and we comfortably finished the round at 10 am, having started at 6 am. And we didn’t use cart. Anway, it is essentially a walking course. Cart is there, but most of players here are walking. But the pace of play is very good, especially considering it’s a weekend round. That’s why I call it a “Hidden Gem”, as apparently it’s not only me who don’t rate Kemayoran as a decent course, judging from the number of players on Sunday. With the green fee around IDR 650 thousands (about IDR 100 thousands more expensive than Halim or Pangkalan Jati), I find it surprising that the course is relatively “empty” compared to those two other public courses. In either Halim or Pangkalan Jati, on Sunday you have to wait minimum of 3 flights before continuing to your second nine. In really packed day, that could turn to 9 to 11 flights! Finishing your round at noon with early tee time is a customary. That’s why, finishing the round only by 4 hours here is such a plus point we can have playing in Kemayoran.
Anyway, I finished the round in buoyant mood. Made par on the last hole, with a difficult up and down. And I happened to score my best score, a sub 80 round, to complete a pleasant round of golf (or was it because I played so well? Don’t know :)). After the round, we sit for a drink and “Tempe Mendoan” (which was good!) at the restaurant. The restaurant and overall club house are indeed feel outdated. Nothing special, but I found the locker and wash rooms are actually look refreshed and a bit more modern than those in Halim and Pangkalan Jati. Further enhance my overall impression of the good round of golf I just had.
Well with the risk of making this course more popular, crowded and expensive, I share this glowing review of Kemayoran Golf Course. In overall, I do think this is a hidden gem in middle of Jakarta’s busy area, providing great value of golf experience which are accessible for all levels of golfers (pun intended). Recommended for those who look for alternative for challenging yet affordable golf course in Jakarta!
Above: concluding shot – my second shot in Par 5, Hole 13. Flushed it to 30 m front of the green, yet couldn’t make it up and down for birdie. Such a waste 🙂
Note: first post written with iPad Pro + keyboard, in Singapore, 27 August 2016