Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Smacking the little white ones

Today I discovered there is a golf driving range about 2 miles from our house, so a couple of other guys and I went for a hit this morning. The range is in the middle of a residential area, so they have lots of poles and nets set up, but it's still as good as any range back home. It's only 175 yards long, so no woods or long irons are allowed, but at $3 for 100 balls I'm not complaining. And, there is a bar, swimming pool and tennis courts in the same complex, so nice and handy actually. The golf coach is an Aussie too.

There are lots of good courses within 1 hour drive of Jakarta, and green fees ($20-40) include caddies, so I'm looking forward to having a hit semi-regularly.


It's Sunday night here and I'm busy replacing bodily fluids after 5 hours on the golf course (it was slow today, with an interclub competition happening on the course), so I thought I'd write about what it's like to play golf in Indonesia.

The courses are amazingly good, most are championship quality (grass grows like crazy here in the tropics, so they're easy to have looking real nice). I've played on some of the best courses in Australia, and the "average" Jakarta course I played today (owned by the Indonesian Navy) is a good as any of them. Off the members blue tees it's rated 72.8, so it's very tough.

Green fees today were $30, including a caddy. The course we played at today had male caddies, although there are a few courses in Jakarta who have female caddies. The male caddies are all very good golfers who can help your game, whereas the female caddies could tend to make you lose concentration.

My caddy was a 10 handicapper who knew the course like the back of his hand, and his club selection and putting tips were spot on for a hacker like me. I tipped him $10, which is a lot of money to a local, given that the official minimum wage is less than $80 per month.

The course was very tough, with water and sand on every hole, and some very narrow fairways that punished wayward shots off the tee. Of course, it was very hot, and my shirt and shorts were soaking wet after 3 holes. I drank 2 litres of water, 5 cans of "Pocari Sweat" (the local Gatorade) and 2 Cokes, and didn't take a piss all day.

Everywhere there is a water hazard, rough or out of bounds (you lose a lot of balls on this course), there is some guy sitting with a neatly wrapped package of 10 near new balls they will sell you for $2. So forget about buying new balls in the pro shop, since you can get 10 Titelists or Pinnacles for $2 out on the course. These guys wade through stinking leech infested chocolate brown lakes and water hazards to retrieve these balls, and that's a job I'm happy for them to do, and not me.

Today my Aussie buddy and I played with a Canuck and a Finn, as part of Sunday expat golf group called the T-Set. We just rock up at 10am on Sundays and can get a tee time without being members or booking a time. That's one of the best perks of being an expat here.

The Canuck had a set of Dunlop Loco covers on his woods, and he was telling us that last week he played at a course with female caddies, and all day the girls were pointing at his golf bag and giggling. Today he asked his male caddy if he could work out what the laughter was all about. Turns out that "loco" is a colloquial Javanese word that means "masturbate". He's now in the market for a new set of wood covers.

As we were about to hit off on the 16th tee, a security guard comes over and raises his hand to stop us, while around 30 guys (on 12 or 13 motor cycles) rode past on their way to a back gate. Turns out they were club employees (clubhouse, greens etc) on their way to afternoon prayers.

After the round, massages are available for $4-$10, and beers are $1.20. I probably lost 5lbs in perspiration on the course today, but at these prices golf is a great pastime here.


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