EVERY year, hundreds of thousands of Australians flock to Bali, a tourist mecca also known as the “Islands of the Gods”. The number of Australians who visited Bali in 2016 surpassed the million-mark to reach 1.14 million, a substantial increase of 18.23 percent from the previous year, according to Antara News.
For most of these Aussies, Bali represents a “value-for-money” holiday experience due to factors such as the availability of budget air travel, relatively cheap accommodation and Indonesia’s visa-free policy that encompasses Australian nationals. In stark contrast to that, some golfers from Australia are attracted to the island for reasons other than low prices.
This is evident when comparing golf fees in Australia and Bali. In Perth and Sydney, public golf courses often charge green fees of around AUD50 or less for 18 holes, which is noticeably lower than the AUD150-200 listed for a single round at many of the better golf resorts in Bali.
In addition, unlike other developed countries in the region, such as Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, Australia has an abundance of public golf courses. This makes golf affordable and accessible to most Australians of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Despite the accessibility of golf in their home country, Australians still represent more than 40 percent of foreign golfers at some leading golf resorts in Bali, outdoing the number of golfers from more populous Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea.
So why the enthusiasm among Aussies to tee off in Bali if they can just as easily play in Australia?
It is true some Australian golfers travel to Bali as part of a larger family holiday. The opportunity to keep their children occupied with sightseeing, daycare and outdoor activities, while one or both parents play golf, is priceless.
A Perth Golf Network spokesman told Travel Wire Asia “Bali ticks all the boxes” for amateur golfers in this category as the low costs of accommodation, meals and local tours make the trip to Bali quite affordable despite the high costs of golfing.
However, for the many serious golfers who either visit Bali alone or with fellow golfers, the motivation is different. For them, the challenge of a new environment and the high levels of service are appealing.
Well-known golf resorts in Bali such as Handara Golf and Resort Bali, Bali National Golf Club as well as Nirwana Bali Golf Club boast courses that are often surrounded by mountain ranges, ocean views and terraced rice paddies. These backdrops are sometimes perceived as more “exotic” than what Australia has.
The contrasting environments, combined with the terrain in Bali that tends to be more undulating, leads to the second factor attracting serious Aussie golfers to Bali – the novelty of playing on different courses around the world.
Australia-based travel agency My Travelshoppe CEO Johansen Chong said: “We frequently organize golf tours for Australians who wish to play at better golfing destinations in Asia and Australia. We have found when it comes to Bali, our clientele is attracted to the novelty of playing on a variety of well-maintained golf courses that provide superior service.”
Service is a key competitive advantage for golf resorts in Bali. Golf fees in Bali often include access to a golf cart and a personal caddy. Having a caddy is uncommon in Australia, so for some Australians, this additional service takes their golfing experience to a whole new level.
“The attention given by the caddies to the maintenance of the clubs and golf balls as well as their advice regarding club selection were something I never got back home. It made me take my game more seriously (when playing in Bali),” amateur Australian golfer David Henwood told Travel Wire Asia.
Golf resort executives and tour organizers recognize superior service is a key competitive advantage, especially when it comes to attracting Australians.
“That ‘extra mile service’ has always been the key factor for Australians (wanting) to play golf in countries like Indonesia,” Handara Golf & Resort Bali general manager Shan Ramdas told Travel Wire Asia.
Similarly, travel agencies which cater to the mid-upper travel market, such as My Travelshoppe, provide packages to some of their Aussie clients who want the convenience of a guided golf trip to Bali with transfers, accommodation and rounds of golf arranged in advance.
Between the superior service, ocean views and mountain backdrops, it’s little wonder Aussies often throng Bali for a few rounds.