Bukit Barisan Golf Course
Our day at Bukit Barisan Golf Course began a few evenings earlier at a western-styled restaurant that we ate at while we were in Medan. While having dinner, Menekse and I noticed two gentlemen walking toward the exit carrying their golf clubs. Well, hello! We quickly struck up a conversation and found that our newly met friends were from Canada and that one of them, Vern, had previously lived in Medan for many years (retired gas and oil industry). He was part of an ex-pat community here called the Medan OP Hackers (OP, we later found out, stood for Old People!). After exchanging contact information, we quickly had our first golf day planned- a 1995 Jack Nicklaus design on the outskirts of Medan called Bukit Barisan Golf Course (no golf course website found).
Vern picked us up in the morning and we rode together to the course. Once we arrived, we were introduced to a few of the Hackers that had already arrived. They were a great group of people, a mixture of English, Australian, Canadian, and American. Many of them have lived in Medan for years- in fact, one of the leaders of the Hackers has lived there for over 30 years! Pleasantries were exchanged, teams drew up, and we quickly got to the reason why we were all here- golf!
Menekse and I always like to hit a few balls before we play. Barret, our playing partner and one of the gentlemen we met at the restaurant, showed us the way to the “driving range”. Yes, we are going to say “driving range” here because, well, it might not be what we would call driving range back home. Yes, there are range balls. The range balls, which lost their dimples back in the 90’s, were a colourful assortment that reminded us of an Easter Basket. Similarly, the range itself probably hasn’t seen a mower also since the 90’s. But no matter, because we really need to hit 20 or so balls, and, as a result, there are probably 20 fewer range balls at BBGC!
Regardless of the time of day, traffic in Medan is a beast. Hence, by the time we made it out to the course, met the group, lost a couple of range balls, collected our carts, met our caddies and refilled our water bottles, it was already later in the day than we planned, which meant it was already getting hot. Meeting the entire group back at the first tee, we decided to split up. Two groups were to tee off on the first hole, while the other two groups were to tee off on 10. We were in the group selected to tee off on 10. For some reason, I never like to play the back before the front. It’s probably because I get the holes mixed up afterwards, but it was hot, and we were ready to play. So off to the tenth tee we went.
Bukti Barisan is an 18-hole, par 72 course that measures 6957 yards from the tips. Barret and I moved one tee up and played it from the Blue tees, which made it play at a more manageable (for me anyway!) 6459 yards. Menekse played it from the ladies tees, which measure 4927 yards but still provided some challenging angles.
Both Menekse and I started out reasonably well, with pars and bogies dotting our scorecards for the first few holes. It would take us more than a few holes to get used to the speed of the greens. BBGC was the first course we played after playing golf in Hong Kong, where the greens were at the perfect speed. I think it would be fair to say that the greens at BBGC were a little bit slower than what we had become used to!
Another adjustment that we were making was the use of caddies. We have had some great caddy experiences in our golf travels- our couple of days at Royal Portrush immediately come to mind. Caddies are common in Asia and are often mandatory, and this was the case at BBGC. But, in our experience, caddies here aren’t as helpful as they are, say in Europe, or in the US. Bunker left. Out of bounds right. Putt is uphill. Perhaps it is due to the language barrier, but these are about the only words of advice we received. And they also let you know your score as you walk off the green. So, when I heard the already obvious ‘double bogey Mister’ as we walked off the par 3 15th (our 6th), I couldn’t help but just grin and bear it. Some things are best kept quiet….
OK, now it’s hot!
By the time we reached the turn, it was now really hot. Like, sticky hot! Those of you that have travelled in Asia know what we are talking about. It is the sort of hot that George Orwell so richly describes in Burmese Days. We knew hot like this from our day in the jungle seeing Orangutans, but neither of us was quite ready to play golf in this heat.
Other than the slower than we were used to greens, the course conditions at BBGC were pretty good. And we both liked the layout. Common to Mr. Nicklaus’s designs, there was a good mix of really demanding holes, and some holes with fun risk and reward opportunities. We both liked the 1st (our 10th), a short but not indefensible 281-yard par 4, as well as the dogleg right par 4 5th (our 14th), the number one handicap hole. And, like all Nicklaus designs, the final three holes are also a true test of golf.
By the time we finished playing, it was close to 2 in the afternoon, and both Menekse and I were melting. My head was aching, which probably meant I had a touch of heat stroke. Entering the clubhouse, we were welcomed by cold wet towels which we both gladly threw on top of our heads.
It’s too hot!
After tallying up the scores, the Medan OP Hackers decided the next move was to Roland’s, a German Biergarten pub located in Medan. Back in the cars, we went, fighting the traffic, and we finally made it. Unfortunately, by now my head was pounding, and we couldn’t stay long because all I wanted to do was to go back to our hotel. As a result, we called a Grab taxi, put our golf bags in the back of the taxi, and went to our room, where I think I slept for an hour or so.
The course was a delight to play, made even more so by the great green fee prices. But certainly, our day at BBGC was made memorable by the great group of OP Hackers we now call friends!