Pride of the Pacific
With the opening of the magnificent Natadola Bay, Fiji now finds itself on the global golfing map
WHERE TO PLAY
NATADOLA BAY *****
Without question the best course in the South Pacific, Natadola Bay is a breathtakingly sublime seaside layout that will undoubtedly drive Fiji's international golf market for years to come.
Originally designed by that greatest of Fijian golf exports – Vijay Singh – the course has since had to drop Singh's name from their marketing materials because of his management company's dispute with developers in 2007. This is a huge shame, because Natadola is surely a place that the three-time major winner would be proud of.
From the clubhouse, an appealing structure incorporating traditional Fijian architecture, the course heads down towards the coral-filled waters of the Pacific for the undoubtedly scenic (and windswept) opening stretch before turning inland for a rousing run of holes that take advantage of rugged and dramatic terrain. The 6th is a case in point. From an elevated tee, perched nearly 200 feet above the fairway, this par-5 snakes its way up and through a valley bordered on both sides by fescue-clad hills. Like at the 8th – a gem of a risk-reward par-4 that swings radically to the right – the challenge here is to find the cut grass; any preconception one might have that Natadola is a typical resort course is quickly dispelled.
Indeed, Natadola is a supreme test of golf. At the 2010 Fiji Open, an event comprised mainly of pros from Australasia, Mike Hendry of New Zealand won with a four-round total of 293, five-over-par. When the ocean winds get up – as they did during the final round when Hendry carded an 80 – the pristine landing areas and intelligently-contoured greens (all decked out in a thriving strain of Paspalum grass) can prove particularly elusive targets. This invariably brings the tall rough in to play, which is a problem. When HK Golfer visited, the native grass that borders the playing areas was nearly four-foot high. You could have forearms like Popeye and not be able to advance your ball back to the fairway – and that's if you can even find it.
However, the lasting memory that one takes from Natadola is not how many strokes it took you to get round in. The brilliant diversity of the holes, the immaculate conditioning and the fabulous ocean vistas (from both the course and the agreeable clubhouse terrace) all add up to make this an experience of quite epic proportions.
Written by The Editors
Photography by Charles McLaughlin
Click here to see the published article.
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