“So I jump ship in Hong Kong, make my way over to Fiji and the Natadola Golf Club”
If you ever go on holiday to Fiji, make sure you stop by the Natadola Bay championship golf course. Just past the Intercontinental resort in Natadola Bay, this Vijay Singh designed layout is a must for golfers of any standard. The weekend golfer will love the relaxed pace of play and the golf carts. The experienced golfer will love the challenge. Either way, this course makes for a great day’s golf.
Sitting down to write this review, I can still picture every hole on the course. Many times I have walked away from golf courses and struggled to remember just going up and back on everyday holes that seem to have no imagination from their designer. Not Natadola. You will remember every hole as all are good, some even unforgettable. Please make sure to take your camera, as there are many shots you will just have to take.
I played from the black tees, which is 6569 meters, but there are 4 or 5 tee boxes on every tee so you can play the course the way you like to. The 1st is a downhill short par 4, the 2nd an uphill long par 4 that always seems to play into the wind. The 3rd another short dogleg par 4 with a raised domed green that will take your best putt from many angles. Then you arrive at the 4th. I say “arrive” because as you turn the corner from the last hole, this signature par 3 and the beach all come into view at once. On a sunny day, the setting is nothing short of magnificent. The clear Fiji waves breaking to your left. The open beckoning green of the par 3 ahead. The jungle that will claim any ball slightly right. Playing at 197 from the black tees, it is quite the challenge. The next par 5 uphill will take all you have in your bag if you want to reach in two. I suggest the layup as the green is extremely tricky and large. You will want to see where the pin is.
So far I was thinking this course was great. The first 5 holes wandered around near to the clubhouse and departing the 5th you have to cross the road to the 6th tee. What can I say about the view from the 6th tee? Probably one of the best views of a golf hole that I have played anywhere. This beast of a par 5 only measures 495, but this is 495 meters that you will remember forever. The tee is perched high up on top of what seems like a mountain. The fairway below looks tiny and has water left and jungle right. When you eventually zig zag your way to the bottom after hitting your shot, you are now presented with an uphill 2nd shot to a hidden left green that has some elevation. If you make 5, you have done well.
The 7th is the third time I took out my camera. After taking shots of 4 and 6, the 7th is a downhill 164 meter par 3 that has no fairway to speak of. The hole just seems to have a tee and a green and the rest is jungle. Do not miss this green! If you do, reload. You will then drive your cart up, up and up again to the 8th tee. Again, another picture taken as I stood on the 8th tee. A great looking hole that descends down then back up again to a tough green.
Walking off 8, I was more than happy with the front 9 so far, but little did I know, that Vijay had saved the best for last.
The 9th hole does not look much off the tee. I hit my tee shot down the left to a large mound that my yardage book said was about 100 out from the green. As I got to my ball, I was presented with a second shot that was going to be tough. Although only 100 meters, the rock wall water hazard was almost on the green. The trees right were very close also. The tiny green sloped towards the front and there was room over the back, but you do not want to go there, as the chip back towards the hazard will get your knees trembling. One of the more satisfying birdies I made for the day.
Making the turn to the back nine, the 10th is a long right sweeping par 4, the 11th a very long straight par 5. The 12th will need a few photos taken as it looks great from the tee, and even better the closer you get to the green as the ocean waves break right behind it. From the fairway it looks like the back of the green is the beach. The 13th is another opportunity to take out the camera as this par 3 runs along the beach once more. With a huge bunker that runs along the hole to the left and hills to the right, hitting the green is a must. The 14th is a par 4 with an uphill second shot to a completely blind green. Anything right may funnel a long way from the green and even back to your feet if you come up short. 15 is a small par 3 with a lot of character and 16 although short, has one of the toughest greens on the course. Double bogeys will await all who try to drive it in one and miss.
The course finishes with an easy to reach par 5 on 17 and a tough final uphill par 4 for 18. For the last time you can break out the camera and the impressive clubhouse comes into view as you hit the 18th fairway. Expect to get great conversation from the drinks cart guys as they deliver the local beers to you several times during your round, as well as the locals who will sell you golf balls on 5,9 and 12. You will lose balls so don't be afraid to buy the pack deals from them. Very cheap!
A very memorable 18 holes of golf and the 78 I shot seemed like a 69 as this golf course has teeth. If you stay at the Intercontinental Resort, they have a free shuttle that leaves on the half hour, otherwise make your own way there and don’t miss the opportunity to play a truly remarkable world class golf course. The Intercontinental Resort is considered the finest resort in Fiji and we were more than comfortable there. Everything about the Natadola experience is first class.
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The only thing that will leave you a little down about the day will be the price. It’s a little bit expensive, but I thought worth it. 18 holes will be about $220 inclusive of cart and range balls. There are packages there if you want to play a few rounds that will bring the price down and include a yardage book and cap as well. Some of the holes have now been switched around, so the layout is different to that which I played. Stay hydrated and go play it!
Check out this YouTube video of this great course. https://youtu.be/MoAAx_bnjgs