By Evin Priest

THEY say your average heart rate drops when you step off the plane at Nadi International Airport – so relaxing is a trip to this island nation. Its reputation has, over time, cemented Fiji as one of the most popular getaways for Australians. We love the Fijian people, beaches, recreation and resorts. But of all the destinations scattered across the archipelago’s 330 islands, which one should be your next golfing vacation? Here are six reasons it’s Natadola Bay. Bula!

1. The Course

VIJAY Singh is one of golf’s perfectionists. Nothing other than meticulous attention to detail and an extraordinary work ethic earned him three Majors, and a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Singh’s personality is reflected in each of Natadola Bay’s 18 holes and the former world No.1 didn’t waste a square metre of the magnificent land he was gifted. Singh has routed the course beautifully so that when you’re not playing to, or running alongside, the Pacific Ocean, dramatic changes in elevation will have you teeing off cliffs, winding through palm trees and playing approach shots down steep valleys or to greens perched high above. The postcard hole is the par-3 fourth [below, first image], which runs adjacent to the beach, offering stunning views of the coral reef and the option of walking along the sand en route to the green. The ocean is also well featured in several of the short, enjoyable par 4s such as the 10th and 12th. But of the holes away from the water, the standout is the par-5 sixth [below, third image]. Here, the golfer tees off high above a fairway guarded by forest and palm trees, with the temptation to take on the sharp dogleg right to set up a birdie chance. The more difficult back nine offers some short (but challenging) par 4s, difficult par 3s and reachable par 5s, before the finishing hole takes the golfer up to the iconic clubhouse. Natadola Bay is a perfect resort course – blending the ideal amount of fun and challenge with ocean views and expert routing. Post-round, stop off at Vatu Lo Bar and Restaurant for a delicious meal overlooking the course, mountain ranges, coral reefs and rolling surf breaks.

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2. The Resort

NESTLED between the South Pacific Ocean and the rolling hills of Natadola Bay, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa’s location is enough reason to visit. Its impossibly beautiful foundation is 35 acres of tropical gardens surrounded by a reef, creating an aqua-blue, ocean-facing lagoon. This jaw-dropping vista is the background of the beach-side infinite pool, and the adult’s-only swimming spot is where you’ll truly let your hair down. A cocktail, beer (we recommend Fiji Gold) or delicious snack delivered to your poolside lounge – paradise.

The 5-star accommodation features 271 rooms across six packages. For Club InterContinental members (12 years and older), the one and two-bedroom suites offer sweeping views of Natadola’s 2-kilometre white beach and are ideal for families. The scenery can also be enjoyed in the Beachfront, Lagoon and Pool View rooms and suites.

This resort has a wonderfully unique vibe where singles, couples and families all feel welcome and catered for. The modern architecture of the resort is luxurious, while the gardens make walks back to the rooms tranquil. The practice putting green near the pool is also a favourite for golfers.

Your internal body clock will automatically adjust to ‘Fiji Time’ – you’ll walk slower and take many a post-lunch siesta … you’ve never been this relaxed!

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3. The Food

WE’LL get to the delectable cuisines on offer at the InterContinental’s restaurant collection. But seeing as this is a resort, we know you want to read about the buffet. Sanasana restaurant offers buffet breakfast, à la carte lunch and buffet dinner, themed daily (Monday night was seafood buffet at the time of writing). Dinner options are plenty, but each day is best started with a breakfast spread overlooking the Meke lawn and the bay.

Toba Bar and Grill is one of the most popular restaurants, given its laidback setting and location within the resort’s main bar. Enjoy cocktails and long drinks with classic dinners such as steak, wood-fired pizzas, burgers and decadent desserts. If you’re looking to treat loved ones to an elegant dinner, Navo restaurant combines fine dining with the peaceful backdrop of the lagoon and Navo Island. Modern Fijian cuisine – like the mouth-watering lobster Kokoda – is complemented by a range of new and vintage wines.

For couples looking for a romantic evening, intimate dining offers lovebirds the option of a private cabana meal beside the ocean or under the stars. When all the plates are clear, head down to Kama bar for a cocktail on the comfy lounges while listening to live Fijian music – or watching sport.

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4. THE Recreation

THOUGH the golf is fantastic, Natadola Bay isn’t all about the links. The harmonious combination of the reef and aqua-blue lagoon makes for one of the most memorable snorkelling safaris you’ll experience anywhere in the world. Booking one of these underwater reef-gazing expeditions is essential and is run by a knowledgeable guide to detail the fish and coral species.

Other ways to enjoy this ridiculously blue water include surfing (lessons available), sport fishing, glass-bottom boat safaris, wakeboarding, waterskiing, kneeboarding, tube riding (be sure to take a camera!) and kayaking.

The spa is the other standout feature of the InterContinental. Combining Asian, eastern and western methods, qualified therapists will have you in a deep state of relaxation with a bamboo stick massage, traditional bobo massage or even a couples’ romance ritual.

If you’re looking to venture outside the resort and immerse yourself in Fijian culture, take a walk over the Sigatoka sand dunes or tour the Lawai Pottery and Sanasana villages. Saying hello to the Malomalo Primary School students will have you laughing, while the Sigatoka markets and Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple are great experiences. A guided tour for all activities is available through the resort’s recreations team.

5. The Fiji International AFTER journeyman pro Steven Jeffress hit the inaugural Fiji International’s first tee shot last year, then sunk the last putt on the Sunday, he knew winning the tournament was “meant to be.”

Naturally, Jeffress is eager to return to the site of his first big win since the 2006 Victorian PGA Championship, and he hopes stars such as Vijay Singh, Nick Price, Craig Parry and Anirban Lahiri return to Natadola for the October 15-18 event. Planning a trip around watching this tournament can give your Fiji holiday unique value, says Jeffress.

“If you want to mix a family holiday and golf tournament, I can’t think of a better place in the world to do it,” says Jeffress.

“There’s plenty to do for the whole family and it’s a pleasure to walk around Natadola Bay and watch high-quality golf.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to win the first ever Fiji International. I love the course; that you have to think your way around and it’s not all blasting away. I’ve played Natadola Bay 30 times and it’s never been in bad condition. It’s comfortably the best island course I’ve ever played and I’m looking forward to staying at the InterContinental this year, so close to the course.”

And now with US PGA Tour superstar Matt Kuchar confirmed to play the event, the field has some serious firepower.


6. The People

THERE are plenty of island holidays in the Pacific, but it’s the locals who keep travellers coming back to Fiji. Sure, it’s hard not to be in a good mood when you’re strolling around a 5-star resort facing water so blue you swear they dye it each morning.

And it certainly helps if you are a rugby union fan, as the 15-man code is religion in Fiji. This writer bumped into NSW Waratahs enforcer Jacques Potgieter at the InterContinental, and the enormous South African back-rower joined for 18 holes at Singh’s masterpiece. When he wasn’t walloping the golf ball with an impressive swing, Potgieter was stopped for photos – everywhere. But the Fijians had an innocent way of approaching the Super Rugby champion, as I discovered in the pro shop before our round. When ‘Jac Pot’ asked to hire golf shoes, the staffer asked to see his feet. “Whooaaa!” The staffer exclaimed. “Your feet are too big, man! Let me see what we have.” He looked at Potgieter again and asked, “Do you play for the Waratahs? Yeah, you’re No.6! Can I have a photo?”

“No problems at all,” laidback Potgieter replied. The staffer immediately found shoes big enough…

The reason Australians come back from Fiji in great spirits has a lot to do with the friendly people of this island nation.Their warm nature complements world-class hospitality and customer service. Ironically, this truly hits home on your final night, when InterContinental staffers gather to serenade departing guests with  ‘Isa Lei’. This farewell song of the islands usually has some shedding a tear, most in awe of their voices, and certainly all planning a return to Fiji.                    

– @EvinPriest