Indonesia’s tourism minister has identified the Riau Islands as a prime destination for golf tourism, particularly noting the ease with which golfers from Singapore can access the islands by ferry. As Singapore contemplates the optimal use of its limited land by shuttering golf courses, Indonesia aims to attract these golfers and fill the regional void.

Riau Islands holds significant potential with ten existing golf courses and more on the way, according to Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno in a briefing on July 1. “We encourage the development of golf tourism because, in Singapore, it is getting more expensive and not affordable anymore,” Mr. Sandiaga stated. Golf enthusiasts considering the golf odds will find the Riau Islands particularly inviting. Singapore’s decreasing golf spaces now have only one public course, a 9-hole venue. As of June 30, the country closed its last 18-hole public course, with analysts predicting further closures.

During the Batam Golf Challenge 2024, a two-day tournament that began on June 29, Mr. Sandiaga expressed optimism about positioning the Riau Islands as a premier golf tourism destination.

There are currently three golf courses in Bintan Regency, with another one under development. In Batam, seven golf courses exist, and there are plans for more. “This is a very good golf tourism destination in Indonesia,” he affirmed, noting the strategic proximity to Singapore.

The tourism minister also highlighted progress in other regions, such as Jakarta and West Java, which already host numerous golf courses. Referring to plans announced in March 2022, Mr. Sandiaga confirmed the development of 25 new golf courses in five “super priority” destinations by 2025.

Bernardino Moningka Vega, head of international relations at the Indonesia Golf Association (PGI), observed an increase in the sport’s popularity. The participation rate among Indonesians has surged by 20% since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Mr. Bernardino noted that restrictions on other outdoor activities elevated golf’s status as one of the few available recreational options. Data from golf shop purchases indicate that the number of golfers in Indonesia has risen to approximately 170,000, up from 50,000 before the pandemic.

However, despite the growing number of golfers, golf tourism in Indonesia remains notably lower compared to other Southeast Asian countries. According to a CNBC Indonesia report, citing a 2022 industry report, Indonesia has 170 golf courses, trailing behind neighboring countries like Malaysia (244), Thailand (319), and India (296).

Annually, Indonesia receives about 250,000 golf tourists, significantly fewer than Thailand’s 6 million, Vietnam’s 1.5 million, and Malaysia’s 500,000, as reported by President Commissioner of Intra GolfLink Resorts (IGR), Darma Mangkuluhur Hutomo.

Land scarcity in many Asian cities limits the establishment of new golf courses, driving up prices. Mr. Bernardino sees this as a “golden opportunity” for Indonesia to promote its affordable golf courses.

He suggested collaboration with Southeast Asian counterparts to boost regional golf tourism and facilitate cross-country golfing excursions. He explained that he proposed partnerships with airlines like AirAsia or Singapore Airlines to align flight schedules with golf tours.

Following these strategies, Indonesia hopes to attract more international golfers, leveraging its advantageous mix of affordability, quality courses, and exceptional hospitality.