Brunei luxury can turn golfers into sultans of swing
By Ian Lenton,
The Sultan of Brunei is one of the richest men in the world. His palace sprawls over 200,000 square meters; its walls are hung with old masters' originals.
The Empire Hotel & Country Club may not be quite that opulent, but it's certainly of a piece with the Sultan's lifestyle. You might even find him strolling through the place, greeting surprised guests.
Golf's growth as an attraction in this tiny nation of 370,000 on the island of Borneo, bordered on three sides by Malaysia and on one by the South China Sea, is reflected in the Empire's course, a 7,029-yard Jack Nicklaus design in which the front nine overlooks the coast and the back nine hugs it it.
The signature hole is the par-5 15th, stretching 549 yards to a well-bunkered green that will warn all but the bravest (or most foolhardy) long hitters. Take your camera to the course - this may well be the place for your most memorable holiday snap.
The Empire was named Asia's leading golf resort in the 2004 World Travel Awards, voted on by industry professionals from more than 200 countries. The accommodations provide a clue why. The apartment-sized deluxe and superior rooms offer marble bathrooms, great views, large beds and Italian and Egyptian linens.
The suites kick it up a notch on the decadence scale - seven notches, actually, as they come in that many categories. The first six have private Jacuzzis, silk-covered walls, sound systems and a private lounge for breakfast and high tea. Prices range from about $500 to about $4,600 U.S. per night.
Top of the pyramid is the Emperor Suite, which also copped World Travel Awards in 2003 and '04. At 650 square meters, it's larger than many homes, and comes complete with a private pool equipped for film screenings (the screen descends from the ceiling).
The luxuries keep on coming: personal steam room and sauna, gold-threaded carpet, lapis lazuli faucets, a grand piano, living room, dining room, drawing room, study and private elevator access. All this for only $15,500 a night.
When you're not on the course, the Empire offers tenpin bowling, eight pools and beach access. Park the kids in their own play club and take in a soothing Balinese, Tasksu or sport massage. Adventurous guests can take a boat ride up the Brunei River into the vast protected rainforest inhabited by a variety of primate species.
If you can bring yourself to leave the sea-view golf course or your private pool cinema, that is.
If you go
The Empire Hotel & Country Club
June 26, 2006
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.