Festive Kuching Beckons

Rainforest World Music Festival
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For outstanding golf, effortless leisure, and Malaysia’s biggest global music festival, those in search of a great travel destination should look to Sarawak in June.

Kuching is considered an ‘overseas’ destination for many Malaysians in that it is a 90-minute flight from Kuala Lumpur across the South China Sea. Golfers are especially drawn, as Sarawak’s only 36-hole golf course is regarded by many golfers as one of East Malaysia’s finest courses, as well as one of its best-maintained layouts. The course was recognised in 2011-2012 as the best golf course in East Malaysia. 

Bunkers, 3rd green Matang Course, Kelab Golf Kuching

Kelab Golf Sarawak (KGS or Sarawak Golf Club) has many endearing features, especially as it is located reasonably close to the centre of the Sarawak capital. Naturally, it holds special interest for its strong membership, who regard it as their golf course of choice.

With the Rainforest World Music Festival being staged over the last weekend in June (28-30), there is no better time than now to book a flight and set off to the ‘Land of the Hornbills’ for some rhythmic world music, exhilarating golf, and a journey into mystical Borneo.


The KGS course opened in March 1985 with nine holes, but by 1987, 18 holes (the Santubong and the Matang Nines) were completed and ready to play. Not long after, Australian golf architect Nigel Douglas redeveloped and upgraded the Santubong and Matang Nines to a golf course that satisfied demanding international standards. Its second 18-hole layout, incorporating the Siol and Demak Nines, was added in 1989.

Hole 6 Matang Course, Kelab Golf Sarawak

Covering an area of some 100 ha, there is a real sense of space on this golf course despite being located in the Sungai Siol Kanan precinct of Petra Jaya, just 10 km from the centre of the capital. Mature tropical landscaping, including tall, swaying casuarinas trees line the wide fairways, with Mount Santubong (810 m high) clearly visible on the horizon beyond the 11th hole of the Santubong Nine. 

The par 72, Santubong and Matang Nines make up the championship course of 6,394 m. It is demanding in several ways due to strategically placed hazards that require ball-striking skills. The third hole is one of the most demanding holes, as the green is well-guarded by water and bunkers both at the front and rear of the narrow putting area. The fourth hole, with its dogleg fairway lined by water on the right-hand side, is the other hole that will challenge golfers.

Hole 17 Santubong, Kelab Golf Sarawak

The other 18-hole layout includes the Siol and Demak nine-holes. This par 72, 6224 m course was redesigned by Nigel Douglas in 2000 to make it more demanding. Despite its reengineering, most members regard it as the easier of the two courses. Water hazards and narrow fairways do, however, require precise ball placement on most holes.

The distinctive pyramid-shaped clubhouse was completed by the time the first 18 holes were ready to play, and it now houses some very impressive facilities, including the Golfers Lounge, Golfers Terrace, Pool Terrace and Bistro, a Chinese restaurant and a banquet hall. Other facilities include a pro shop, a 36-bay driving range, two pools (Olympic-size and children’s pools), a library, and courts for playing badminton, squash and tennis.

KGS has hosted several leading championship events, starting with the Sarawak Amateur Open way back in 1993 and then events such as the Malaysian Amateur Open in 2009 and 2015 and the Malaysian Amateur Open in 2019.

3rd green Matang Course, Kelab Golf Sarawak


Golfers who only choose to play KGS will probably choose to stay in Kuching and make the short journey to the course. The Pullman Kuching is one of the best properties in the capital for city-based visitors.


For those who want to play the course and attend the festival, staying closer to the concert site is the best option, as traffic can be quite congested around the Sarawak Cultural Village. Here, the Damai Beach Resort is ideally located beside the beach and has many welcoming facilities. However, being the host venue for the festival performers, it is booked out early, so if you are interested in staying here, you need to make an early reservation.

Entrance to Sarawak Cultural Village
Melanau Tallhouse (Sarawak Cultural Centre) with Mt Santubong in the background

If the budget permits and you book early enough, Cove 55 is the preferred accommodation option near Damai, as it offers high-quality, boutique accommodation, sea views, an excellent restaurant and a superb infinity pool. The bonus for guests here is access to the exclusive, nine-hole Matang Jungle Golf Course. One of Malaysia’s best-kept golfing secrets, located opposite the entrance to Kubah National Park, is this private nine-hole golf course that can be played by only four Cove 55 guests at any one time.

Another advantage of staying near Damai Beach is the opportunity to play at the Damai Golf and Country Club. This coastal layout was designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer, who described it as ‘the finest test of golf with the most dramatic setting of all in Malaysia. This is a must play course for those who love golf.’ The course has two distinctive nines, with the Ocean Nine and the Mountain Nine offering different golfing experiences. The picturesque course has holes adjoining sandy beaches, mangrove streams, and the foothills of Mount Santubong.

Relax in the pool at Cove 55 beneath Mt Santubong


Over the past few decades, Sarawak Tourism has used music to help promote the state, with the Rainforest World Music Festival being regarded as one of the best-known world music festivals on the globe. It is held over a span of three days in the picturesque grounds of the Sarawak Cultural Village at Damai, close to the South China Sea. 

While the music is the principal reason for thousands of concertgoers to enjoy the festival, regular attendees say they travel to the festival regardless of who is performing, as they know the musicians who appear are some of the finest artistes of their musical genre. Others enjoy attending the festival because of the friendly atmosphere, laid-back setting, and professional organisation.

Sape player at the RWMF

Not all the artistes who perform will be to everyone’s liking, but that is the nature of any such festival. While many performers may be unknown, even to dedicated world music fans, festivalgoers can expect musicians of the highest calibre within their own genre of music.

The 2024 RWMF will be staged from June 28-30 and will include artistes such as the legendary Kitaro, Zainal Abidin, NiNi, Havana Social Club, and Bourbon Lassie.

Legendary musician Kitaro will perform at the 2024 RWMF
NiNi amazes audiences with her modern interpretations of traditional Asian music

With competitive airfares often in play, Malaysian golfers have more courses to discover both abroad and ‘overseas’ in Sarawak. Kuching also offers many great attractions and events to justify the journey eastwards.


Getting There

Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching on AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, or Batik Air, all of which operate multiple daily flights.



Stay at Cove 55 (, Damai Beach Resort ( or the Pullman Kuching (


Kelab Golf Sarawak (, and the Rainforest World Music Festival (

Welcome to Sarawak!

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