With golf courses spreading to every nook and corner of India and the growing popularity of the sport backed by the sightseeing of the spots – Golf enthusiasts are looking forward to visiting India for a holiday that goes beyond tees and greens.
P laying golf in the valleys of Kashmir, at the altitude of 2,650 metres, where the wind whispers through the chinar and pine trees, enables a golfer to play for longer hours. Playing it at “Heaven on Earth” (Jammu & Kashmir) is totally a different experience, especially when golfing entangles with the sightseeing of beautiful lakes and valleys. And in the plains in the lap of wind-swept dunes in the Aravallis hills near Gurgaon, about 40 km from New Delhi, creates another totally different experience of golfing in the corporate hub.
It may have taken time, but the golf tourism is finally making its presence felt in India. Ironically, golfing is not so new to India. The sport had already taken its roots in India during the British Empire, with a number of golf courses that date back over a century. After the departure of the British from India, in 1955, Indian Golf Union, formed in New Delhi, took over mantle of governing the sport in India from the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, which had been handling India’s golf interests since its inception in 1829. Since then, many golf courses have been developed and today India boasts of 220 golf courses in all. About 30 of them are of a level where one can play professionally, and 15 are signature golf courses. “Golf tourism is growing at 9.3 pc a year and about 1.6 million people travel for golf tourism every year. Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh, Delhi-NCR have maximum signature courses; while Gujarat, Pune, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Cochin, have amazing golf courses. Hence, there is a huge opportunity and scope to promote golf tourism in India,” says Rajan Sehgal, President, Indian Golf Tourism Association.
Top 5 Golfing destinations in India
Jammu & Kashmir
Offering a complete golfing circuit
Not only does India have the oldest golf club in the world outside Great Britain, but also the highest, at Gulmarg (altitude 2,700 metres) in Kashmir. The Gulmarg Golf Club is a beautiful legacy in Switzerland-like climes and rolling hills. The Pahalgam Golf Club, on the banks of the Chenab River is another picture-perfect addition to the state’s golfing list. And what gives the unforgettable experience is the Royal Springs Golf Course, which sits between the magnificent Dal Lake and the Zabarwan mountain range. Around 15 years ago, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah invited Robert Trent Jones Jr. II, a world famous golf architect, to create Royal Springs Golf Course, which is today counted amongst Asia’s best. A tourism official says, “We have three golf courses in the Kashmir – Royal Springs, Pahalgam and Gulmarg. We have one golf course in Jammu and one is coming up in Ladakh. This makes a unique golfing circuit and we are promoting it in a big way.”
Teeing off with business leaders
Delhi and the extended capital region (Noida and Gurgaon) offer a plethora of choice for golfing, which begins with the most famous Delhi Golf Club. Jaypee Greens Golf & Country Club in Greater Noida is a golf resort with the option of accommodation and spa. One can also tee it up at the Golden Greens Golf & Country Club at Gurgaon. The Noida Golf Club and the Qutab Golf Club offer the perfect pay-and-play facilities. Gurgaon has a few of the best golf courses and each quite different from the other and yet in close proximity. DLF golf resort is the only resort with the option of night golfing. A few kilometres from DLF is the ITC Classic Golf resort, which is the oldest one in the city. “We opened our 104 room, all suite luxury destination resort, ITC Green Bharat, in the second half of 2014, which combines quality golf with true Indian hospitality,” says S C Sekhar, Senior Executive Vice President, ITC Hotels.
From old to new, options galore in South
With golf courses mushrooming all over Karnataka – there are 10 in and around Bangalore and most private courses are opening their doors to the public. Home to the venue for the 2012 Indian Open – the Karnataka Golf Association Golf Course with its temperate climes has emerged as the country’s new golfing hub. The Bangalore Golf Club, with more than a century of history is the oldest, while the Prestige Golfshire is the newest. Golfshire, located near the Nandi Hills, has a 100,000 sq ft clubhouse with an excellent restaurant ‘The Falcon Green’. Another course, that hosted European Ladies Tour, is Eagleton Golf Resort. Located on the Bangalore- Mysore highway, Eagleton is considered as a golf village with all the pay-and- play facilities. Champion Reef Golf County got its name from the world’s deepest gold mines near Kolar Gold Fields. But don’t leave the south without trying the classic Kodaikanal course or Ooty Golf Club.
A weekend getaway for golfing
Pune has two courses of note – the Willingdon Sports Club and the Bombay Presidency Golf Club. But even if you’re in Mumbai, it is entirely worth the effort of driving for 2-3 hours to Pune to play at the outstanding Oxford Golf & Country Club. Set in hilly surrounds, the club has villas with landscaped gardens and plunge pools. Every villa and apartment overlooks the golf course. Another gem is the David Hemstock designed Aamby Valley Golf Club, set in the Sahyadri mountain range, an hour’s drive from Mumbai. For the weekend golfers in Mumbai, there is no place like this for a quick round. Aamby Valley boasts of a verdant 18-hole course for teeing-off a great business deal!
A classic way of golfing
Golfing in Kolkata is classic. The traditional home of golf in the country is the Royal Calcutta Golf Club established in 1829. It has added just one more notable layout in the past century – the Tollygunge Club. The duo, sitting right across the road from each other, still retains a charming colonial ambience and laid-back atmosphere. Combine these with the golf courses and one has a complete golfing holiday in this region alone. “Kolkata has the oldest golf club and a long golfing tradition with three great golf courses and one more being built. We get guests from Japan, South Korea and China keen to play two or three rounds of golf even during a very short stay,” says Koushik Goswami, general manager of Kolkata-based tour operator, Travelcorp.