India – a golfer’s paradise

Golf in India is available on different kinds of terrain and conditions. Be it golf in the hills or golf in tea estates, or golf in the desert or golf in tourist resorts, India has it all and more. There are golf courses with slices of history, like the Agra Golf Club, which has the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, as a backdrop or the Qutub Golf Course, which has the Qutub Minar built in the 12th and 13th century in its sights.

There are other golf clubs with historical monuments, too, but none more than the Delhi Golf, which has an amazing number, all protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The same club also has one of the largest varieties of birds visiting it. Playing with a peacock dancing in the rain is a pleasure you can only get at the Delhi Golf Club, by far the most prestigious golf clubs in the country.

The Hill stations have quaint and historical courses in places like Naldehra, once the favourite summer haunt of Lord Curzon, and who named his daughter after the course. Courses in Shimla, Ranikhet and Gulmarg have amazing history to tell, as have the courses in coffee estates and hills stations of the Southern India. Tourist places like Ooty, Kodaikanal, Wellington and Mysore (the Jaya Chamaraja Wadiyar Golf Course) also have pretty courses open to public.

Add to all these ancient and history-filled courses, the new designer courses like the Jack Nicklaus designed Classic Golf Resort or the Arnold Palmer courses at DLF Golf and Country Club or the Greg Norman designed Jaypee Greens. There is also the Robert Trent Jones crafted Royal Springs Golf Course in Srinagar, plus many others done up by the likes of Peter Thomson, Phil Ryan and so on. India’s own designer, Ranjit Nanda and KD Bagga have done great work in recent years.

Goa for years was India’s best known tourist spot, but it had no golf courses. No longer so. The hotel owners have themselves set up small and compact courses for the visitors to their properties.

Now Vijay Singh of Fiji has signed up to design a signature golf course.

The Inter-Continental boasts of the only proper golf course called the Grand Greens and designed by K D Bagga. The other hotels, Leela, the Taj Exotica and the Ramada, too have small par-3 courses, but enough to whet the appetite of the casual visitor. Since the coastal regulation zone laws in Goa require buildings to be set back approximately 500 metres from the sea, the developers have used this intermediate space for small golf courses.

More recently, golf is being looked at seriously with a view to promote tourism.

It is not just Goa, but even the governments of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are looking at luring Japanese visitors who come to places like Pataliputra in Bihar and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The same is the case with Orissa, which gets hundreds and thousands of visitors to the Sun Temple.

Rajasthan has been looking at promoting golf in the desert and the next few years could see upgradation or even development of new courses in places like Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ajmer and Bikaner.