For a country with the oldest golf course outside the British Isles, India doesn’t exactly spoil golfers for choice. But what it lacks in numbers, it makes up in character: from the iconic Delhi Golf Club in the Capital, to the remarkable Royal Springs Golf Club overlooking the Dal Lake in Srinagar, the country beckons itinerant golfers with a fascinating cross-section of layouts ranging from ultra-modern parklands to downright one-of-a-kind oddities.
It’s best to get this out of the way right at the onset: India is not a golf vacation destination yet. Unlike China (which is witnessing a golf boom like nowhere else in the world), and especially tiny Thailand which packs over 500 golf courses – most of which are accessible to visiting golfers – India has just over 250 layouts. And more than half of those are run by the Armed Forces and off-limits for civilians and tourists alike. Also, a large number of courses are private clubs and require visiting golfers to check in as members’ guests. This necessitates a fair bit of planning: so draw up your itinerary, identify courses you’d like to play, and make sure you (or your local handler), books tee-times before you arrive.
But don’t let all this dire sounding advice dampen your spirits: much like the country itself, it’ll take some serious air miles and more than a few trips to explore India’s golfing firmament. And along the way you’ll find more off-course distractions to keep you, and more importantly (if you’re traveling with the brood), the missus and children occupied, while you sneak away to get in a few rounds.
Delhi & Around
Indisputably the hub for golfing action in the country, Delhi and the extended Capital region offers a plethora of choice. The Lodi-era tomb-littered Delhi Golf Club in the heart of the city is the nostalgic favourite. Further afield north, Jaypee Greens Golf & Country Club, is arguably the country’s only genuine ‘golf resort,’ with accommodation and a world-class spa. If you’re a links specialist then consider teeing it up at the undulating and very challenging Golden Greens Golf & Country Club at Gurgaon. The Classic Golf Resort is another world-class layout on the southern periphery of the city. Last but not the least, the Noida Golf Club and the Qutab Golf Club are perhaps the only genuine pay-and-play facilities in the country.
The jewel in India’s golfing milieu – the Royal Springs Golf Course sits majestically framed between the magnificent Dal Lake and the Zabarwan mountain range. While the course maintenance can be sketchy, a round amidst the deciduous forest and fruit orchards lining the fairways is an unforgettable experience. Further north, the Gulmarg Golf Club is another beautiful Imperial legacy in almost Switzerland-like climes and rolling hills. The Pehelgam Golf Club, on the banks of the Chenab River is another picture-perfect addition to India’s northernmost state’s golfing repertoire.
The new darling of Indian golf and home to the venue for the 2012 Indian Open – the Karnataka Golf Association Golf Course – Bengaluru, with its temperate climes and choice of four competitive layouts 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 fantastic world-class Prestige Golfshire is the newest. Eagleton Golf Resort on the outskirts is short and not surprisingly, loads of fun to play.
Mumbai & Around
The commercial centre of the country has two courses of note – the Willingdon Sports Club and the Bombay Presidency Golf Club, with the latter emerging as a genuine championship layout after a recent renovation. But if you’re in Mumbai it’s entirely worth the effort of driving a couple of hours to the city of Pune to play the outstanding Oxford Golf & Country Club. Another gem is the David Hemstock design – Amby Valley Golf Club set in the stunningly verdant Sahyadri mountain range, an hour’s drive out of Mumbai.
The traditional home of golf in the country and home to the iconic Royal Calcutta Golf Club (est. 1829), Kolkata has added just one more notable layout in the past century – the Tollygunge Club. The duo, which sit right across the road from each other, still retain a charming colonial ambience and laid-back atmosphere.
Meraj Shah has spent the better part of his youth traveling across the country and the world playing golf courses and writing about them. Even though his enthusiasm for the game far outruns his performance, he retains an illogical passion for the game which most golf hacks will identify with. Mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org