Feb 21, 2018: About forty kilometers away from the quiet town of Nashik in Maharashtra, is Niphad. Known for its wineries, the area is now home to a newly opened golf course called Riverside. A quaint nine-hole layout spread over 2500 yards; Riverside is the brainchild of retired Air Force Wing Commander Pradeep Bagmar.
As a sport, golf is played around these parts but is mostly restricted to the armed forces and their guests at the two 18-hole army courses and one 9-hole Airforce course.
In fact, at the opening of Bagmar’s course, chief guest Lt General RS Salaria (Commander of the School of Artillery Deolali), said he read somewhere that the only way one could play golf in Nashik is if you knew an army officer.
Bagmar wanted to change this. After serving in the in 2001, he worked for a company marketing products for golf course irrigation systems. This enabled him to travel to over 25 properties in the country.
He realized that he could do something with his land back home in Niphad. Spread over 100 acres, it is an ancestral property dating back to 1924. Bagmar and his family grew a variety of crops such as wheat and sugarcane amongst others.
Interestedly enough, what is unknown about Nashik, is that it used to be home to the prestigious Western India Amateur Championships, now held in Mumbai at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club.
Back in British-era India, there was a special saloon run especially for golfers traveling from Mumbai. They would come to Royal Western India Golf Club, play the championship and lived in their carriages for a few days before the trip back to Bombay.
The course all but disappeared after 1949 for the lack of wanting according to Arun Singh, former Director General of the Indian Golf Union (IGU). Over dinner with your correspondent, Singh explained that the land used to be Royal Nashik, is now home to a swimming pool, civil hospital, a walking track, and numerous government offices along with other properties.
Bagmar makes his home on the boundary line of the land whose previous occupation barely survives only in name and municipal records today. Growing up next to ‘Golf ground’ was another reason the Air Force man set out to restore Nashik’s place on the golf map.
Construction began in 2015 and has culminated in a short course by the side of the river Kadwa. Bagmar designed it all by himself with inputs from Singh who helped garner support from the IGU.
The course’s main defense is in its strategy off the tee. Keeping in mind limited land availability and finances, there are tight driving holes and small greens. Improvements happen gradually, but it’s not every day that one gets to see the opening of a new course in India, especially one billed as a public one.
According to Singh, the course is a viable mini-industry on its own, capable of generating employment to the locals in various roles including caddies and greens-keeping staff. Bagmar has tied up with the District Sports Officer and nearby schools to stage a ‘golf day’ where the children and come and get introduced to the game.
In one of our earlier conversations, Bagmar said he handles the day-to-day running on his own, with his close and extended family’s support. Most days he drives down from Nashik to oversee progress. It is his hope that the locals, especially children take up the game and he would eventually like to make this a full-fledged 18-hole layout.
Riverside Golf Course –
Location – Bagmar Estates, Niphad, Nashik
How to get there – Nashik’s Ozhar Airport is 20 km away. There are flights from Mumbai and Pune.
Bagmar Estates shares land with the closest railway line Niphad Railway Station.
A third option is the National Highway, a 40-minute drive from Nashik city.
Green Fees – Rs. 200
Total yardage – 2460
Par – 35
Layout description – Beginning with an easy par-4, the holes are strategically laid out with some holes sharing tees, which are elevated. The signature hole is the Par 5 fifth where the tee shot is blind to a fairway that opens up. Approaches to greens give the flavor of an old-fashioned course relying on precision with the irons and wedges.
Grass used – Selection 1 (Fairways), Korean Grass (Greens)