India’s most respected golf expert Shaili Chopra shares India’s top ten courses to explore in the Conde Nast Traveller
Slight mist in the air, peaks of minarets staring back at you bathed by the first rays of the sun and a divot that perfectly peels the grass – an ideal setting for a dawn tee off against the Taj Mahal in Agra. Golfers have always wanted to know where the best golf can be played but the permutation can be a real winner if the game is enjoyed on a holiday with family and plenty of other things to do.
AGRA GOLF CLUB
The Agra Golf Club offers a glimpse of the Taj Mahal from around the 9-hole course (played with a separate set of tees to make 18). Most good hotels can organize a morning round though the fairways aren’t immaculate. Agra is no stranger to tourists. The din on streets, cornucopia of handicrafts and jewellery and elegant architecture invites everyone for a walk back to history. The Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, bright shopping alleys, souvenirs, trinkets complete with touts make this a fascinating trail.
The ‘monument of love’ has fostered some of India’s most luxurious properties by its side. The Oberoi Amarvilas offers stunning views of the Taj while the ITC Mughal Sheraton’s ‘khwab mahal’ keeps the mystic of the town alive.
ROYAL SPRINGS, SRINAGAR
The Royal Springs Golf Club is an 18-hole championship golf course with panoramic views of the Dal Lake, fir covered mountain peaks and copious pristine air. Atop the tee box of the fifth hole, the view of the Dal Lake surrounded by the Zabarvan Hills puts any golfer’s attention to a test. For a break, tea shelters are a pleasant change to the refreshment cart. As you drive your ball along these picturesque fairways, a houseboat ride for the family in the Dal by Kashmir’s fragrant gardens with traditionally robed guides can make for time well spent. They have honest stories to tell of movies shot here just as much of the struggle within the valley. The intriguing Pari Mahal, Mughal Gardens, Hazratbal Mosque are embedded in notable occasions. Pahalgam Golf Course just two hours away allows you another game in the lap of the Himalayas.
The Lalit, Vivanta Dal View and Dar-es-Salam are among the top ones in Srinagar.
Taking a few days off from a client meeting in India’s silicon-valley Bangalore can truly be business with pleasure. Strewn with seven to eight golf courses, a few good rounds promise to stretch the clubs long. The Golfshire by Prestige Group & managed by Troon stands out with undulating greens, several of which are two tiered and deep with shapely bunkers to challenge any self-respecting golfer.
At the course, a wellness zone, swimming pool, squash courts, restaurants at the club and a crèche for babies make for a comfortable family day out.
A JW Marriott is coming up by the course. Other luxurious choices include the Leela in the heart of the city or the historic Taj West End hotel where one can enjoy the traditional comforts earlier experienced by the likes of Warren Buffett or event the Raja of Chettinad.
ANANDA IN THE HIMALAYAS
A stunning but small course nestled in the tranquil foothills of Himalayas is the 6-hole boutique course at Ananda Spa just an hour away from pilgrim cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar. Known for its spa –Conde Nast World number one destination spa for 2005, 2006, 2007 – the course is a challenging break from your virtuous Ayurveda schedule in the resort. A winding quaint walk by the hills, a day spent rafting, a sunrise yoga session under the piazza with hymns of the gods from temples near by, or simply a most stunning view of the glittering Ganges down in the valley are sumptuous to any itinerary.
KODAIKANAL GOLF COURSE
7000 feet above sea level in the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal is a town entrenched in British history and that explains the presence of a beautiful golf course since 1895. With cool breezes blowing off the cliff face the Kodai Course is one of the prettiest in India. Every hole has a unique character and tests your skill. The wind can turn a par three hole from an easy nine iron to a hard four. The physical endurance as you walk through steep slopes on every hole stretches your muscles as much your clubs. It’s also a hill station with many engaging options for the family like out door activity, especially lovely trekking trails, boating, picnics. The golf club has options for stay but there are plenty of small hotels like the Villa Retreat, The Fern Creek, Club Mahindra Villas that can be great as well.
OXFORD GOLF COURSE
Just miles ahead of Pune, Maharashtra this championship course is fenced by an aura of Sahyadri hills. Several vantage point tee boxes sanction you a great view of the silver sand bunkers when you drive your ball down the hills. Over forty practice bays give it a world-class appeal. City of Pune has a tremendous night life and restaurant scene and mostly on all days there’ll be a performance around town. The O Hotel run by the course management isn’t among the favorites but most top hotel chains such as the Marriot, Westin offer comfortable stays.
JAYPEE GREENS, GREATER NOIDA, Outside Delhi
For golf connoisseurs, the legendary Greg Norman course in Greater Noida is a terrific weekend getaway or a business offsite outside of Delhi. A sprawling sports complex, golf training facilities, relaxed restaurants and even a golfer-treatment area are special to the course.
The Six Senses spa, hammams, Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are options for guests who aren’t busy swinging for show or putting for dough. Delhi, a taxi ride away, is India’s capital city complete with its Mughal heritage in the Red Fort to maddening crowds in the charming chandni chowk or its modern self with pubs sprawled around the city centre. Agra too, from this resort, is just a day trip.
KENSVILLE GOLF COURSE
Two legends make this course what its worth. Designed by India’s golf guru Jeev Milkha Singh and supported by Sachin Tendulkar, this is a marvel just off Gujarat’s bustling city of Ahmedabad where the recent European Challenge Tour Event was held. A trip to Ahmedabad is a gourmet & golf delight with plenty of delectable vegetarian food in the region that’s abundant with history. Home to Mahatma Gandhi’s abode, select Jain temples, lakes and even a vintage car museum there is loads for anyone who visits here.
ROYAL CALCUTTA GOLF CLUB
When I ran a poll on which golf course is better in Calcutta, I wasn’t surprised that Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) was most people’s first choice. It’s the world’s oldest course outside of British Isles set up in 1829 (after the famous St Andrew’s in Scotland). It’s spectacularly preserved and complete with an English verandah unspoiled for a mint tea. But if you are looking for a more rustic yet charming game, Tollygunge Club can make your trip complete. The course was once the lawn of one of 11 sons of ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan and has several narrow fairways with numerous fox spottings.
A short two hour get-up-and-go for what can be a real golf break in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, Aamby Valley is a world class day and night championship course made exciting with the option to sky dive. The front nine has hazards running across its fairways with an occasional deer interrupting your play for good reason. With air-conditioned practice bays, great sunrise and sunset views, plenty of ghats to watch over you, it’s a must visit to nurse a business bite. Sky-diving, water sports, spa, long walks around the lake city and a stay overnight at the wooden chalets is an ideal detox in reach.