Teeing Off On Worlds Highest Greens

Updated: Sep 2 2004, 05:30am hrs
Two days of exciting golf are on the cards for participants in Express Power Golf 2004 at the Royal Springs and Gulmarg golf courses.

Mention Gulmarg, and golf aficionados begin a trip down memory lane, recalling the times when they would pack their golf sets, shoes and gear and head for Srinagar and beyond. Long summer days would start with a round of golf and end in the evening in warm log huts located on the course. If Wimbledon is famous for strawberries and cream, Gulmarg offers fresh strawberries delivered at your doorstep each morning.

Doubling as a ski resort in winter, Gulmarg is the highest green course in the world, leaving Leh with the distinction of having the highest browns. The rarefied air carries the ball further, and there is also the advantage of soft fairways all the year round.

The Gulmarg Golf Course goes as far back as 1890, when Colonel Neville Chamberlain constructed the first six holes. Six years later, another six holes were added, just below the residence of Raja Sir Amar Singh. In 1901, the Maharaja of Kashmir donated land to build a course, which came to be known as the Upper Course. Subsequently, another nine-hole was built and dubbed the Rabbit Course.

The par-72, 18-hole course, which is situated at an altitude of 2650 metres, was started in 1911 as a summer resort by the British. The year 1922 saw the first tournament being played here, including championships for women and children. The Northern India amateur event was held in Gulmarg between 1947 and 1989 until it moved to Delhi.

For some of the countrys leading amateur golfers, who are making their way to Gulmarg after 15 years, breathtaking views from the rolling expanse of the most natural golf course in the country would be a new experience. Redesigned by Australian Peter Thomson, the course blends with its natural environment and fast rolling greens - a mixture of grass and moss. Those who wield the iron this coming weekend will, no doubt, find that the hills are alive with the sound of music...