The bucket list

By: | Updated: August 30, 2015 12:59 AM

Here’s a list of 10 golf courses in India that, for their own inimitable reasons, ought to be on your radar

Aamby Valley GCAamby Valley GC

There are 300 golf courses (approximately) in India and while not exactly spoilt for choice, the itinerant golfer is never too far away from a layout to tee it up at. Among these are historical layouts, quirky hill courses, ultra-modern championship venues, oddities laid out amongst tea and coffee plantations, and pretty much everything in between. This is not a ranking: rather a curation of ten golf courses in the country that offer a truly one-of-a-kind golfing experience:

Aamby Valley GC

Even by the dispassionate standards of course-conditioning, the Aamby Valley GC would easily rank in the top-five courses in the country. Add to that a spectacular natural location—on a sloping forested patch abutting a deep valley and encircled by low rolling hills; a complete lack of man-made sounds—silence except the chirping of the birds and wind whistling through the trees scythed occasionally by the sound of your golf club swishing through the air; and a gem of a layout—one of the better ones by David Hemstock; and you’ll forgive me for gushing. If you dream about golf, as most of us do, then this is pretty much how that would pan out.

ITC Classic Golf Resort

Now part of the ITC Grand Bharat—an expansive luxury hotel—the Classic Golf Resort’s proposition to visiting golfers is complete. The only Jack Nicklaus signature design in India is also one of the largest: spread over 300 acres, the resort has an 18-hole championship course and another nine holes. About an hour’s drive from New Delhi, and nestled at the foothills of the Aravalli hills, the CGR is usually in excellent condition throughout the year. The course, the first big name designer layout in the country, has hosted a number of Asian Tour events. Challenges exist in the form of over 100 bunkers and four water bodies which come into play on seven holes. CGR looks easy to the eye but the wind can change direction in the afternoons and coupled with the lightning quick greens and hanging lies, scoring well requires smart play.

Royal Springs Golf Course

Dramatically poised between the Zabarwan range and the legendary Dal lake in Srinagar, this Robert Trent Jones Jr creation takes its name from the ‘Chashme Shahi’ (royal springs) which adjoin the GC. The springs, surrounded by an exquisite walled garden, were prized sources of fresh water during the reign of Mughal emperor Jehangir and exist to this day. The course, situated at an altitude of 6,445 ft, was carved out of deciduous forest and fruit orchards which ensconce the elaborate 300-acre layout. The setting imbues the course with a rolling landscape, natural marsh and wilderness. The magnificent ruins of Pari Mahal overlook the course and are best seen while walking the 14th fairway.

Oxford Golf & Country Club

Carved out on 136 acres amongst hills with stunning backdrops, the Oxford Golf and Country Club (designer, Phil Ryan of Pacific Coast Design, Australia) outside Pune is surrounded by the Sahyadri range on three sides. This championship facility presents a very pretty picture: the lush green strips of the golf course stand out against the stark landscape, with the large white sand bunkers adding a touch of their own to the layout. The fourth tee is the highest point of the golf course perched 84 metres above the 14th, which forms the floor—that gives an idea of the elevation changes that take place on the golf course.

Delhi Golf Club

The joke among members at the Delhi Golf Club is that they need to get their children registered for membership the moment they are born. It’s only half a joke: the DGC has the most coveted membership of any golf club in the country with a waiting time of over three decades. The Delhi Golf Club came into being as a nine-hole facility in 1951—at a time when golfing action in the country was centred in Kolkata. Over the years the course has expanded into 27 holes and is now the undisputed pre-eminent golf club in the country. Not surprisingly it is also the venue for the majority of Indian Opens and other international tournaments in India.

Ranikhet Golf Club (KREPTA)

The KREPTA is not a classic layout. Nor is the quality of fairways and greens (‘browns’ in this instance) comparable to modern courses. But as you tee it up with a brisk mountain breeze blowing through your hair, and the snow-capped peaks in the background, all that pales into insignificance. The course is essentially a nine-hole layout with alternative tees for the back nine. Tall pine trees come into the line of play on most holes, and the browns are small targets, putting a premium on accuracy. But the golf is really quite secondary on this course, for the views of the Panchachuli peaks are as panoramic as you’re ever likely to see on any golf course.

Kensville Golf & Country Club

From being bereft of a single quality layout less than a decade back, Gujarat now has a number of championship venues, the pick of which is undoubtedly the Kensville Golf & Country Club. The late Col Bagga-design in Ahmedabad has also hosted European Challenge Tour events and is a regular venue on the pro tour. Located a 40-minute-drive out of Ahmedabad, the Jeev Milkha Singh signature course is a long, tough, challenging layout with water, wind and quite a few doglegs.

Lidder Valley Golf Club

The newest addition and arguably the most spectacular of all golf courses in Kashmir, the Lidder valley GC’s natural setting in Pahalgam is downright astonishing. The fairways wind up and down undulating hillocks and around a smattering of water bodies all within a pristine forested area, surrounded by peaks of the middle Himalayas. For sheer location and natural beauty this course defies imagination—a golfing Xanadu, no less.

Royal Calcutta Golf Club

The first golf club in the country and the oldest outside the British Isles, the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, founded in 1829, is steeped in history. In 1911, the club was honoured by King George V and Queen Mary, who conferred on it, the title of ‘Royal’ to commemorate their visit to Kolkata. Much of the memorabilia connected with the history of the club is still preserved in the clubhouse.

Karnataka Golf Association GC

After a makeover a few years ago, the KGA, established in 1973, is acknowledged by most professionals as the top-ranked golf course in India. The flat course of yesterday has given way to an undulating (though still tight) layout of some character. The KGA hosted the Indian Open a few years ago—the first layout from the Garden City to get the honour—and provided a fillip to Bengaluru’s claim as the golf capital of the country. With its salubrious all-year round climate and a surfeit of courses, the city is definitely the country’s best all-year-round golfing destination.

A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game

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