During a recent visit to Goa to set up a golf event at the Lalit Goa and Spa Resort, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Col Bagga designed 9 hole course there. I wasn’t sure what to expect and had somehow perceived it to be a very short course, but what I saw was very interesting and inspiring enough to commit to doing an event there. And it took my mind to some other such hidden gems in India that I’ve had the pleasure of playing. I thought I should write about them to tell the readers that we have several such unique layouts which can really lead to unique golfing experiences. I recall a similar sense of being pleasantly surprised when I first visited the Naldhera Golf Course in Shimla. This unique 9 holes course, played twice, over beautiful trees and greens cradled on slopes requires creativity and imagination to play and enjoy. Open through the year and measuring approximately 4000 yds, it requires some creative thinking on how to use the slopes and I quite enjoyed my round there. Quite similar to the Rajbhawan Golf Course in Nainital. Located within the Raj Bhawan, the course is a delightful experience of natural beauty and innovatively designed holes. I remember playing it with the mist rolling through it one early morning. With the sun playing hide and seek through the mist and the fairways and greens seen just briefly through gaps in the mist, the experience was quite ethereal and memorable. My memories of the rounds played at the Ooty Gymkhana while competing in the South India Amateur each year as a kid are equally memorable. Nestled in the Nilgiri Range about 90 Kms from Coimbatore, the par 72 course with fenced greens is unique. This was the first time that I saw greens fenced to keep grazing animals away from the putting surface and also experienced putts seemingly turn uphill. I learnt that the ball will turn as per the main slope of the hill even though the green may have a different slope. I remember a mind boggling first round till I came to terms with it. The uniqueness is enhanced by the several holes which are played with practically blind tee shots to beautiful valleys. I also have one of my best memories because of the hospitality and camaraderie that one experiences there from all South Indian golfers. A prize distribution which led to a sing song session in the bar with a fire burning in the corner and finally ending with breakfast being ordered there is a memory for a lifetime. Another unique experience was playing the Guindy Golf Course in Chennai. Laid out within a race track, the Gymkhana Golf Course, as it is called, is fairly flat and the wind really comes into play quite a bit. Alignment here also takes some getting used to because while standing on the tee, it’s difficult to pick up spots to aim at because what one sees is a flat unbroken expanse. In fact during one tournament, the fairways has some long stem weeds and while standing on the tee, one couldn’t differentiate between the rough and the fairways. All adding to the experience of playing a very different course which has improved in terms of greens over the years. And the famous South Indian hospitality is always available. All these courses may not be as well conditioned as some of the new International quality courses that have come up in India recently, but they have a unique flavor of their own. They require creative shots onto the greens and actual using of slopes to bounce the ball off appropriately. The greens require a careful reading and taking into account elements that one may not be doing on the regular course. In all, they enhance your creative understanding of the sport and require shots with imagination, making the sport really good fun and enjoyable. And when this is backed with stunning visuals, the experience can be memorable. Coming back to the Lalit course in Goa, it has a few memorable holes. The 6th a par four which plays to a green just besides a spot where the sea meets the Talpone river. A fascinating sight. And both the 7th and the 8th, fairly long holes, 8th is a long 565 yards par 5, play along the sea with sights of the waves rolling onto a lovely beach. And while I did not get the opportunity to play due to an injured ankle, I look forward to coming here and playing soon. We are quite fortunate that India has such gems and some are unknown. This is my endeavor to mention a few that I have personally seen and recommend that you should make them part of your “must play” list one day.
By Digraj Singh