A golfing holiday no longer means leaving the family at home, says Shaili Chopra.
There’s an early morning mist in the air. The trees, bathed by the first rays of the sun, are the only onlookers as your stroke peels a divot perfectly off the grass. You’re in no hurry to rush back to the hotel—your partner is happily lounging by the pool, while the children are well looked-after at the kids’ club. Yes, we’re painting every golf enthusiast’s dream picture—a stress-free golfing holiday where you can spend as much time on the course as you like, while your family is otherwise occupied. With many of India’s golf courses now boasting five-star hotels nearby, this dream is fast becoming a reality. Here’s our pick of the country’s top 10 courses, and their off-the-green offerings.
(1) ROYAL SPRINGS GOLF COURSE, SRINAGAR Royal Springs is an 18-hole championship golf course with panoramic views of Dal Lake and the fir-covered peaks of the Zabarwan Hills—the view of the lake from the tee box of the fifth hole will put any golfer’s attention to the test. Those looking for a mid-game break will appreciate the tea shelters conveniently located along the course’s sidelines. And if you want to challenge yourself further, head to the Pahalgam Golf Club (01936 243 049), just two hours away, for an invigorating game in the shadows of the Himalayas. (01942 501 178) Where to stay: Both Srinagar’s newest five-star hotel, Vivanta by Taj - Dal View (www.vivantabytaj.com) and old favourite The LaLiT Grand Palace Srinagar (www.thelalit.com) overlook Dal Lake. What to do: Your hotel concierge can organise a family boat ride on Dal Lake. Kashmir’s fragrant gardens, with their traditionally-robed guides, make another good family outing. The intriguing Pari Mahal, Mughal Gardens and Hazratbal Mosque are also worth a visit. (www.jktourism.org)
(2) AGRA GOLF CLUB Enjoy the sport you love in the home of the monument of love in this historic city. The Agra Golf Club offers a glimpse of the Taj Mahal at various points on its nine-hole course. It can also be played with a separate set of tees to make for an 18-hole game. (0562 363 579) Where to stay: Most nearby hotels, including The Oberoi Amarvilas (www.oberoihotels.com) and ITC Mughal (www.itchotels.in) can organise a morning round of the courses. What to do: Besides the Taj Mahal, there are plenty of cultural attractions for the family, including Agra Fort and nearby Fatehpur Sikri. The shopping streets of Agra offer a good selection of local handicrafts and jewellery to take home with you. (www.up-tourism.com)
(3) THE KODAIKANAL GOLF CLUB, TAMIL NADU High up in the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu, at 7,000ft above sea level, Kodaikanal is a town firmly entrenched in British Indian history—which explains the presence of its historic, 116-year-old golf course. Each hole at this 18-hole picturesque clifftop course has a unique character to test your skills (the strong breeze can turn a par-three hole from an easy nine iron to a hard four). It will also test your physical endurance, as you’ll have to walk up steep slopes to reach the different holes spread throughout the course. (www.kodaigolf.com) Where to stay: Though there are several good-value hotels in Kodaikanal, the seven-tent Fern Creek resort (www.theferncreek.com) is one of the better options. What to do: The Palani Hills have easy, well-marked trekking trails and scenic picnic spots to enjoy a leisurely lunch. The Coaker’s Walk walking trail offers jaw-dropping views of the valley below. (www.tamilnadutourism.org)
(4) JAYPEE GREENS GOLF & SPA RESORT, GREATER NOIDA For New Delhi’s golfers, this Greater NOIDA resort, along with its Greg Norman-designed course, is both a weekend getaway and a place to mix business with leisure. The resort’s sprawling sports complex, Six Senses spa, Kids Club and eight restaurants and bars are ideal for the family to spend time in while you’re teeing off on the 18-hole golf course. Avid golfers will also enjoy Jaypee Greens’ special golf training facilities and golfer-treatment area. (www.jaypeeresortdelhi.com) Where to stay: The Jaypee Greens Golf and Spa Resort has 170 well-furnished rooms and suites with all the mod-cons. What to do: Jaypee Greens’ Six Senses spa is India’s first, and features expert treatment facilities, hammams, yoga, qigong and tai chi for guests. If you’d rather explore the city, visit the colourful Chandni Chowk, or check out the many restaurants, bars and boutiques in Hauz Khas and Khan Market. (www.delhitourism.gov.in)
(5) ANANDA IN THE HIMALAYAS, UTTARAKHAND This wellness retreat’s small but stunning six-hole golf course is nestled in the tranquil foothills of the Himalayas, just an hour’s drive from both Rishikesh and Haridwar. The par-three course, laid out between forest land and open valley space, promises to be a challenge for even the most seasoned golfer. And with an attached world-class destination spa, you can end the weekend with a romantic massage. Where to stay: The course is open only to those staying at Ananda in the Himalayas. What to do: Ananda is not open to children below 14, so think of this as a holiday to reconnect with your partner. Go for treks, spend a day rafting, or simply enjoy a quiet dinner admiring the majestic Ganga. Book yourself and your partner a couple’s ayurvedic treatment at the CNT award-winning spa. (www.anandaspa.com)
(6) AAMBY VALLEY CITY, MAHARASHTRA A short two-hour drive from Mumbai, the Aamby Valley Golf Course is perfect for stressed city types looking for some quiet time. Designed by UK’s David Hemstock Associates, the 7,087-yard course is set in the Sahyadri hills of Maharashtra. Part of Aamby Valley City, this day-and-night championship fairway’s front nine courses have natural and man-made hazards like water bodies and sand pits (look out for the odd deer that may stray on the course). Where to stay: Aamby Valley City offers a range of accommodation, from chalets inspired by Switzerland to Spanish-style cottages. What to do: The planned city has plenty of activities to keep the family occupied, including a spa, gym, discotheque, and numerous shopping and dining options. Pick from an adrenaline-pumping skydive or a languorous lake cruise. And should you feel the need to go further afield, Lonavla and Khandala are both a short drive away. (www.aambyvalleycity.com)
(7) THE ROYAL CALCUTTA GOLF CLUB, KOLKATA Opened in 1829, this is said to be the world’s oldest course outside of the British Isles. Designed in a manner similar to Scotland’s famous St Andrew’s fairway, its spectacularly preserved par-72, 18-hole course is both inviting and challenging. And the club’s veranda is the perfect spot to unwind with a mint tea after a game. (www.rcgc.in) Where to stay: The Park, Kolkata (www.theparkhotels.com) has a number of great dining and nightlife options. It also has a private yacht that the family can rent for a cruise around the Bay of Bengal. The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata (www.oberoihotels.com), though old-fashioned, has all the modern amenities you may require. What to do: Kolkata’s Park Street is home to famous food haunts like Flurys, Mocambo, Blue Fox and Peter Cat. For a dose of culture, visit Chinatown, which has some great restaurants as well as a Chinese temple. (www.westbengaltourism.gov.in)
(8) OXFORD GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB, PUNE This championship course, just 22km from Pune airport, is bordered on three sides by the Sahyadri hills. The 18-hole horseshoe-shaped course is ideal for seasoned golfers. Several vantage point tee boxes provide you with great views of the silver sand bunkers as you drive your ball down the hills, and over 40 practice bays give it its world-class appeal. The course is part of an 1,100-acre township, which will house villas, apartments, a hotel and a country club (with a pool and crèche for kids and a library and Cigar Lounge for grown-ups) by next year. Where to stay: Just a few miles away, Pune has plenty of good properties, from The Westin Pune Koregaon Park (www.starwoodhotels.com) to Pune Marriott Hotel & Convention Centre (www.marriott.com) for a comfortable stay. The five-star O Golf Resort, with its swanky cottages and tents, is on the club premises. What to do: Although the township itself has plenty of activities to keep your family busy, you can also make the short drive into Pune to enjoy its buzzing music, nightlife and dining scene. Those who enjoy adventure sports can visit Della Adventures (www.dellaadventure.com) in Lonavala, which offers activities like paragliding and quad biking. (www.ogcc.in)
(9) GOLFSHIRE CLUB, BENGALURU Extend your business trip to India’s Silicon Valley and have your family join you at The Prestige Group’s Golfshire Club. Just 45 minutes from the city centre, its course is designed by PGA Design Consulting and managed by leading golf course management company, Troon Golf. Set at the foot of the Nandi Hills on the edge of Lake Karehalli, the 250-acre course features undulating greens, several of which are two-tiered and deep, with shapely bunkers to challenge any avid golfer. The course is part of a part-residential, part-commercial luxury development with its own spa, swimming pool, squash courts, restaurants, and crèche, making it ideal for a family day out. And with the city just a short drive away, you can visit its many malls, restaurants and clubs. (www.golfshire.com) Where to stay: Till the course’s own 300-room JW Marriott opens later this year, the Angsana Oasis Spa and Resort (www.angsana.prestigeconstructions.com), about a 30-minute drive away, is a good option—as is the 36-room Goldfinch Retreat (www.goldfinchhotels.com), 10km from the course. Book a room at The Leela Palace Bangalore (www.theleela.com), where the family can enjoy five-star comfort and facilities. What to do: From gastro-pubs to music venues, Bengaluru’s attractions are numerous. The 6th-century Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple is a short drive from the club, as are a fort and summer palace that once belonged to Tipu Sultan. (www.karnatakatourism.org)
(10) KENSVILLE GOLF LIVING, AHMEDABAD Designed by golfing great Jeev Milkha Singh, Kensville’s 18-hole PGA-standard course is a verdant oasis just outside Gujarat’s bustling commercial capital. Golfer Shiv Kapur trained Sachin Tendulkar at this course, and Kensville has hosted three European Challenge Tour events. Budding golfers can train at the Kensville Golf Academy; there’s also a 700-acre residential development within the complex that they can stay in. (www.kensville.co.in) Where to stay: The course has Club Kensville, a 55-room luxury hotel, attached to it, but if you would rather stay in the city, 55km away, hotels like Ista (www.istahotels.com) and Aloft (www.starwoodhotels.com) are great options. What to do: Visit Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Ashram, where Gandhi spent part of his life, the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, and the Museum of Vintage and Classic Cars. The Little Rann of Kutch—and its Wild Ass Sanctuary—is a four-hour drive from the city. (www.gujarattourism.com)
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