Golf Tourism in India: A Growing Trend That’s Here to Stay

India doesn’t exactly spoil golfers for choice. But what it lacks in numbers  it makes up in diversity. India is home to the oldest golf course outside  Britain. It also has several golf courses of international standards.  Further, golf events held in India have lately been attracting several domestic  and international tourists. Japan and Hong Kong have a shortage  of golf courses and golfers from these countries have started coming to  India to play the sport at a comparatively low cost. With golf tourism  emerging as the new global trend, the tourism industry in India is focusing  on golf tourism in an attempt to promote the country as a preferred  golfing destination for international tourists. 

Early beginnings  

The history of golf in India started with  the Royal Calcutta Golf Course in Kolkata,  the oldest golf club in the world to be  founded outside of England and Scotland  in 1829. As British influence spread over  the vast subcontinent, golf courses and  clubs were established wherever “a patch  of grass grew,” and in many places  where it did not. India’s second golf club,  Royal Bombay came up in 1842, the second  oldest in the world outside of Scotland  and England. Thirty years had to go  by before the city of Bengaluru started a  golf club in 1876, followed in 1878 by the  scenic Shillong Club in Upper Assam.  Next, Ahmedabad started a golf club in  1884 and two years later, the Madras  Gymkhana Club started a golf section.  Further in 1887, a golf course was created  in an army cantonment in the erstwhile  princely Nizam’s dominions of  Hyderabad.

Current scenario 

Today, India has more than 220 golf  courses of which 30 are professional level  and 15 are signature ones at par with international  standards. Several others are  located in beautiful resorts across the  country. It surely goes to say that golf in  India is not just a game but a lifestyle in  itself. We highlight here some of the  prominent golf courses:

Starting at the top, the Royal Spring  Golf Course in Srinagar enjoys panoramic  views of the Dal Lake, and is undoubtedly  one of the most stunning golf courses in  Asia. Not too far away is the Gulmarg Golf  Course—the highest course in the world,  it also boasts of India’s longest hole.  Ananda in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand  has a small six-hole golf course within  the resort premises, offering breathtaking  views of the surrounding mountains as  well as a world-class spa.

Coming to the capital city, the Delhi  Golf Club is a heritage golf course where  the Viceroys and Nawabs had once  played golf. The course is also a feast for  all birdwatchers. The Qutab Golf Course is  the first public golf course in India. The  ITC Classic Golf Resort in Gurgaon is a 27-  hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course  that is accompanied by a 104-room, allsuite  luxury destination resort. The ITC  Green Bharat truly combines quality golf  with true Indian hospitality. The Jaypee  Greens Golf Resort in Noida is one of the  world’s longest courses. It is a golf resort  having 170 spacious rooms, out of which  152 are deluxe rooms and the rest are  premium category suites with open-air  Jacuzzis. The resort also has the Six  Senses Spa offering an array of holistic  therapies as well as several food and  beverage options: Eggspectation, a 24-  hour restro-cafe, an Indian cuisine restaurant  called Paatra, and La Brezza, an  Italian fine dine restaurant, four other  dining and bar venues and two patisseries.

The Rambagh Golf Course in Jaipur is  one of India’s oldest and most prestigious  golf clubs. The Gulmohar Greens Golf  Course in Ahmedabad is the first to build  an island green in India and to possess a  third split golf green in the world. Also in  Ahmedabad, is the Kalhaar Blues &  Greens Golf Course, which is one of  India’s longest golf courses. Mumbai has  lots of great options for golf courses to  choose from. While the Bombay Presidency  Golf Course offers accommodation  facilities for members and guests, the Oxford  Country Club has villas with landscaped  gardens and plunge pools. The  Aamby Valley Golf Course located close  by in Lonavala makes for a perfect weekend  getaway from Mumbai. The course  offers accommodation in a wide variety of  units, right from Swiss chalets to Spanish-  style cottages.

The Lalit Golf Resort and Spa in Goa is  perfect for a luxurious golfing holiday. Situated  along a pristine coastline, this  beach resort offers breathtaking views of  the Arabian Sea. Accommodation is offered  in 255 suites, including 10 luxurious  villas, all of them built in grand Baroque-  Portuguese style architecture. The resort  also offers amazing therapies in a holistic  spa and as many as six dining venues.

Initiatives to promote golf tourism 

In 1955, the Indian Golf Union (IGU),  formed in New Delhi, took over the mantle  of governing the sport in India from  the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, which had  been handling India’s golf interests since  its inception in 1829. The IGU is the apex  body of golf in the country and is responsible  for the promotion and development  of golf in India. Starting with only six golf  clubs at the beginning, it today boasts of  194 golf clubs and many more under  planning. The IGU has introduced a number  of initiatives for the promotion of golf  and also to upgrade the standard of the  game to the best in the world. The Ministry  of Tourism, Government of India endeavours  to work as a catalyst and active  supporter for the development of golf  tourism in the country. In order to tap the  growing interest in golf tourism, the Ministry  is creating a comprehensive and coordinated  framework for promoting golf  tourism in India, capitalizing on the existing  work that is being carried out and  building on the strength of India’s position  as the fastest growing free market  economy.

In 2015, ministry officials said that financial  assistance would be provided to  conduct approved golf events in the  country. For instance, to promote  women’s golf, the ministry would provide  financial assistance for a maximum of two  professional events with the upper ceiling  of up to Rs 1 crore each for the Ladies  Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour  and the Ladies European Tour.

The India Golf Tourism Committee  (IGTC) is the nodal body for golf tourism  in the country. The committee functions  with the aim of promoting India as a preferred  golf destination and makes suggestions  and recommendations in  connection with the identification and  grading of golf courses, approval of the  calendar for golf events and evaluating  the need for forming and managing a  corpus with contributions from various  stakeholders and the Union government  to promote golf tourism. The committee is  also involved in the identification of promotional  materials to be developed,  events for participation abroad and  showcasing golfing facilities in India.

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