India has a number of well-designed golf courses located at picturesque spots across the country. Most are open to non-members, have great facilities, and make for rejuvenating active breaks. Plus, they’re in places that have plenty to do besides golf, so your travel companions aren’t bored to a tee.
Set against the backdrop of the Zabarwan Hills, Royal Springs Golf Course is spread over 300 acres of forest and is regarded as one of the most picturesque courses in Asia. Round off the day with shikara rides on Dal Lake, a visit to Hazratbal Mosque, or a leisurely stroll through the Mughal-style Chashma Shahi gardens. There is no accommodation on the course, but hotels and houseboats are plentiful in Srinagar. Centaur Hotel (0194-2501236; www.centaurhotelsrinagar.in; doubles from ₹6,500) is closest to the course. Royal Springs has a green fee of ₹1,000 for 9-hole and ₹1,500 for 18-hole for Indians; USD 30 for 9-hole and USD 40 for 18-hole for foreign nationals (0194-2501158, www.royalspringsgolfcourse.in).
About three hours from Guwahati, the Kaziranga Golf Resort is set among the tea estates of eastern Assam, and combines golf, luxury, and landscape into a pretty package. It has a golfing academy for newcomers, and five-star hotel facilities. Wildlife enthusiasts can take a break from golf and journey to the nearby Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, and tea enthusiasts can visit the estates to sample the local produce. Green fee on weekdays: ₹500 for 9-hole, ₹600 for 18-hole; on weekends: ₹600 for 9-hole, ₹800 for 18-hole (033-22299034; www.kazirangagolfresort.in; accommodation available on the course; doubles from ₹4,800).
At an altitude of close to 7,250 ft, the 18-hole Pahalgam Golf Club is surrounded by fir trees and snowy peaks. The course is challenging, has significant elevation and is generally preferred by players in good shape. If a few rounds aren’t enough, there’s whitewater rafting on the Lidder River, horse rides in Kashmir Valley, and a number of treks in the region. The Amarnath Yatra starts in Pahalgam, so plan accordingly if you’re averse to crowds. The wood-panelled Grand Mumtaz Resort (09013527195; doubles from ₹9,000) is a good choice for accommodation. Pahalgam Golf Club charges a green fee of ₹600 for 9-hole, ₹1,200 for 18-hole (9419049402).
Nestled in the Palani Hills, the Kodaikanal Golf Club was founded in 1895 and retains a distinct colonial charm. The course is surrounded by forests inhabited by barking deer, wild boar, and bison that have been known to occasionally stroll onto the greens. There’s plenty to do in Kodaikanal too: boating at Kodai Lake, treks to nearby waterfalls, even horse rides which, once upon a time, was the only way to get to the golf course. Green fee is ₹700 (04542-240323; www.kodaigolf.com; accommodation available on course; doubles from ₹1,600).
Visitors to Kashmir can also play at Gulmarg Golf Club, amongst the highest green courses in the world. The land for the golf course was donated by the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1901, and the handsome club house building was constructed the following year. The Gulmarg Golf Course charges a green fee of approx ₹800 for 9-hole, ₹1,200 for 18-hole (01954-254507).
Rambagh Golf Club is one of the oldest clubs associated with the Indian Golf Union. Jaipur’s forts and royal palaces peek over the fairways, planting the seed for a sightseeing excursion later in the day. The luxurious Rambagh Palace Hotel (0141-2385700; taj.tajhotels.com/en-in/taj-rambagh-palace-jaipur/; doubles from ₹30,000) is distinctly visible from the course, which is centrally located. Green fees at the Rambagh Golf Club vary according to the timing and the day, and begin from ₹1,440 for Indians and ₹2,400 for foreign nationals. (0141-2385239; www.rambaghgolfclub.com).
Naldehra has one of the most challenging courses in the country, surrounded by thick coniferous vegetation, and split across the middle by the main road leading to Shimla, which is 22 km away. There are quiet walking trails and more strenuous hikes closeby, and the touristy buzz of Shimla isn’t far away either. Golf Glade, an HPTDC hotel (0177-2747739; www.hptdc.nic.in; doubles from ₹1,800), and The Chalets, Naldehra (0177-2747715; www.chaletsnaldehra.com; doubles from ₹9,000) are both close to the course and offer golfing packages. The Golf Club charges a green fee of ₹573 for Indians, ₹860 for foreign nationals (0177-2747656; www.naldehragolfclub.com).
Oxford Golf and Country Club is something of a golfing township in Lavale, on the outskirts of Pune. The course was voted the best-maintained golf course in the Asia-Pacific region at the 2012 Asian Golf Awards. There’s four-star accommodation onsite with the O Golf Resort (09503000024; www.ohotelsindia.com; doubles from ₹5,000). Being three hours away from Mumbai, the course is easily accessible, and is great for a quick, impromptu weekend of golf. The club charges a green fee of ₹2,500 on weekdays; ₹5,000 on weekends; discounted rate for O Golf Resort guests. (020-67921000; www.oxfordgolfandcountryclub.com).
The Ootacamund Golf Course is a stern fitness test for most golfers. Spanning close to 200 acres, it has a number of steep slopes, much like the Avalanchi Hills that surround the course. Soak in the mountain views and make time for a trip in the UNESCO World Heritage Nilgiri Mountain Railway that winds through these mountains. Green fee is approx ₹1,000. (0423-2442254; accommodation available on the course; doubles ₹3,000)
With inputs from Zahra Amiruddin.
Last updated in May 2016. Appeared in the March 2013 issue as “Teeing Off”.