India is both beautiful and diverse with sights and tastes quite unlike anywhere else. Although not celebrated for its golf, Rob Smith still finds a mouthwatering selection.
Golf In India
On my only previous trip to India a quarter of a century ago, I managed to sneak in a final-morning round at Delhi Golf Club which hosted this year’s Indian Open. Despite this, I had never really thought of this vast, exotic land as a likely candidate for a golfing trip, but I was delighted to accept an invitation from ITC Hotels to go and see the new and growing appeal for golfers.
My first port of call was the genuinely amazing ITC Grand Bharat a little outside Delhi at the foot of the Aravalli hills. The palatial architecture is inspired by 5,000 years of Indian history, and everything about it radiates taste and style. The food was sensational, whether dining in the sumptuous India Room or out in the Apas Promenade beside the pool.
Adjacent to the hotel is the Classic Golf & Country Club which was the first Jack Nicklaus signature design in the country back in 1998. There are three loops of nine, with the main two – Ridge and Valley – close to the airy clubhouse.
I actually preferred the Canyon nine which was so much fun that I played it a second time. More dramatic than its neighbours, the redstone of the nearby hills is more visible.
From here I took a 2-hour flight over to Calcutta. Not far from the airport is the superb ITC Sonar, an eco-friendly hotel that is perfectly situated for golf and all that the city has to offer. The next morning I headed over to play Royal Calcutta which is the oldest golf club in the world outside the UK and a real oasis which scores highly in terms of design, challenge, beauty and atmosphere.
Later, I thoroughly enjoyed a city tour and after a peaceful night I flew back over to New Delhi and the final hotel of my tour, the very smart and colourful ITC Maurya. It’s not often you stay in the same hotel as the President of the United States, but his was one of many photos of the rich-and-famous that I saw in a behind-the-scenes tour.
The Bukhara restaurant turned out to be a gastronomic highpoint with mouth-watering and superbly presented dishes most of which I had never seen before.
One of our generation’s most highly regarded architects is Martin Hawtree, designer of Trump International Golf Links, Scotland, and he is responsible for the inland links at Golden Greens. Its main defence is strategic bunkering and some jungle-like undergrowth on several holes which calls for straight driving. Although they are not long, I particularly liked the par 3s at 4 and 13, and there are some very good doglegs such as the 2nd, 3rd and the long 11th.
Although my flying visit only allowed me enough time to play in two locations, there are pockets of fine golf throughout the nation and ITC Hotels make for the perfect host. I am already very much looking forward to going back for more.