The following is taken from Ian Nalder’s book, 'Nightmare In Paradise'
Golf in Sri Lanka: The next hot spot?
Twenty years ago this question would never have been asked. Sure, the country had two fine courses. One, Nuwara Eliya, was founded in 1889 high among the tea estates by Scots soldiers in the Gordon Highlanders. For long it has been popular with Colombo’s golfers eager for a break from the big city.
Its Victorian clubhouse boasts an indoor badminton court, a snooker room, and en-suite bedrooms. Although the course is within the town and privy to spectators watching from across the fence, excitement beckons from a switchback terrain that is host to cunning doglegs which weave their way among eucalyptus and fir trees.
Founded twelve years earlier, the city course in the capital earned the title of Royal Colombo from King George V. Blessed with charm, there are copious water hazards from which a ‘pond boy’ will recover your ball for a modest tip. Almost uniquely a railway runs through whose passengers throng some of the oldest rolling stock in service anywhere today. Just as remarkable is the venerable clubhouse where Sunday breakfast on Medal days outdoes anything reminiscent of the Raj! On the verandah, once seated, liveried waiters attend to the thirsty promptly. No need to stand at the bar in expectation!
But it was the addition of a third course at the end of the 1990s that has propelled Sri Lanka into a golfing destination which deserves to be considered seriously. This is the amazingly beautiful Victoria on the banks of the great Victoria dam. Designed by the Scottish golf architect Donald Steel, year after year it wins awards as the finest course in Asia.
Not surprisingly, on the recommendation of those two world class cricketers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena who are both members, visiting English cricketers search it out as Sir Ian Botham will testify. Like Royal Colombo no two holes follow the same direction. Doglegs abound; marah, tulip and palm trees adorn or overhang fairways. They tantalise. Views of mountains and the dam astound. And not one single hole is flat.
Every golfer is well advised to employ not just a caddie but a ballboy too. He will fend off inquisitive crows bent on purloining your ball and recover ammunition that has left the straight and narrow for rocks, ditches, precipices and forest. These youngsters do not just have sharp eyes, they work to a creed that does not permit them to lose a ball!
Ian Nalder spent two years in East Pakistan before it became Bangladesh and twice won the country’s national Amateur Golf Championship. He has written articles in magazines and several books on golf, notably: Scotland’s Golf In Days of Steam (Scottish Cultural Press ) and The History of Nairn Golf Club (Gopher Publishers ). His recent novel Nightmare in Paradise (Librario) is set on the Victoria Course in Sri Lanka, imparting an atmosphere enough to make any golfer reach for his travel agent!