Golf has always been a sport that has been associated with class, stature, elegance and other such superlatives, but when all of that is combined with the most pristine form of nature serving as the setting, it transcends to something surreal – almost as if its golf for the Gods.
The Royal Springs Golf Club in Srinagar, is the most picturesque golf course set against the almost canvas-painting like backdrop of the Zabarwan mountains at Chashma Shahi. Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler, built a walled garden – the Chashma Shahi, around water springs which became the Royal Springs; a source of soft sweet water. The golf course is over-looked by the historical Chashma Shahi gardens and the course itself contains four of the Royal Springs.
The golf course began functioning at the turn of the millennium, and is designed by the renowned golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones-II. He was able to craft out of the natural setting a magical combination of aesthetic joy and sheer golfing pleasure, one that is difficult to outdo anywhere in the world.
This 18 hole, 6445 meters golf course at a par of 72, is definitely one of the more challenging courses in the country. For the ones who judge a golf course by its grass types, this is one course which will definitely get them swooning. The fairways are turfed with cool weather grass of various shades, while the greens have bent grass. The types of grass that have been cultivated across the course include Rye, Kentucky Blue and tall Fescues. A non-golf enthusiast can also easily get lost in the beauty of this course, which is spread over approx. 300 acres of rolling hills, natural marsh, native deciduous forest, lakes and pure wilderness.
The holes are a balanced mix, ones that’ll truly put to test your all around ability and skills as a golfer. You tee off with a long par 5, which borders the lake. This is followed by a relatively easy par 3 and a slightly tricky par 4. The 4th can be a deceptive uphill par 4, which may look very straight forward, but will test you more than you expect and hence it is one of the more difficult holes on the course. The 5th is a par 3 green, and is touted as the Signature hole of the course, purely in terms of the surreal view it offers. At the tee, which is the highest point on the course, the view of the Zabarwan mountains overlooking the Dal Lake in the background is sure to cause a lapse in the golfer’s concentration, as he/she is simply awestruck for a few seconds. The 6th and 7th holes are easy and a big relief, almost as if to give the golfer a chance to recover from the visual treat of the 5th. The par-4 8th is what is called a dog leg hole in golf terminology, which leads to the lakeside 9th hole.
You then begin the back 9 at the par-5 10th, which is a double dog leg across a natural marsh. The par-4 11th is a demanding stretch of fairway between the marsh and the lake. Both, the 10th and 11th, require a fair level of caution to get the optimum result. The par 3 12th is very tricky as it is between the marsh and the hillside. The 13th is a fairly simple par 4 leading to the long par 5 14th hole. The 15th is a par 4 followed by a par 3 16th. The 14th, 15th and 16th are relatively simpler, and should pose no real problem to an average golfer. The par 4 17th tests both your driving and putting techniques. The long 18th is a perfect final hole, one that requires a long and accurate drive and strong iron-play, accuracy here is of utmost importance as the lake to the right after the fairway extends all the way to the green.
The clubhouse is state-of-the-art, having world class locker rooms with steam and sauna rooms, perfect for relaxing and refreshing oneself after a long day at the course. Amidst the international standards, the club house still manages to give you a very local feel, as the building is built based on the old Kashmiri type of architecture. The upper floor has a sitting and eating area with couches, overlooking the course, perfect for a cup of tea at the end of play. The golf course also has a practice area with a few practice holes. Further substantiating its international standard is a big fleet of the latest motorized golf carts.
The golf course has played host to a number of national level tournaments which has seen participation of players from all over the country, and very recently was the venue for the first ever women’s golf tournament in the valley, which saw almost 50 women golfers participating from all around India.
At the Royal Springs Golf Course, Srinagar, nature and sports come together in a way like no other. In the words of Mr. Fida Iqbal, one of the permanent members and regular players here, “this golf course is nature’s gift to golf. “Nothing can sum up this golf course better than that.