Tee in Paradise: Golfing With a Difference

Features Issue 37 Aug, 2010
Text by Sashi Pradhan / Photo: DBM

Leaving the grime and dust of Kathmandu behind, the pleas antly open and meandering road to the Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa was only a prelude to what awaited there. Being new to the sport, I looked forward to seeing and learning what all the hype was really about.

The Gokarna Golf Resort lies ensconced in the greenery of the ancient Gokarna Forest on the North East side of Kathmandu. What were once the hunting grounds of the Nepali Royalty has been transformed, under the Management of the Le Meridien group, into a golfing resort that is unlike any other. The picturesque course sprawling over 140 acres of land is a favored destination among golfers from all over the world. So what is it that makes the Gokarna Golf course so special? Crafted by leading architect David Mclay Kidd and assisted by Director of Turf-grass Management, James Kidd, under the direction of Gleneagles Golf Developments, it is a masterpiece in itself. While adhering to international golfing standards, special care has also been taken to incorporate the natural contours of the landscape into the design.  An interesting aspect of the course is the amalgamation of mysticism, religion, sport and relaxation. The Bandhevi Temple, dedicated to the goddess of the forest is located within the forest between the 14th tee and 6th green, Dhungana’s Kuldevta  (left of the 11th green), Poudail Kuldevta (above the 4th tee), Mahat Kuldevta (between the 3rd and 4th tees), Kanti Bhairav Temple (near the 7th tee) and Nag Isthan (between the car park and the practice range).

The 6,715 yard par 72 course with  cushions of Bent Grass Greens built to USGA specifications and undulating local Bermuda fairways set in a lush unyielding forest with the snow-capped Himalayas in the background makes for a truly enchanting golfing experience. The Gokarna Golf course is a ‘walking course’ in that all 18 holes are within walking distance. Occasionally, one may chance upon a passing deer or monkeys on the fairway, adding to the surrealism of the place. The weather throughout the year, is crisp and mild, providing ideal conditions for both the grass and the golfer. Even during the monsoons, extensive drainage systems make the course playable within 30 minutes of a downpour. Overlooking the Golf course is the clubhouse, which houses a restaurant, bar and a pro shop for golfing accessories. “The golf course is fantastic. A wonderful oasis of greenery, fresh air and calm” says Keith Gardner, the Australian Ambassador, who is a member of the Gokarna Golf club.

Established in 1999, the resort employs 55 permanent staff exclusively for the maintenance of the course while on any given day about 40 caddies are readily available. With about 165 members comprising of diplomats, expatriates and the who’s who of Kathmandu, the sport is now beginning to catch on with the general public as well. To encourage more local participation, the resort has been actively promoting golf camps free of charge for schools and for those who are interested albeit at a small scale.   ‘Monthly medals’ are held for its members and also for beginners to instill familiarity and confidence in the game. To Deepak Acharya, the golf director who is also a professional, playing golf is more than just a physical exercise. It is also a mental game where its rules and regulations teach one discipline. He says, “You can know a person by how he conducts himself on the golf course. Golf is one game where you don’t play against opponents but against the course”. He also writes a regular column in the Nepali Times on golf related issues with the main objective of creating awareness of the sport. Perhaps one of the main reasons that has been hampering the growth of the sport and dampening public enthusiasm is the expensive nature of the Sport, what with the high costs of maintaining the course in its impeccable condition. Mr.Acharya is however, optimistic that the Sport has a bright future in the country, as it is relatively easier to get corporate sponsorship and now that they have the proper infrastructure that was unavailable in earlier days, things are looking up. The Gokarna Golf Resort is also one of the highlights of the professional tour circuits in the region. Among the many professional and amateur tournaments held at the resort, is the Surya Nepal Masters which is the biggest golfing tournament in Nepal. With prize money of NRs 1.6 million, the stakes are high. The tournament which is a part of the AMBY Valley Circuit is scheduled to be held between 8th—16th December this year. Over 60 professionals from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal will be vying for the top spot this year.

For those wanting to soothe their aching bodies and looking for the unified experience of harmony of the mind, body and soul there’s just that bit for you too- the Le Meridien Harmony Spa where you can enjoy the best of both worlds.  Furthermore, nature walks in the charming surrounding forests may be a great way to keep your family engaged whilst you take your passion or addiction to greater heights.