Delhi's "tee party" has taken off.
According to the travel industry, the NCR attracts about 4,000 golf travellers every year from across the world, a number that is increasing at 25% a year.So, what makes Delhi a hot golf destination? The NCR has seven world-class golf courses, some of them designed by big names like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Parmer, and Greg Norman among others.
Realising the huge potential of golf tourism, many travel companies and tour operators in the city have come up with special golf tour packages and several have developed websites dedicated exclusively to golf tours.
A three-to-seven-day gold package in the NCR costs anything between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh, depending on the number of days and the type of hotel stay.
"Golf tourism is picking up fast, and the reason behind it is the quality of golf tourism products the city offers. We also have customised golf tours for international golf travellers. We get lots of tourists from the US, Germany and Spain. Unlike south east Asia, which has emerged as one of the biggest golf tourism destinations, Delhi attracts high-end tourists," said Vishwas Makhija, director, Luxury India Holiday.
His view was supported by Sanjeev Rampal, general manager, Jaypee Greens Golf Resort in Greater Noida.
"We get about 4,000 tourists every year, directly as well as through travel agencies," he said.
Jaypee is shortly opening another 18-hole and one nine-hole course designed by Graham Cook in Noida.
Jaypee Greens in Greater Noida also offers "stay and play packages" for golf tourists and has recently opened a golf and spa resort at the golf course.
The golf course-India's longest with 14 lakes and water bodies along with 88 bunkers-has been designed by Greg Norman. Its landscape also includes open and closed wood-lands, understory shrublands,wetlands and wild-grassed areas.The fact that the NCR provides the tourists the spice of life "variety" also adds to its charm. If the Delhi Golf Club is perhaps the only course in the world dotted with historical monuments, the DLF Golf Course and Country club in Gurgaon is the only one in the country that offers night golfing facility.
Besides, most golf courses in the city boast of holistic facilities like golf clinics, club houses, health spas, gold academies and conference halls. Aravalli Hills, Gurgaon's classic golf resort designed by Jack Nicklaus offers deluxe tent accommodation to tourists.
"Golf travellers like to play on different type of courses that are not far from each other. Delhi fits the bill perfectly," said AK Singh, vice president, Golden Greens Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon.
Realising the potential of golf tourism, even members-only clubs in NCR have opened their gates to foreign golf travellers.
"Though we are a private club, we have tied up with tour operators and travel companies that bring golf tourists. Many of our tourists are from the US and Europe where night golf is not very common," said Aakash Ohri, general manager, DLF Golf and Country Club, Gurgaon.
But Delhi also has golf courses such as the Qutab Golf Course in Delhi that are open to walk-in tourists.
"We offer pay-and-play facilities and are also open for advance bookings. Half the 400 foreigners who play at the Qutab every month in winters are golf tourists. Golf tourism has a potential to become a huge industry in India. Hotels and travel companies need to be more proactive in promoting it as a tourism product," said Brig. Virender Kumar, secretary, Qutab Golf Course, Delhi.
Ohri concurred, "While golf tourism has been rising steadily in Delhi, the government should also highlight the game as an important component of the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur Golden Triangle tours. After all, golf these days is the biggest catalyst to business and investment.
Vinay Marwah, managing director, Uday Tours and Travel, which is the first company in the city to offer package golf tours, added, "Compared to countries like Malaysia, Singapore and China, playing golf in India is costly. It is not easy to get tee-off time at golf courses. Delhi has huge potential but it needs more golf courses."