Kashmir emerging as golfing paradise
The picturesque Kashmir Valley is emerging as the country’s golfing capital with the number of visiting golfers up by 15 times this year.
Buoyed by the response from golfers, the J&K administration is planning to hold seven golf tournaments in Kashmir over the next two months in which 126 top golfers from the country and abroad are participating.
Jammu and Kashmir has six world standard golf courses, comprising three in Srinagar, one each at Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Jammu. The army and police have smaller golf courses for their personnel at different places in the valley.
An upbeat tourism and culture secretary Sarmad Hafeez says, “The golfing circuit of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly Srinagar’s iconic Royal Springs Golf Course and Pahalgam Golf Course, provides unparalleled world-class experience. Seven golf tournaments of national and international standards are to be held over two months, including the PGTI-Pro tournament.”
Hafeez says golf packages are being launched to attract more golfers. “This way, tourism in Jammu and Kashmir is picking up with heritage, adventure and golf being on the enquiry list of prospective tourists.”
Preparations on in full swing
According to officials, the Gulmarg Golf Course is being redone. The 18-hole course located in a meadow at an elevation of 2,650 metres, is the highest green golf course in the world.
After remaining closed for seven years after the devastating floods of 2014, the Kashmir Golf Course, which has been relaid, and its fairways and greens redone, was thrown open last month. An academy has come up at the golf course where young boys and girls are being trained.
The Jammu-Tawi Golf course has been developed to match international standards. The scenic Pahalgam Golf course at an altitude of 2,150m is surrounded by fir-covered mountains with bare, snow-capped peaks rising behind them.
Hafeez says all 100 caddies and other staff members at the golf courses have been inoculated. “Now, all major cities in the country have direct air connectivity with Srinagar and Jammu. The tourist inflow to the Valley, includes golfers.”
The Royal Springs Golf Course has hosted many national and international events and its beauty always attracts ace golfers from different places. In the backdrop of Zabarwan Forest Range, the course is surrounded by forests. This 18-hole golf course has practice fairways of approximately 225m with three lakes, two marshes, a club house, and 8.5km cart path. The course is spread over 100 hectares of land.
Mega golf tournament in October
Chairperson of the Kashmir chapter of PHD Chamber of Commerce, Baldev Singh, said a mega golf tournament will be organised in Srinagar in October. “As many as 200 golfers from India and abroad will take part in the mega tournament at the Royal Springs Golf Course. Invitation has been extended to many ambassadors and hopefully the event will attract a good number of tourists, especially golfers to Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
Dr Jaspreet Singh, who lives in Chandigarh, had recently travelled to Srinagar with his wife to play golf in the scenic Valley. “I regularly fly to Srinagar to play golf. Two months ago, I played at the Royal Springs Golf Course and am planing to return in October. Other golfers should also visit Kashmir as it is only a 35-minute journey.”
Manzoor Ahmad, a local golfer, said Kashmir has lovely courses with international standards. “Golf can be promoted as tourism sport, but there is a lot that still needs to be done.”