the-south-asian Life & Times                   April - June 2009



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 Cruising along


 Elephant - icon of
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 Photo Essay

 Elephant Festival
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 Iqbal Hussain

 World's First
 Climate Refugees
 of Sunderbans


 Most Spectacular
 Himalayan Golf

 Gulmarg Golf Club

 Royal Springs,

 Naldehra Golf Club

 Himalayan Golf
 Course, Pokhara

 Royal Thimphu
 Golf Club, Bhutan




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Himalayan Golf Course, Pokhara (Nepal)

4th hole is an island green - the first of its kind in the world

-unadulterated and unspoilt golf

Holes – 9 (played twice)

Length – 6,900 yards from Championship tees

Par – 73

Green Fees – US $20 for 9 holes US$ 30 for 18 holes

Facilities – Caddies available (Caddy fee included in Green Fees)

Signature Hole – 4th hole – The Island Hole - lies within the Bijayapur river full of exposed stones and boulders washed down from the surrounding towering mountains. It is rated by Ronald Fream as one of the 80 most unique holes in the world

Best time to play – October to May

Nepal is not considered a golfing destination and certainly is not high on most ‘must play’ lists. Trekkers and climbers are more at home here, with Everest, Annapurna, Lhotse & Nuptse, and hundred other peaks in their peripheral vision.

The Himalayan Golf Course, seven kms away from Pokhara (the gateway to the 8,000 metre Annapurna massif)), is a nine-hole designed and built in 1998 by Major Ram Gurung MBE, a former Sandhurst commissioned British army officer from Nepal. It has been the venue for the Nepal Surya Western Open, a professional tournament, for the past ten years. This rugged cliff-side course, inside a sweeping canyon created by the at-times-gushing, at-times-tranquil Bijayapur river, and framed by the Annapurna mountain range, is kept mowed by buffalo and cattle – so rough and rugged is its terrain!

The view from the elevated 3rd tee is perhaps the most panoramic – with Fishtail and Annapurna mountain range in the foreground, and 300 feet below the Bijaypur river gushing through canyon walls dotted with eagle nests and waterfalls.

Ronald Fream, a golf course architect with great respect for the environment, has written about the course and its signature 4th hole – the ‘Island Hole’.

He writes: "This course is every bit as rustic as Prestwick was, or St. Andrews, in the 1850s, emerging as they did from the raw fields of Scotland hundreds of years ago. The game in this form is truly organic: unadulterated and unspoilt golf.

As there are only fourteen peaks in the world that rise above 8,000 metres, seeing two of them while playing the Himalayan layout makes it an unforgettable experience.

The seventy-five metre deep river gorge is littered with the geologic debris of centuries of monsoon-induced water erosion coming directly south from the nearby Annapurna massif. Due to space limitations, several of the holes share fairways, or multiple tees. Whether it’s for technical reasons, or persistence alone, this rough and rugged course is an extraordinary achievement.

The exciting tee-shot at par-five, fourth hole is across the Bijaypur River, which can either be a stream or a roaring torrent of turbulent water, depending upon the season. The entire riverbed, northward to an island greensite set within the river, is defined with exposed rock of varying sizes. The river’s edge is comprised of landslide material from the Himalayan Mountains. Some of this material is smaller than the native sheep, but can also be larger than houses.

The fairway rolls and tumbles northward, while the cliff-face provides a backdrop for the entire length of the hole. Flowing water surrounds the rock-encircled, island greensite. When sizing up your second shot, options are reduced to two: lay-up short of water; or play with gusto toward the large, hybrid Bermuda green.

Looming bold and large beyond the green—and well in view for the second and third shots—stands the sharply angled mountain peak of Machhapuchare at 6,996 metres (22,952 feet), also known as ‘Fishtail.’ Fishtail is not alone! Running east-to-west past this single pyramidal peak is the Annapurna massif. Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Annapurna III, and IV, can all be seen on clear days. Annapurna I rises 8,091 metres (26,545 feet) and Annapurna IV is 7,525 metres (24,688 feet). While playing, one does face depth perception challenges, and these stem from the visual distortion of the vertical walls of the deep river gorge, and that of the towering peaks beyond. Ravens circle overhead, while the gushing roar of the river remains constant. As a package, it is simply an inspirational setting.

Although the hand-pulled (three-manpower) greens mower keeps the Bermuda putting surfaces surprisingly smooth, you’ll not encounter Augusta-like putting speeds at this altitude. As for  the fairways, the sheep and water buffalo keep the Savannah-grass turf below shoe-top height. Play is best around the summer monsoon season—October to May—when temperatures are mild. The cliff-top clubhouse is basic, but the local beer is cold! Although the on-course views are spectacular, two additional views from the clubhouse are just as awesome: Annapurna II at 7,937 metres (26,040 feet); and further to the east, Manasulu at 8,156 metres (26,758 feet). "

The course has been featured in many international magazines including the ‘Golf World’, movies and travel films.

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