A birdie tells us Chennai’s first golf course attached to a residential complex is almost ready

When you have built a set of über-luxurious homes, with Olympic-sized pool, clubhouse, marble, columns and cupolas to put a Roman to shame, what do you do next to earn the ultra-luxury tag and please your oh-so-exclusive buyers? Add a golf course, of course.

Chennai joins the growing trend in India with its very first golf course designed exclusively for a residential complex. In Oragadam, Palace Gardens’ nine-hole course will be ready by early 2013, and the course’s driving range has just been launched.

“The people who buy our homes have ‘arrived’. We asked ourselves how best we could meet their aspirations, and since golf is still regarded as an aristocrat’s game, we decided to create a facility to add to our residents’ experience,” says the affable Manzer Hussain, COO of Hirco (project developer) and keen golfer himself. While not a professional course, it’s not being planned as a walkover either.

The “not very forgiving course”, as Hussain puts it, is bound to please both learners and enthusiasts who want a swing on Sundays. The stats: a spread of 50 acres, a mix of bunker, water and vegetation hazards on a combination of Par 3,4 and 5 holes, three large lakes, island tee on the 6th hole, and an all-or-nothing shot over water for the last hole.

Hirco has roped in the award-winning David Hemstock, a senior member of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, who designed the Aamby Valley course and the new 27-hole greens at Kovai Hills. Here, he has planned a course that is flattering to play because of its length, but which has some tricky shots to test better golfers. Also, possibly for the first time in India, the course will have three teeing positions, allowing three different layouts —back, middle and front — to be played.

The 250 metre driving range (75 metres wide) is in fairway style, with an undulating grassed area, target greens and bunkers, and 12 hitting bays. It has an overhead canopy and will also be floodlit to enable night practice. “The range will be single-digit handicap compatible, possibly the first of its kind in this part of the country,” says Hussain.

Meanwhile, the rest of the course is being prepared for the seeding. “We are using Paspalum grass, not the usual Bermuda,” says Hussain. Paspalum, one of the newest varieties of golf and sports turf grass, can withstand tough weather and needs far less water than other varieties. The lakes will be used to harvest water and will have a re-circulation system. Besides, some 1,000 trees are to be planted.

Hussain says that, once complete, the course will be operated and maintained by a professional body. Although developed for residents, who will pay a fee to use it, it makes sense for the course to open itself up as a coaching academy of sorts, and that’s obviously also on the anvil.

If developers plan to build golf courses and suchlike to woo high-end buyers, more par to them. Not only does it add much-needed green spaces, even as the concrete spreads further out, it’s a very welcome addition to the city’s golfing scene.

Keywords: OragadamGolf course