Golf tourism: Karnataka looks to tee off

Climate, cheaper fees could help bring in enthusiasts of the game from abroad

The world over, golf resorts offering premium facilities are popular holiday destinations. Southeast Asian countries have made it big on the golfing map owing to cost competition and infrastructure, thus attracting many tourists.

In the Southeast, especially in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, tailor-made packages are available for long and short holidays which include multiple golf courses in the itinerary and three or four rounds of the game.

With Karnataka adding golf tourism to its tourism policy, offering incentives to set up golf courses across the State, golfers believe that the move could help bring in golf enthusiasts from other countries.

“Unlike other big metros, one can play golf at any time of the day or the year here. Interest in the game is also very high and this provides a good platform for budding players. We have seen the number of golfers increase threefold in the last five years,” said Chetan Meda, director of Eagleton Resorts.

He said playing golf in India is cheaper than doing so in Southeast Asia as the green fee and caddie costs are lower.

At present, most of the golf courses in the State are concentrated in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Hubballi, Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Mangaluru. By offering incentives, the government is attempting to woo investors to set up golf courses in tourism centres across the State.

Many believe that golf tourism is already happening in the State. “In a way, several golfers from other States are already coming to courses in Bengaluru, Madikeri, Chikkamagaluru and Mysuru, and expats working in MNCs are also playing. The golf circuits in the State can be packaged to cater to international golfers,” said T. Venkatesh Babu, a golfer.

The presence of a large number of expats, especially from Japan, Korea, Europe and the United States, where the game is very popular, is also creating awareness about the local golf courses, he added.


The real estate connection

Development of standalone golf courses is generally considered to be unviable and any new golf course in the State will have to piggyback on real estate development.

Many golf enthusiasts have paid huge amounts as premium to buy residences developed around golf courses. “Golf course development is considered to be very profitable as it fetches high margins. The marketability of a property that is 50 to 60 km from the city increases if it has a golf course as the centre of attraction,” said a senior executive at a city–based real estate company.

Golf courses thriving with real estate has been a trend worldwide, he added. On the other, he pointed out that the development cost of a championship golf course can exceed Rs. 100 crore, depending on the land value and borrowing cost. Without the real estate spin, the venture would become unviable.

Bengaluru has at least four large private golf courses that have been developed around real estate, and some are in the offing, he said.

The new golf tourism venture, brought under the larger tourism policy, offers financial concessions to those developing golf courses.

Acknowledging that standalone golf courses are difficult to maintain, a member of the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) said the maintenance cost of the course would be around Rs. 2 crore and as such, it would be difficult to manage the course with membership and green fees alone.

Incidentally, KGA has been developed on land leased out by the government — which brings down the capital cost substantially. But despite such concessions offered to those investing in golf, there are still stumbling blocks.

According to Chetan Meda of Eagleton Resorts, on an average it would take about 10 years for a golf course to turn profits. “Land acquisition and getting approvals for the project are still a tough task for the developer,” he said. “The government needs to address this if investments are to be attracted.”

Easier said than done

The State government may want to create gold courses across Karnataka, but golfers say heat, distance and infrastructure may deter investments. “A large number of golfers are based in Bengaluru and they may not like to travel long distances to play. To attract golfers from other States or countries, accessibility is also important,” a member of the Karnataka Golf Association said.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 11:35:48 AM |

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