Playing Golf in the Far East of India ; the Hill Resort of Shillong
Shillong in the North East of India is a lovely hill station about 104 km from Gauhati. After independence, Shillong has its own airport at Barapani and one can jet down direct from Calcutta. During the days of the Raj, it was the capital of the composite state of Assam. After the reorganization of the states in the North East, Shillong became the capital of the state of Meghalaya.
The city of Shillong is nestled in the Jaintia hills at a height of about five thousand feet above MSL. The city houses one of the oldest Golf Courses in India. Situated close to the Polo ground the course is perhaps the only natural golf course in the whole of Asia. I have played at this course during the days I was posted at the Headquarters of the Eastern Air Command at upper Shillong. The course is sometimes compared to the “Glen-eagle Course" in the United States because of its beauty and unique location.
The inception of the Course
The course was set up during the days of the Raj in 1898 by British civil service officers who wanted to play the game. It was laid out much earlier in 1878 when the civil servants with some army officers began to play the game here. It was initially a 9 hole course but it was an amateurish effort. The course got a professional makeover when two British Army Officer's namely Captain Jackson and CK Rhodes expanded the course to the present 18 holes in 1924. The clubhouse was also inaugurated during the same year. It will complete 100 years in 2024. The bar also came up about the same time and is one of the best old world places to have a drink after a round of golf.
Capt. Jackson and C.K.Rhodes in setting up the course displayed excellent acumen in preserving the natural beauty of the area while laying out the course. The result is
stupendous and the beauty of the course permeates to all who play at this course. It is covered on all sides by thick groves of pine and rhododendron trees. An indigenous species of local grass which hardens the soil is used for the fairways and that makes this course one of the toughest to negotiate in India.
Playing the Game
The fairways are by themselves difficult to negotiate, but with a number of out of
bounds streams crisscrossing them, the game certainly needs a great degree of
fitness and fortitude. The beauty of playing here is that at a number of places the
approaches to the greens are uphill shots and that will require some expertise. The
greens are fast and you will have to be a reasonable putter to putt the ball in the hole.
The course is one of the most beautiful in India. The longest hole is the sixth that covers 594 yards. In addition, the tee-off is from a pine grove at an elevation of some 200ft above the fairway. It is beautiful and one wonders at the acumen of Capt. Rhodes who set up the course.
There is also another natural obstruction and this is the rain which falls all year round.
Cheerupunji the wettest place on earth is just 55 km from here. Almost 400 inches of rain fall s in a season, hence a player will have to keep rainwear gown handy. Anyway playing in the rain is a challenge by itself.
The club has another unique aspect and these are girl caddies. They were there when I used to play but are now somewhat scarce as local youth object to girls being caddies. There were a few cases during the time I played of golfers sleeping with the caddies.
The sun rises early in this part of India and in case you wish to play a game you will have to rise early. The course is busy the year-round and the 14th All-India Police Golf Tournament has just been concluded on September 28 and 29. For the record, the Punjab police were the winners.
Playing Golf at this location is like a dream come true. At a height of over 5000’ and
surrounded by picturesque mountains and natural vegetation, a Golfer may almost feel he is in paradise.
Here are some tips for adventurous people who want to play golf. Firstly you can either take a train from Howrah( Calcutta) to Gauhati and then travel by bus or taxi to Shillong or you can take a flight from Calcutta -Dum Dum airport to Shillong. Calcutta is an international airport that connects to London and Tokyo.
There are excellent places and hotels to stay in Shillong. The Golf club also has wonderful suites and a tourist can book them in advance. All in all, it can be a wonderful holiday.