A Day in Raj Bhawan Golf Course, Nainital - My First One by Col Pradeep Bajaj (Retd)

Note: While reading through this always keep at the back of your mind that. this was my first look and play on the course without a dry run. Secondly, words such as steep, abyss, trek, expedition, summit and forest/ jungle, may be perceived as a Golfer, and necessarily not as a mountaineer. Of course I have just waded through my 75th year

As I sat at Golf Garage for my day to day work, Rahul, my son, sent me the invitation from Raj Bhawan Golf Course (RBGC) Nainital to participate in RBGC Governor's Cup from 18-21 May 2023. Being a club Golfer, who plays for exercise and company of friends, this was a welcome opportunity. The period also tallied with our desire to travel upwards to hills. We reached the Holiday Home by the sun down, on 18 May 2023

18 May 2023

This evening, though we had another day to ourselves, we drove to the Raj Bhawan and the Golf Course itself. The route was winding and extraordinarily narrow and steep. Driving skills and experience of hill driving was necessary needed. By the time, we reached the Golf Hut; it was sun down, nevertheless, there was some twilight to have a panoramic view of the First Tee, a valley and the fairway down wards. The double slope down, one from T to the Green/ Brown, and the other from right to left was tell tale sign of things to come. The Green/ Brown, though inline, was not visible. A flag on a hillock, denoted the proximity and direction of the pin. If you dropped the ball within a metre of the flag, the ball will roll down to the first green/ brown.

Bunkers at RBGC

19 May 2023

On 19 May 2023, went to register at the Golf Hut and met Meeting Col HC Sah (Retd), Secretary, a charming gentleman approaching his eighties. I was delighted to have met such gentlemen, dedicated to what they love. Having introduced myself and my concerns on the challenges ahead, he understood my concerns, however, encouraged me to have a go at it. 

20 May 2023

I was there at T off on 20 May 2023 as scheduled. Having had a look at the first Tee, and the fairway ahead, I perceived that the further way could not be that challenging. So, at the Tee Off, I looked hard at the Flag on the hillock, took stance, looked hard at the ball, took a deep breath, back swing, forward swing, shifted weight, tried head down, hit the ball over, eyes went straight ahead towards the flight of the ball. Ball had nowhere else to go, except to roll down, and into the rough foliage.

It was nice of the Golf Course staff to have marked various DZ (Drop Zones), making it easy for the golfers. Coming to green/ brown was another exercise, however, long putted to be appreciated by the other three of the foursome.

For the Tee shot on the 2nd T, the flight of the ball had to go through thick growth of trees. However, should your shot avoid the trees, you are comfortably lodged on a huge flat available on the course, in all likelihood in the vicinity of the green. Thereafter it was a simple chip and putt.

The Trek and Meadows

To reach the next Tee, one had to trek through a huge foliage and jungle. It was long enough, however at the end of approx. 1 km of the trek (only a small exaggeration), you are on a rare and welcome meadow on the course. Thank heavens, this trek was downhill. 

So far we were driving/ taking a shot (chipping, pitching) , and rolling down. The funs seemed over. The play around and beyond the meadows, was all an upward trek. In RBGC, "whoever goes down, needs to climb up"

The only meadows available in general area made it a weebit pleasant, as well as challenging. The topography of this meadow was well utilised by the designers/ developers to fit in a refreshment hut, Ts, greens/ browns and view points (Wow). 

3rd hole looked fine at the Tee with ball comfortably perched on the trough of the meadow. It was the approach shot, which required accurate drop on a small flat and a climb thereafter. Any error would have the ball rolling down. The refreshment hut here was a relief. Soft drinks and eats therein were welcome recharge, and view point brought in change.

4th hole was drive from the Tee down hill followed by similar risk management requiring proximity drop, as in 3rd. Golfers well know, "you muff once, you muff again and again". No Golfer wants the ball come rolling down again and again. As such, discretion and caution are better than valorous attempts. 

5th hole, and, and there was a cautionary sign to watch for the wild cats in the jungle around, presumably from the days of Raj, when possibly, the golfers were accompanied by the hunting people, which provided them big game, and golfers the protection. Those days, wild life was seen as a Big Game and, then wild life was unprotected. Notwithstanding this cautionary sign (in fact some of us did not notice it, being so inconspicuous), we played on for the 5th hole (the marking read 4th Hole) and started another expedition upwards and into a huge (not very) primeval forest.

Three holes (5th, 6th and 7th) in this area added interest being hemmed in, in a restricted expanse with indescribable undulations. The 7th hole (Par 3) was a bit level (making for easy breathing) with  foliage on both sides of the fairway, adding to the interest. Some amongst us (not I) managed to get to qualifiers and a birdie here. 

8th and 9th were something like a final summit. After 8th Tee shot, one was challenged to cross the primeval forest and trot down, climb up to 9th Tee, and be relieved, as one could see the 19th hole from there. Here the Golfers (Trekkers here) are as excited, as sea farers when they sight the land.

At 8th, more often than not, the ball would vanish vertically down the thick foliage, and into the depths unfathomable. However, the caddies were sharp and adept along this part of the Trek. They are quick to declare the ball lost, and drop another ball at a prominent Drop Zone. Here, ball lost was a high probability and not resented. Getting off from the Drop Zone to the valley is easy, and thereafter it is up and up till the 19th hole. Here is the longest and steepest climb zone. The journey here is the reverse of the 2nd hole mentioned earlier. Then it was a steep roller coaster down to a flat, and this time, from the flat to steep uphill climb. Only difference being, this time it was hard breathing. Walking in cautiously in phases and and sometimes need to use the club as a trekking pole was common both ways. 

At times the terrain/ lie can defy all the conventions. Against all expectations and advise from experienced, I used the putter for the final assault on the brown. The bowl like apron of the brown was kind enough to allow the ball roll gently on brown for a one stroke putt. This accomplishment was seen by others foursomes waiting for us on the T/ Brown therein, who welcomed it with an applause, and brought smile on my lips and be contented.

After this, the home run was easy. The journey was studded with photography.

My ardent desire: To be able to play on this course again and again, so as not to act and look, surprised and wide eyed at RBGC Nainital in possible future. 

RBGC Nainital Trip With My Better Half
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1 comment

Thank you Sir for this wonderful ’ walk thru’ of what appears to be a challenging & interesting course. It’s now on the bucket list. Cheers

anand singh

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