With the Louis Philippe Cup set to be held in the city next week, we make the trek to Zion Hills Golf County, which has more to it than just its lush grounds
IT MAY still be a work in progress, but there are strong indications that Zion Hills Golf County has the potential to become India’s top golfing destination, a weekend getaway and a holiday option, all rolled into one.
A visit to Zion Hills, located about an hour’s drive from Bengaluru, off the road to Bangarpet near Kolar, is an eye-opener. The 250-acre spread that was once barren and rocky, is gradually transforming into an eye-pleasing 18-hole course ringed by villas and condos of varied sizes, offering a grand view of the greens.
Designed by Ron Fream, considered the daddy of them all in this niche segment, the Zion Hills, formerly Champions Reef, not only boasts a challenging course with a couple of “monstrous” greens with topflight A4 bent grass, but also a residential academy run by former pro, Tarun Sardesai, who began operations only a few weeks back.
While golf remains its central theme and USP, Zion Hills is also being promoted as a “second home community” offering tastefully designed villas with course-facing balconies and bedrooms. Managing director, George Menomparampil puts it succinctly when he says, “Though the homes overlook the course, they are non-intrusive and yet offer intimacy.”
Sharing his vision and his passion for the sport, Menomparampil talks about developing the property in a region that hitherto no city-dweller even cared to mention, for Kolar and its surroundings were often considered as low value with no prospects of growth or development. “With city life getting increasingly crowded and busy, there is a growing need to get away on a whim rather than a planned holiday. Zion Hills is a great setting for a second home community. As there is a lot of development in the region, besides easy access via the expressway, just 8 kilometeres away, Zion Hills could evolve into a primary home community, apart from a weekend getaway.
“Urbanisation is bound to happen sooner or later as is the case with say Whitefield and at that point, it will be extremely difficult to acquire a huge property such as this. So, when that happens, Zion Hills will be a 250-acre oasis. At one time, this region was looked down upon, but if you look around now, it is becoming more developed with many industries coming up and improved connectivity,” says Menomparampil.
In the offing is a swanky club house with amenities such as a swimming pool and other recreational facilities. As much as the course dominates the vista, the tastefully designed split-level villas and condos make for a welcoming sight, complete with cozy corners, simple but well-appointed bedrooms, party area and, more importantly, excellent cross-ventilation and natural light, besides the panoramic view of the course itself from the upper level sit-out.
As for the course, currently, nine holes are in play and the back nine is expected to be operational by mid-2017. “In about five years, the development will be complete,” he promises. And when completed with 550 homes and an 18-hole course, Zion Hills Golf County could well become, as its Biblical name suggests, a place for the golfing Gods.
Indian golfing diva, Sharmila Nicollet took time off from practice to speak about the Zion Hills course and facilities, which she compared to some of the best in Europe. “I have been coming here for the past four years and it is a great place for off-season training. On other courses, we don’t get to practise the short game shots, uphill and downhill, against grass, thick grass and tight lies, against wind and with the wind, the bunker shots with various pins and conditions. As pros, we need to be able to practise these specific shots, which help our game,” says Nicollet who will be off on the Asian Tour next month while bidding to regain her European card. “I can practise here without any disturbance. In fact, I am staying here and my mom visits me. Zion Hills course is very challenging but the ultimate destination,” she adds, before hurrying off for
another exciting session.
Tarun Sardesai’s academy
It was a huge risk that former pro, Tarun Sardesai took to shift his academy to Zion Hills Golf County, but he seems happier for it. “Moving to Zion Hills has turned out to be a good decision. But I did wonder if anyone would be willing to travel 80 kilometres just to train with me. I currently train 17 youngsters from across India. We always had the need for a world-class facility where kids could start from an early age. At Zion Hills, we have just about everything. Where else will you find 12,000 square feet of putting green? My aim is that in five years’ time, we should have some players ready for the grind of the pro tour. I enjoy mentoring. After all, champions are made in the mind,” says Sardesai.
The fee for the academy is Rs 50,000 per month.
“We wanted a name that is different and communicative of the environment. Call it Biblical inspiration! It may be Jewish, but there is nothing more to it,” says Menomparampil, explaining the