These are a few of my favourite..
"Let me tell you something. I came here to win a trophy…for sheer bloody pride at being the best, that's why we do this." Harry Vardon, The Greatest Game Ever Played.
They say you truly fall in love only once. I've fallen hard, twice over, and it's been for a sport both times! Or maybe it is just winning, that I love so much. It was a summer afternoon two years ago; I'd just moved from Bangalore to Pune having retired from 20 years of professional swimming. The life of a professional swimmer is very demanding with long hours of training in the pool and gym, and having achieved more than I imagined possible in the sport for India, I was figuring out what to do next. I do a lot of motivational speaking these days, and one of my main messages to people is that you should try to find something you love doing and are willing to work hard at. When you find that something you are willing to go the distance for, you will be successful. Someone gave me this movie to watch in my suddenly very empty day – The Greatest Game Ever Played - and suggested that I try golf. I went to the Pune Course the next day, and after hitting a few balls, found what I think will be my calling for the next 20 years!
Over the last two years, as I've travelled for work and leisure, I've had the privilege to play across several courses in the world and here's a list of my favourite courses so far.
Emirates Golf Club, Dubai: I recently watched Rory McIlroy win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at this beautiful course, and am also playing there again this week. A stunning clubhouse, combined with the natural rolling desert terrain for serious golfing on two of the cities finest must-play courses (the Majlis and the Faldo Course), the EGC is the recipient of a host of awards including Golf World magazines 'Top 100 Golf Courses in the World' and 'Best Course Middle East' in the Asian Golf Monthly Awards 2010. And if you've had a busy day at work, it may interest you to know that EGC also is the only 18-hole course in the region to offer night golf. A host of F&B options to unwind over, Le Classique the club's award-winning French fine dining restaurant with a menu that includes both classic favourites and new dishes with a modern twist, has my vote for an unforgettable dining experience.
Wick Golf Club, Scotland: Golf began in Scotland, the Wick Golf Club established in 1870 makes it the oldest established golf club in the Highlands of Scotland. This is a traditional Scottish links course where the first 8 holes are played straight with no shelter from the elements, and the 10th hole rises up into the dunes, with breathtaking views across Sinclair Bay and it's historic castles. If you would like a course planner on your mobile phone, you can download Golf Card GPS for free via The App Store or Android Market. We stayed in one of the castle hotels, and it's a great way to immerse yourself in the history of the place. After your round you can at choose to unwind with a wee dram of Old Pulteney from the award winning local distillery.
Panya Indira Golf Club, Thailand: Golf Tourism is really getting big in Thailand and one of the courses I most recently played was the PIGC designed by Ronald Fream. With Bangkok traffic often a nightmare, the golf course's relatively shorter travel time from the city center is a big draw. With three separate 9-hole championship courses, Lagoon, Palm and Garden, all extensively landscaped with undulating palm and tree lined fairways, lakes and ponds come into play on almost every hole. The par-3 holes are perhaps the most testing aspect of this course and on four occasions the player has to hit his tee shot over water. The course is floodlit for night golfing and offers clubhouse facilities, locker rooms and restaurants.
Prestige Golf Club, Bangalore: I've played and enjoyed a lot of courses in India, and one that I think is doing very interesting things is Prestige Golfshire. I've visited twice and enjoy playing the 18-hole championship golf course designed by PGA Design Consulting, flanked by their ultra-luxurious independent villas, a 300-bed luxury hotel and a private lake. A 45-minute drive from the heart of Bangalore and a short 10-minute drive from the new Bangalore International Airport, it is as close to Bangalore's business and commercial district as it is away from it all.
Augusta National Golf Club, USA: I haven't had the opportunity to visit this historic club yet but it's on the top of my wish list, and hopefully I get to do so soon! Founded in 1933, by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts it is one of the most famous golf clubs in the world, and makes it to the top of many lists of the best golf courses in the world. It hosts an annual Master's tournament one of the four major championships of professional Golf.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rehan Poncha is one of India's finest athletes. An Olympian Swimmer and Arjuna Awardee Rehan has recently taken up Golf as a competitive sport. You can follow him on twitter @RehanPoncha or Facebook/rehan.poncha.india