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Hole Nine Yards

He designed his first golf course when he was just 16 and doesn’t know when his passion became his full-time profession. Perhaps, India’s youngest golf course developer, Ashish Vaishnava tells NIDHI MITTAL about his journey

Fancy having a golf course in your backyard? Wouldn’t it be a dream come true? It may just be possible if we go by what this young golf enthusiast and, perhaps, India’s youngest golf course developer has to say. All of 27, Ashish Vaishnava has a vision — that of making golf courses in India which are not just smaller in size but also much more affordable. And this is where the idea of mini and executive golf courses struck him.

“Even cricket has evolved as a 20-20 game. Why not make golf too a shorter game? With a nine-hole golf course, as against the traditional 18, the game will become much shorter. One can be done within an hour-and-a-half as opposed to around six hours that one game of golf generally takes. Golf is a game which should become accessible to all,” says Vaishnava.

But how can golf, an elite game, be made affordable? Ashish has an answer to that too. The nine-hole course requires only 20 to 35 acres which is around 15 to 25 per cent of an 18-hole championship course of 100 to 150 acres.

“Land cost in India is sky high and this makes developing a golf course a very expensive proposition. The shorter the course, the lesser would be the land requirement. Less land cost, lower construction cost and less water consumption for greenery works like magic. It also makes it easier for beginners, women and children to enjoy the game. As it is, in today’s fast-paced world, people don’t have time for a sport which would take them half-a-day to complete,” Vaishnava says. He is, however, quick to clarify that he doesn’t want to challenge the traditional 18-hole course but wants to promote the shorter version through his design ideas. A nine-hole golf course costs around Rs 5 crore while an 18-hole one is no less than Rs 50 crore and more.

At 27, with a 14-year-long golfing experience, Vaishnava developed his first golf course when he was just 16. Today, his projects includes golf course designing, construction management, driving range development, operations and maintenance.

“My father was a BSF official posted in J&K’s Baramulla district when I was in Class X. He wanted to develop a golf course there. That’s how I started off. I was fond of playing golf and decided to help him out in designing the golf course. Still a student and with no formal training in designing, it was a challenge. The Internet was yet to become accessible at that time so I read all about golf in the encyclopaedia. Golf course designing comes naturally to me and that’s why I never needed any formal training,” Vaishnava tells you.

India, he says, lacks institutes providing courses in golf development and pursuing such a course from an international institute is a costly affair. A graduate in Economics from Delhi University, Vaishnava has done his schooling across India — Jammu, Tekanpur (Gwalior, the place where he picked up golf at the age of 12), Agartala, Sri Ganganagar and many other cities and towns by virtue of his father’s postings. When exactly golf turned into a passion, he doesn’t know. But he insists that his very own concepts turned his passion into profession.

Till now, Vaishnava has developed three nine-hole courses — the Cambay Golf Course and the Cambay Golf Academy in Gandhinagar; the golf course for Emaar-MGF in Mohali and the Cambay Golf Resort in Jaipur.

“The one in Jaipur is special because it’s an environmentally sound and revolutionary concept which is quite popular in the deserts of Arizona and California in which water utilisation is 15 per cent of a traditional course on similar space. It’s a desert golf course which has selective green areas only. Target greens and fairways provide a fair playing surface while poorly-placed shots have to be recovered from the drier rough areas,” he explains.

Vaishnava tells you how affordable golf sets for as less as Rs 10,000 are available on the shelf but not many know about them. The young professional insists that all these measures of making golf more accessible are crucial especially with the game being included in the 2016 Olympics list.