Construction work has started on a second nine at Zion Hills Golf County near Bangalore, India.
The golf course is part of a golf and residential community established jointly by real estate developer Confident Group and Zion Hills Homes, a boutique development firm focused on this development. It is located 45 miles east of Bangalore, just south of the city of Kolar and sits approximately 3,000 feet above sea level, offering a milder and cooler climate than the lower lying areas in the region.
The project began in 2008 when Confident Group contacted Golfplan to build an 18-hole golf course that would be complemented by a villa community. Initially, the design was a collaboration between Ron Fream, Kevin Ramsey and George Philpott. “We worked together to create a visually appealing and fun, yet very challenging golf course,” said Philpott. “The design utilised large sprawling bunkering, rolling greens with multiple pinnable locations, strategically placed lakes and undulating fairways narrowing at long landing areas.”
Construction of the first nine began in 2009 and it opened for play in early 2012. Bill Kessener served as construction supervisor and lead shaper throughout the project, also recruiting a large local labour force. Kessener will again be involved in the project to add a second nine.
“The original aim was to open the second nine within a couple of years of completing the front nine,” said George Menomparampil, managing director of Zion Hills. “However, issues relating to acquiring additional land and the real estate market delayed its start.”
The land acquisition issues delayed the project again in 2015, by which time Fream and Philpott had designed a reworked back nine routing.
But the project got under way in 2020, following adjustments to the boundary that led to a redesign of the villas and holes ten to fourteen. “In semi-retirement, Ron has opted to let me take the reins of the project, though he still intends to visit the project once international travel restrictions are loosened,” said Philpott.
Philpott, owner of California-based Legacy Golf Course Architecture, has almost completed master planning of the back nine and intends to fine tune it to preserve some of the elements of the site such as large rock shelves and mango trees. Construction is expected to begin this spring.
“The second nine is adjacent to the front nine,” said Menomparampil. “We have a butterfly design layout with the two nines hinged around a centrally-located clubhouse and practice facilities.”
The back nine features rocky outcroppings, existing lakes and a mango plantation. Fream and Philpott have integrated these natural features into their design as much as possible.
“It's tough to pick a favourite hole from the design so far,” said Philpott. “But one standout for me is the par-four thirteenth. From an elevated teeing ground amongst some existing rocks, golfers will take in the challenge ahead. A series of three bunkers along the inside of the dogleg will test players taking an aggressive line from the tee. Also, beyond the landing area lies two ponds interconnected by a waterfall, adding both beauty and difficulty to the hole. The approach shot must then be played to a lovely little island green, surrounded by a rock wall, using material sourced from within the property. It’ll be one of those holes you won’t soon forget!”
Greens on all 18 holes will feature A4 bentgrass, the only course in India to use this variety.
“Golfers will encounter a wide variety of bunkering, strategy, pin positions, hole lengths, and angles – each adding to the overall experience and memories created,” said Philpott. “We want the golf course to present a challenge to the better golfers who come play it and to engage and inspire those still learning the game.”
Many holes are lined with villas, which offer views of the golf course while also framing the holes. The homes have been specifically designed to blend into the surrounding treescape.
Zion Hills is also home to the Tarun Sardesai Golf Academy, a residential academy that, according to Menomparampil, aims to “nurture children and youth who want to pursue golf professionally”, while also developing large numbers of recreational golfers.
The academy includes sports science and fitness training, golf training, mental strengthening, nutrition and academics. “It is the first, and the only, one of its kind in India,” he said. “We have had some early successes; one of our students became the youngest Indian to win an Asian Tour event and another is today the top ranked amateur.
“When we conceived the entire Zion Hills project, we aimed to create a world class golf course that would rank amongst the top golf destinations in the country. The completion of the second nine will help to make us a serious golf destination and make the course sustainable financially.”
Menomparampil expects the full 18 to be open for play in 2022.