Nuwara Eliya Golf Club

The second hole is one of the lowest points on the course, and there is a pontoon bridge to help golfers negotiate wet ground during the monsoon season. Most of the year it is in excellent condition.e

In 1889 British tea planters created this most charming 18 hole golf course in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, making it one of the oldest golf clubs in Asia – and perhaps the world. It was built primarily for the tea planters’ rest and recreation whilst they cultivated the land for tea in the area. Sri Lanka was at this time part of the British Empire and known as Ceylon; as their coffee plantations failed, the introduction of tea by the British was timely – indeed Nuwara Eliya is now known the world over for the tea produced there. 

Today, this members’ owned golf facility is a delight to visit and has over 1000 members scattered across Sri Lanka, with several hundred overseas members to boot. The course is right in the middle of the town next to the Grand Hotel and the throwbacks to the colonial era are marked and yet offer a fascinating glimpse of those very different times.

The course itself is a gently undulating, parkland layout, kept in immaculate order by the greenkeeping team. This team includes traditionally dressed ladies, who tend to all of the bunkers and greens surrounds with great care and diligence. The greens are superb and run at a fast pace, and whilst it is not particularly long, precision from the tee is vital to give the golfer the best chance with their approach shots. At 6399 yards long, with a par of 71, it provides testing golf with its long narrow, fairways that are lined with eucalyptus and cypress trees and a number of attractive water hazards. The grass on the greens is native, mixed with bluegrass. 

The ambiance of the colonial clubhouse is wonderful, with many old photos of times gone by and aged competition boards. The terrace spills out onto the lawn overlooking the first tee and is a perfect place to conclude your round with a well-deserved cold drink. The club has a reputation for being very friendly, making all levels of golfers, whether members or visitors, extremely welcome. 

There is a covered golf range that allows people to practise in all weathers, but shares some of the course fairways so cannot be used all of the time.  Nevertheless, it is an ideal place to encourage junior talent and for lessons to be given.  There are also a number of putting greens and a short game area.  

The town of Nuwara Eliya was made into a health resort and sanitorium for British officials in 1828 by Sir Edward Barnes, the Governor of the island at the time. He built a mansion for himself called Barnes Hall, which has subsequently been substantially extended and become the Grand Hotel, a gorgeous example of colonial design, with beautiful gardens featuring many familiar British flowers and shrubs – hydrangeas, roses, marigolds and more. It is a magnificent hotel - high tea on the lawn is not to be missed, along with sitting quietly at one of the garden tables soaking up the atmosphere. Inside the hotel there is a profusion of chandeliers and beautiful antique furniture, along with photos of famous visitors including dignitaries and prime minsters from years gone by. The hotel is old fashioned with the female staff dressed in dated black dresses and frilly white aprons, however it is the most charming place to stay and the rooms are all of good size with high ceilings and the elegant trimmings from a past era.

Since independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has continued to develop into the most gorgeous destination for those wishing to escape the European winter. Sri Lankan wildlife is delightful: there are plenty of opportunities to see wild elephants on safari in several national parks, as well as in a remarkable elephant sanctuary where orphaned elephants are cared for and carefully nurtured before being introduced to the wild. There are also plenty of monkeys, monitor lizards, mongoose, turtles and more, along with outstanding birdlife with hornbills, egrets, eagles, peacocks and a host of other exotic birds, all of which can be seen easily across the country.

A trip to Sri Lanka would have to encompass some of their wonderful culture too, which is rich in history dating back to 2500 BC. The Cultural Triangle is situated in the centre of the island and features a number of World Heritage cultural sites including ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya, with well preserved ruins, Buddhist statues, places and mysterious rock formations. There is also the opportunity for a magnificent ride on a train, twisting and winding through the more mountainous parts of Sri Lanka, through tea plantations and breath-taking scenery. The coastline also boasts stunning sandy beaches with the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean as a backdrop, offering some much-needed R&R before heading home.

Sri Lanka enjoys a rich religious diversity, with Buddhists,  Christians, Hindus and Muslims, all coexisting, peacefully, and respectfully. There are magnificent temples with huge images of Buddha.

Sri Lanka used to be a very cheap destination, but following on from Covid and various political problems over the last few years, inflation has been strong. Nevertheless, it still represents very good value for money with prices well below what one would expect to pay in Europe. Until recently, it had been very difficult to import specialist greenkeeping equipment, and all of the courses had to make do, repairing and mending the critical machinery for preparing the course. Even today, there is still a ban on importing cars as the government seeks to preserve its precious foreign exchange. It is likely that these restrictions will be lifted in the near future.

The country lies just north of the equator and has seasons typical of its latitude. The country has two monsoon seasons covering the north and south, so to get the most from a trip it is probably advisable to check where the rains are for any given month. Typically, the central and southern areas are free from rain in our winter and the days are hot and sunny – a perfect combination for the sun deprived Brits! 


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