Hyderabad, India: Following an extensive planning and review process, Hyderabad Golf Club is moving forward with an extensive re-routing and renovation of its 18-hole championship course, plus a new, state-of-the-art teaching academy and practice centre.
The project is being led by Jeff Danner, EIGCA, ASGCA, of Richardson | Danner Golf Course Architects, an Associate Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
The unique Hyderabad club sits within the 600-year-old Golconda Fort, one of India’s treasured historical sites and on the United Nations’ nomination list to become a recognised World Heritage Site.
“A lot of work gets described as ‘monumental’ in golf design,” said Danner. “Here we can’t be accused of anything less – Hyderabad is literally laid out within Golconda Fort with its monumental stone walls, towers and structures.”
Danner, with Forrest Richardson, ASGCA, took a deep dive into the original routing, which had evolved over the years since the club was established in 1992.
The course has grown from just a few holes to nine in its early days, and finally to a respected 18-hole layout. That evolution was not ideal, however, leading to holes that cross each other and a series of parallel holes, many that play similar in strategy.
The club has recently acquired the rights to expand the course into a 10-acre (four hectare) area, a move that was studied and approved as part of the new design work. Richardson | Danner was selected in early 2022 to handle the work, a decision reached after multiple interviews and site visits by golf course architects from around the world.
“Richardson | Danner rose to the top,” according to current club President Jayant Tagore Madireddy. “Their experience and attention to detail was ideal for Hyderabad, and their approach to re-routing holes within the historic fort was not only creative, but has brought a fresh new design to the club that we are enthused to see come to reality.”
Richardson said: “Our mission was to preserve, yet improve. We worked very diligently to create a stronger experience – one that honours and embraces the grandeur of the fort, to unfold as a better journey for players as they make their way through the fort’s walls, up onto the parapets and landings we have been allowed to use as tees.”
Danner describes the routing changes as ‘delicate’, yet ‘bold’ where necessary. One of the most dramatic changes come directly below the club’s new clubhouse where four holes had been tightly configured along with a practice area and two lakes.
That area is now reserved for just two holes – numbers one and 18, and a newly sited practice facility, short game venue and indoor training bays. “Visually, we opened the clubhouse views and better positioned the range,” added Danner. “The result will be a strong opening hole and a breathtaking finishing hole, now without the direct visual interruption of tall nets surrounding the range.”
The new routing now transports the golfer through the fort’s narrow passageway after the first hole, to one of the main grounds of the well-preserved 13th century landmark.
In the new routing, golfers will be able to ascend the fort’s ancient steps to access tees at six holes – two, three, 11, 13, 15 and 17. Other changes will allow players to return to the club’s famous ‘half-way house’ after nine holes, where traditional Indian tea and food fare is served above lush water gardens.
The link back to the clubhouse from the new, 600-yard (550-metre) 17th hole, will take players through the fort’s 30-foot thick wall to the finishing hole – strong par-four requiring a water carry to an uphill green complex.
Richardson said: “That walk from 17 to 18 is truly a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. It will become iconic in international golf, much like the famous walks we have come to know as we watch players emerge through forests, or even through the famous grandstands at the 16th hole of the TPC’s Phoenix Open.”
Par has been increased to 72, with yardage to exceed 7,000 yards (6,400 metres) from a special set of tournament tees.
Danner said: “Hyderabad is committed to attracting international events. Accordingly, we went to work finding ways to lengthen the course for these special events, yet not to diminish the experience for members.”
The course will have multiple tees allowing the full ‘tournament course’ set-up, along with tees that can be played from 6,400 yards (5,900 metres) to a forward yardage of 4,200 yards (3,800 metres).
Work on the practice facility has been underway since mid-2022 to make room for the course-wide improvements to begin in early 2023. The anticipated schedule for full completion has been set for 2024.
The current work endeavours to uphold the club’s sustainability mission – both culturally and environmentally. Since 2017 Hyderabad Golf Club has been honoured as the Best Golf Course in India by the Indian National Tourism Board.
The course is a protype in India for its sustainable management, including chemical-free maintenance, use of solar power and innovative water gardens that naturally purify wastewater for use to irrigate turfgrass.