We arrived in a cloudy Colombo and were quickly transported to the Kingsbury Hotel for the start of our golf tour. Until a short time ago this throw back to colonial days would have been beach front, however, as we were to discover, a huge land reclamation project to form a new waterfront area will soon place it a good distance from the front. The Hotel, very much of the original colonial era and similar to much of the city, is a rather confusing mix of old and new with regard architecture. We were greeted with lots of smiles and a friendly service both inside and outside the hotel which we were to experience throughout our stay in this lovely, friendly country.
Following a couple of days of rest that included a brief city tour, on Monday we embarked on our journey to the southern tip of Sri Lanka and The Shangi La Hotel, Habantota, for 3 days golf at this brand new resort. So new in fact, that when we first put the tour together, neither the resort or golf course were open! Whilst it needs a couple of years to mature, the course is an excellent resort layout winding between coconut trees, along the lagoons edge and finally to beach side. The area was devastated by the tsunami in 2004 and a large government project is underway to make it the second city and tourist centre. If a couple more golf courses are developed I can see it becoming a popular golfing destination.
The first days team event was a close run affair 78, 79 and a winning 80pts. by Julia, Pam and Ian. A second day Mixed 4bbb again saw some fine scoring, two 40pts and a 42 were not good enough to beat Judith and Gurdip’s 44! The final day individual stableford of this first stage of the tour saw Maggie a clear winner on 35 and John the leading man on 32. While Julian, Ian and John pipped Pat, Pam and Judith on the back nine of the team event.
It has to be said the hotel is in its settling down stage and like the golf needs a little time for new staff etc to mature. A slight hiccup with our first nights dinner service was dealt with admirably by the management and I can safely say that everybody left with high praise for the resort, surrounded on three sides by the golf course and fronting the Indian Ocean. From this southern tip we left somewhat reluctantly for the island’s tea plantation area in the central region, Nuwara Eliya known as “Little England”.
A coach journey, not always for the faint hearted, as we climbed some 7000ft. on mountain roads to the cooler climates of the tea plantations, delivered us to The Grand Hotel, the former Governor’s residence and what a grand residence it would have made!
Next door is the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club designed by a Scot and opened in 1889 this proved to be an unexpected surprise. Undulating fairways are lined by huge trees and a surreal environment, in that the grasses are the coarse broad bladed types of the older South African courses, the flora and fauna indigenous to the region, but looking up at the tall tree tops and mountain peaks, the feel of Canadian golf!
Our one round due here was so much enjoyed that the following tour day was shortened for an extra game to be played. The “official” days golf resulted in a resounding victory by the team of Pam, Ivan and Julian with 79 points. I must mention the caddies who were out of the top draw and enhanced our enjoyment of the whole experience.
A magnificent scenic drive down through the tea plantations delivered us to yet another lovely hotel, The Earls Regency, on the outskirts of Kandy. Even finer, the following day we discovered another gem of a course at the Donald Steele designed Victoria GC. A truly breath taking setting in the lush and undulating terrain only matched by this splendid course. At first view it looked hilly, very tight and we wondered what might be in store for us. However, while helped I must say, by some rather liberal interpretations of the rules by caddies and ball spotters, it proved to be an exceptional experience as was the all round scoring.
The first days team event was won by Roger, Gurdip and Ian on 87 points. A 4bbb the following day resulted in Pat & Geoff tied with Pam & Gurdip on 44 points, the latter winning on the back 9. This golf tour concluded with an Individual stableford and scoring of the highest order, not a score under 30, while John 37 points, Gurdip 38, Geoff 39, all fell short of Rogers 41! Not wishing to detract from the very good scoring, but I do wonder how much these scores were down to the excellent caddies and the ball spotters “Sri Lankan rules”!!
Following the golf and lunch we presented a few prizes and embarked on our Sri Lankan 41/2 hour journey (real time 6 hours) back to the Regency Hotel, Colombo, where we enjoyed our “last supper.” One has to say the selection and quality of food throughout the tour was very good indeed.
Whilst travelling in this country requires some patience and at times steely nerves if you have not experienced the Asian way of driving, Sri Lanka is a wonderfully diverse and scenic country. Magnificent tropical coast line in the south, lush, green vegetation throughout, with truly breathtaking vistas in the higher, cooler regions of the Tea Plantations for which of course, the former Ceylon is best known.
Add to that 3 very different and very good courses it is a destination I hope we will repeat in the future.
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