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The town of Udhagamandalam – or Ooty for short – was established by the British in the early 19th century as a hill station, allowing government officials to retreat there during the summer when the temperatures are a little cooler at 7,000 feet above sea level.
It serves as an Indian Army officer training centre and, as many of the country’s golfers are military or former servicemen, the course at Ooty is one that a large number of folk have fond memories of. It’s reached by a switchback road or via the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, the only rack railway operating in India.
“The course is every bit as hilly as one might expect from the drive up,” wrote Tom Doak in Volume V of his Confidential Guide to Golf Courses book. “From the very first tee, you know you’re in for a roller-coaster ride: the tee shot on the long par-5 opener skirts past the clubhouse just across the road, before the fairway plunges downhill so steeply as to remind me of the 10th at Augusta.”
The author continues: “Conditions are rough and ready: cows and buffalo are the sole keepers of the fairways, which are marked out by blues stones for definition…any Scotsman would vouch for Ooty as a true outpost for the royal and ancient game. It is perhaps a better model for golf in India than everything that has come since.”
In the book Golf in India: The Ultimate Golfing Guide by Phil Ryan and Paul Reeves (2nd edition published 2011) the authors have this to say about Ooty Golf Course:
“At an altitude of 2,286m golfers get extra distance on a well hit ball but the downside is that walking the sometimes steep layout you can get tired quickly. Designed in 1896 by Col. Ross Thompson the 18-hole golf course is a par 72 of 6235 yards and is set in the hills just outside of Ootacamund, one of the original British Raj hill stations.
The golf course is surrounded by forest and at dawn or dusk you may glimpse the forest inhabitants enjoying the ambience of the course. The golf course is… well quirky to say the least with many of the holes having blind shots into the green, a good caddy is a must and you must place you faith in him completely.”