One of the most remote golf courses in the world, Royal Thimphu Golf Club lies in a gentle fold of the Himalayas, just outside the nation’s capital city and it’s a 9-hole layout that sits beside the spectacular 17th century Tashicho Dzong (the Palace and offices of the King and the recognized seat of government).
Ron Fream, American architect, writes:
A wondrous semi-remote, semi-hidden, surely protected middle kingdom well up in the Himalayas, lodged between China’s Tibet and India’s far east states. Thimphu, the capital, has had television for a decade or so and in 2008 a proper, fully paved, road was completed from Paro (where the airport is) to Thimphu. Now the drive (or race) is less than one hour. A population boom has increased inhabitants to around 100,000 from 60,000 a few years ago. Prosperity attracts.
Royal Thimphu Golf Club is Bhutan’s only proper golf course and 9 holes at that. The altitude of 2500m makes the ball fly nicely. The dense grassy rough still eat balls. Views are spectacular to rising mountains. The 3,500 meter ones block out the 5000 and 6500 meter peaks at Tibet’s edge beyond. The King’s Royal Palace – the Dzong – also houses the supreme Buddhist monk and this striking building dominates the view from the course.
Rough edges, semi-well cared for fairways and greens, some too small tees and a few misplaced bunkers add interest and challenge. Golf play is delightful so long as you realize there are options to Augusta National’s immaculate perfection. Playing golf at Royal Thimphu offers cultural exposure and architecture unlike elsewhere. Watch the Bhutan Youth Golf students perfect their play when few knew golf from kite flying five years ago. A one of a kind place due the respect of invigorated traveling golfers.
Established in the early 1970s by an Indian Army officer, the membership of approximately 100 golfers is made up of mainly government officials and diplomats, though visitors are more than welcome to play the course with a day ticket costing the equivalent of around 50 US dollars, including club rental.
Two sets of tees are assigned to every hole to allow for a full 18-hole round and manmade water hazards in the shape of greenside ponds come into play at four of the holes. Ron Fream, the respected American course architect, has advised on improvements to the layout and the R&A have provided financial support in recent times to upgrade the course.
Conditioning at Royal Thimphu has been described as “similar to an upscale public course in the US” but the views of the surrounding landscape are beyond compare – and where in the world could you find a handicap list fixed to the clubhouse window with “His Majesty, 13.2” at the top of it?
The club hosts several events throughout the year including the Bhutan Open and the Indian Embassy-sponsored Maruti Open.