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The residential development at Zion Hills Golf County – formerly known as Champion Reef Golf County – lies to the east of Bangaluru, where respected architect Ron Fream has designed the golf course that forms the sporting centrepiece of this ambitious project.
The back nine is still under construction so the existing nine holes have been configured to play as eighteen holes, with each hole on the outward half and inward half tackled from a different set of variable length tees.
The layout features large greens which allow two distinct pin positions to be cut on every putting surface for the front and back nine holes, allowing the same hole to play differently on either nine, giving golfers a sense of playing a full 18-hole course.
Architect Ron Fream was kind enough to supply the following information about Zion Hills:
Like many early golf projects in India, getting land was a big challenge. Poverty-struck farmers still seek the highest price for land, there were too many small parcels to assemble, and land owners return to claim land if they feel someone else got a higher per square metre price.
Zion Hills lies on a dramatic, difficult site with a lot of above and below ground granite stone and these outcrops added to the construction costs. A lot of local hand labour was used which was inexpensive, but socially essential to create work for locals.
I first visited in 1993 when the population was around 3 million (it’s now treble that number) with not many new roads, new water supplies or sewerage treatment stations. The climate was mild, with low humidity and adequate rain.
I always found Bangalore to be a nice respite from other major Indian metro areas because of the 3,000 foot elevation as the altitude gives ease to the humid and hot conditions found in lower metro cities. The site had good views, some adjacent housing, and it wasn’t impacted by traffic or a high population density nearby.
Earlier courses in Bangalore area were all grassed with cooch, a local bermuda, or more recently, tifdwarf and tifway hybrid Bermuda. My agronomist knowledge led me to believe bent grass could be grown here on the greens – other architects had not understood that fact.
Consequently, Zion Hills was the first course in Bangalore to have bent grass putting surfaces using A-4 creeping bent. This type of grass had been tried earlier at a course in Hyderabad, at lower altitude, but heat and poor quality irrigation using sewerage effluent damaged the grass severely.
Zion Hills has exceptional greens as the design put individual slope, shape and contour definition into each putting surface, with bunkering that is "old, visual, vertical and contoured". The greens were also designed to hold two pin options, offering two flag locations when the course was only nine holes but could easily play as eighteen with the double flags.
The fairways and maintained roughs are tifway hybrid bermuda grass, a variety that does well in the climate and gains a vibrant rich green colour from the high iron content of the native soils.
There have been some weak monsoon seasons, but large pond water storage helps augment bore well supplies in the dry season. Extensive ornamental tree plantings have been made to supplement the original eucalyptus tree forest.
The mild climate of Bangalore is a gift to provide very comfortable golfing in a memorable setting. The clubhouse in use is open air, extremely comfortable and well suited to the humidity-free, pollution-free air and grand blue sky.