Jammu Tawi Golf Course Unexplored Tourism Potential

Rajan Gandhi
Jammu,bigger part of newest UT of Jammu and Kashmir,gets its fame by being place of shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi which attracts pilgrimage of around one and half crores to the region but the most disturbing fact is not even 5%of these 1.5 crore get diverted to other tourists’ places of the Jammu Division and main reason is lack of infrastructure development despite in the 75th year of independence.
Jammu is essentially a good break from the monotony, one can holiday here for not only seeking spirituality in its many sacred places likeShri MataVaishno Devi, Raghunath Temple, Peer Kho Cave,but with nature lovers can fall in love with Jammu’s beautiful lakes of Suriansar and Mansar, the ethereal beauty of Patnitopand wildlife enthusiasts can get their share of thrill as well. Of late GoI is trying to develop tourist places with projects like artificial lake, Tawi river front, musical fountain, Zoo, Mubarak Mandi and many other places to facelift the Jammu Tourism potential but somehow failed miserably as none of the project stands completed, some abandoned some relocated or some moving at snail’s pace. Of all these efforts one project which got completed and stands tall among all failures is Jammu Tawi Golf Course at Sidhra, just 7 kms from Jammu. One can say passion of Dr Farooq Abdullah for Golf resulted in this gift to Jammu as time and again region of Jammu has been overshadowed by funding and development of only Kashmir tourist places, despite Jammu having tremendous tourism potential with numerous religious places to seek the blessings of the almighty; offbeat mountainous places that are ideal for trekking and biking adventure with rich culture to understand about the region better.Jammu isn’t only about family holiday and spiritual tour; it is also about indulging in spine-chilling adventures on lesser-known trails in Kishtwar. The historic towns of Poonch and Rajouri also have a memorable experience to impart and so does the region’s largest city, Jammu that is home to several heritage sites and temples.
Jammu Tawi Golf Course got conceived by internationally renowned designer Col. K.D Bagga and the course got commissioned on 24th April 2011. Golf Course is toopicturesque to be ignored, an ideal location along the National Highway on way to Katra along the river Tawibed surrounded by Trikuta Hills, overseeing the magnanimous view of Maha Maya Temple and Bahu Fort on one side, historical Mubarak Mandi Complex and Amar Mahal on other side. The main purpose of project was to give boost to Golf Tourism industry and groom young boys/girls to become Golf professionals. The course is spread over an area of 70 hectares of land and with 18 holes Jammu Tawi Golf Course is the best among other golf courses of Jammu Division be it Army or BSF Golf Course. GTGC has fairways of approximate 6600 meters’ length, official claim of two big and three small water bodies and about 3200 meters long water channel. The course is laid with underground sprinkle irrigation system and has comfort stations/rain shelters. Officials also claim a full-fledged maintenance complex, a club house and about 6500 meters long pathway. JTGC has a Fat Shot Health Club well equipped with world class machinery, top of the line fitness equipment, cardio and resistance machines, complimented by classic Sauna, Steam Bath and Panchkarma Centre.JTGC has a beautiful Albatross Restaurant having a seating capacity of 75 persons at a time where members can enjoy quality time and delightful delicacies available in the menu run by JKTDC right now and members can enjoy fine dining with scenic views, greenery and food outdoors at the Open Terrace ‘Green One’ restaurant with the fabulous view of nature especiallyin the evening with sunset or at night with mesmerizing view of city lights. JTGC also has a ‘Eagle Bar’ where only members can enjoy refreshing cocktails enjoying view of golf course with sunset, rainfall or night life view depending upon the mood of the member at a particular day.JTGC has a 24players Driving Range which can help them improve their golf game without the expense of playing a full round of golf with practice facility even during the night hours under the high mast lights.JTGC claims players can avail facilities of awell-equipped Pro Shop with golf related equipment with best brands and wide range.
But as with every place of Jammu with the passage of time JTGC has not been able to generate the tourism traction as was conceived. A visit to JTGC leaves an impression with so many things handled by as usual IndianJuggaad system, too obvious to be ignored. No artificial drainage in place leaving one part of 9 holes practically unplayable during rainy season. Only two water bodies, one dried up and one barely having water, in whole 70 acres are nothing one can say. Despite sand bed type layout and adjacent to river Tawi yet leave alone water bodies of GTGC, despite having four bores, is not able to fulfil approximately 26 lakh gallons of daily requirement of watering the course and it is a very serious issue as far as any golf course is concerned. Grass cutting is another matter of concern as 22 diesel/petrol cutters and 6 hand cutters are not enough to maintain whole area especially in rainy season. Shortage of employees magnifies this problem manifolds. Only seven permanent employees, a part time Secretary with additional charge to manage and approximately hundred odd need based workers with minimum wages and no future. Thirty-two working Caddies are also not categorized with the result senior and junior all getting same remuneration. With a membership fee structure of two lakhs for government employee and seven lakhs for private public GTGC is least attractive for general public which is substantiated by the fact that out of present approximate 800 members 600 are government employees at present or retired. Monthly fee of Rs600/= for government and Rs1200/= for private again makes no balance at all. Even reciprocator membership is unjustified with fifty thousand for government employee and one lakh for private citizen.State administration has already waived the hefty membership fee of the Kashmir Golf Club for the local youth and students but nothing of this sort for GTGC in Jammu as such club remains out of bounds for the common people especially young budding players and the very purpose of establishing this golf course as such stands defeated. Both restaurants and bar facilities are also for members only with the result limited revenue generation to the extent that its only loss making avenues especially during COVID times. Though health club is open for general public with monthly fee of Rs500/= per monthyet it is very difficult to maintain the existing infra leave alone value addition. Earlier restaurant as well as Pro Shop were outsourced at a monthly rent of fifty thousand plus and fifteen thousand plus respectively but right now restaurants are with JKTDC and pro shop closed. From where JTGC will generate revenue is a matter of serious concern as even monthly fees of majority members remained uncollected with backlogs running into lakhs per member in the past. Four residential huts with all modern facilities are available within golf course along with one cafeteria hut but all this remains white elephant as Jammu Tourism never advertises for them nor any information available on their website. Though now under direct administrative control of Jammu Tourism yet JTGC is nowhere in plans of Jammu Tourism.
There is no disciplinary committee with golfers as members and its side effects can be seen as senior government officers can be seen roaming around with their PSOs in uniform and non-golfing shoes causing extensive damage to the course and many more such issues get sidelined. No check on higher Government officials from Kashmir division with no membership at all availing the facilities. Despite a barbed fencing all around public from illegal colonies are regular trespassers especially for morning walks and though JDA has acted sometimes but these colonies have not only encroached nullah and adjoining land causing extensive damage to Golf Course every monsoon as no check dam can be built but with VVVIP visitors including LG,ExCM, High Court Judges,DGP, IGPs, IAS officers and Army officers this side of Golf Course is completely vulnerable and matter of serious security lapse. What makes matter worse is there is no CCTV surveillance right now.
Over all very less plantation of trees resulting very tough to golf during summers, over vegetation around rest sheds making it practically impossible to use, a full-fledgednullah running across golf course, only one small artificial water channel made by efforts of few available employees are few matters which require immediate attention of authorities. During Mehbooba Mufti Government a plan was proposed to develop a water park in the spare adjacent land but then Forest Minister got it shelved on flimsy grounds. With Delhi Katra Express highway now reality and trains already going directly to Katra, Jammu have to develop new infra and tourists’ destinations in minimum time frame to make Jammu visit a must for pilgrims and this is the ideal location to get immediate attention of City Planners and Jammu Tourism department. Cable car can be extended to Golf course from Maha Maya station with connectivity to proposed UNESCO listed Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex on other side. Make restaurants and bar open for general public, make membership fee reasonable for private members which will eventually generate revenues for JTGC, further do value additions like swimming pool, billiards, snooker facilities to name a few. Remove illegal colonies around JTGC, develop water park as proposed earlier, auditoriums, 7 star hotels, resorts, even hospitals,make it not only a Golf Tourism Destination but an ever happening event place of international standards easily approachable by road, by train or by air. This kind of infra development makes full-fledged tourist circuit of Katra – Jammu – Suriansar – Mansar complete. Vision to conceive with will to deliver is the key as sky is the potential of this place for Tourism.