By Sam Sakocius.
The Land of wonder may be the next great golf destination. Or more aptly put the next great destination that has terrific golf.
Since the end of the civil war in 2009 Sri Lanka has been on a mission to rebuild its tourism industry. And why not? Formerly known as Ceylon the country has now been stable and safe for almost a decade, roads are smooth, even if a bit winding through the spectacularly gorgeous mountains, much of the country is relatively untouched with an amazing assortment of wild creatures including the world's largest concentration per square kilometer of leopards and Asian elephants roaming through tangled jungle and savannah like plains.
There is world class surfing, the largest assembly of sperm whales anywhere as well as plenty of blues just off the coast, and very good snorkeling. New additions to the activities offered by resorts include extreme water sports and land based forest zip lines, rock climbing and trekking. Tour operators abound and trips to some of the natural wonders like Sigiriya Rock, historical cultural sites, or tea and coffee plantations are of bucket list caliber.
The approximately 80% Buddhist population is friendly and helpful. The late 19th century British architecture and infrastructure is an ever present bit of charm and convenience.
Sri Lanka tourism officially has eight tenets that serve well to describe the dizzying array of potential adventures the country offers. Pristine, Heritage, Thrills, Wild, Bliss, Scenic, Essence, and Festive.
So where does golf fit in? Well it does and it doesn't as of yet. There are a few very interesting tracks scattered around the country that are quite worth the effort to get to. Victoria Golf and Country Resort for instance, is an ingeniously routed test through some of the most beautiful tropical scenery imaginable, no, correction, I could not have conjured prettier views from many areas of the golf course and all of it is exceptional.
Eagles Golf Links in the Northeastern scenic China Bay is a pretty, regulation length, tree lined course in decent condition that is contemplating some major upgrades although it is certainly quite playable now. Colombo Country Club in the heart of the capital is tournament ready and a unique urban golf experience. However if you are expecting perfect fairways and fast greens, you won't find those conditions in the more remote places, but fear not, things are about to change.
The government in conjunction with the Sri Lanka Golf Union is actively in pursuit of supporting and promoting new and improved golf venues. While it has been a slow process, Sri Lanka stands to add what may be the Ninth tenet to tourism. Priath Fernando, President of the Golf Union points to the impressive diversity of golf locations here. From the sea level Colombo CC, in four hours, you can be 1800 meters higher a lot cooler at Nuwara Eliya Golf Club then on to the completely different lovely beaches near Eagles China Bay. Mr Fernando has convinced Ana Punchihewa, of 1996 cricket World Cup fame, to throw his energies into Sri Lanka golf.
One of Sri Lanka's largest tour operators Aitken/ Spence Travel, Mr Anil Hapugoda is a whirlwind of energy working to further improve accessibility and enhance travelers experiences. His firm and others offer excellent experiential trips that include a nice dose of interesting golf along the way. Working in concert with the government these key people are building a vision for the future of Sri Lanka golf tourism with a wealth of potential projects soon to begin rolling out publicly. It will be exciting times ahead with new venues in this amazing land opening yearly.
I have fallen in love with Sri Lanka not only for its incredible beauty but for the people's love of country and desire to share this magical place with the world. Big things in golf are on the horizon but for the golfer who likes a bit of adventure mixed in between a round and wants to see some amazing and a bit rugged places before the improvements of convenient access and manicured everything, Sri Lanka is the place, at least for a little while longer.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Board
Sri Lanka Golf Union
Aitken Spence Travels
Images: C/O Aitken Spence Travels