- Rajnikunj, Thali – 7, Kageswari, Manahara, Kathmandu, Nepal
- 977 1 445 1212
Gokarna Forest Resort is tucked away in the Gokarna Protected Forest, a preserve that was once a private royal hunting ground for the kings of Nepal. They didn’t have to venture too far from the palace for some sport. Gokarna is a beautiful spot considering it is just over 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the city of Kathmandu and an even shorter distance to the Tribhuvan International Airport.
Nepal is a country that surprises because of the warmth of its people as much as the striking beauty of its Himalayan mountain range, which draws so many visitors each year. But golf is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Nepal, although I have had a memorable round at altitude there. Gokarna Forest Resort’s championship 18-hole course shows that could soon be changing. This 6750-yard (6172-meter) layout was designed by David McLay Kidd, a Scottish architect who grew up playing some of the oldest courses in the game and who got his break designing Oregon’s brilliant Bandon Dunes links. As well as being the top ranked course in Nepal by Top100GolfCourses.com in 2017, Gokarna is now considered one of South Asia’s finest courses.
The undulating fairways have been carved inside a forest that stretches for some 470 acres (190 hectares), and they pass streams and between hills as they progress through what once was a forbidden valley. The view from the first tee has the 6696-meter (21,969-foot) Mount Dorjee Lakpa standing majestically in front of you. In classic Himalayan fashion, tees are often elevated and as high up as 60 meters (197-feet) up on hillsides, according to Deepak Acharya, Senior Golf Director of Gokarna Forest Resort. Acharya considers the fairways to be narrow in comparison to the “huge” greens.
“Designer David McLay Kidd has marvelously crafted variations with the outlook of each hole,” he said. “The majority of visitors want to play the course a number of times. Long and straight hitters have the advantage on the golf course.”
Watch out for the cheeky monkeys, flying foxes, spotted deer as you progress through the forest. I can’t wait to play here.
It is not the longest course, but narrow fairways put a premium on accuracy. The pro’s tips: “Try to avoid the jungle. On most parts of the front nine, keep to the left side of the fairway, and on the back nine avoid the stream that runs all along the back nine. Since the greens are really big in size, practice putting before starting to understand the pace of the green.”
When to play: The golf course is open 365 days a year.
Yardage: 6755 yards, 6140 meters
The par-3 hole 8 is the signature hole and a daunting challenge. It plays 225 yards (206 meters) from the back tees and some 20-25 yards longer when the pin is at the back. There is trouble on the left side, and a deep pot-hole bunker guards the crest-shaped green on the right. The average score during professional tournaments was 3.8 in 2016.
The pro says:
“The forest, majestic views, undulating fairways, perfect rolls on the greens, and wildlife on the course – monkeys and deer – are the biggest attractions. And Kathmandu’s weather, between 20-30 degrees Centigrade during the day throughout the year, is icing on the cake.”
Deepak Acharya, Senior Golf Director
The resort experience:
The Nepalase are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet and you can expect the guest service here to be just as special. Gokarna is a forest retreat with a mix of classic resort features, including a spa with a variety of massages (the focus is on ancient holistic Ayurvedic treatments), a gym and health club with personal trainers, and a heated indoor pool, jacuzzi and sauna. The Malla- and Rana-period architecture suits the jungle-forest setting. Have a sun session on one of the courtyard chairs and soak in the mountain views. The morning yoga sounds like a smart way to limber up for golf, too. There is a free shuttle from the airport to get you here.
Dine and wine:
There are four different eateries. The Hunter’s Lodge Restaurant serves Nepali specialties, Durbar Restaurant (or King’s Palace) has international fare and the Club House Restaurant features Chinese and Thai dishes. In the evening, sip on a glass of champagne at the 8848 Mt Bar, which also features live music. Breakfast is included with the rooms.
The rooms feature modern interiors, polished floorboards or tiled floors, and elegant décor. Nepali art adds to the exotic feel and there are views of the course and mountains. There are six different options, starting with the Cottage Room (32-35 square meters, 344-377 square feet), which comes with herbal bath amenities, two bottles of water (always drink purified water in Nepal) and morning yoga. At the other end of the scale, the Gokarna Suite (93 square meters, 1001 square feet) is a duplex with an open-planned bedroom and square bath tubs and one or two bedrooms.
What better way to explore Gokarna Protected Forest than on horseback? The resort’s stable has a variety of horses and ponies that should work for riders of all experience levels. You can also hire a bicycle, take part in jungle paint ball, go bird watching or head out for a one-to-four-hour guided forest walk.