She is the only woman in India, who has been on the male turf for past one decade. With a degree in horticulture and landscape, and specialisation in turf management from the University of Massachusetts, Nuzhat Gul, 38, is the first woman in India, who is a turf manager at the 18-hole Royal Springs Golf Course (RSGC) in Srinagar. She has been working there since 2002 and has recently been elevated to the post of secretary.
“Being the secretary of the RSGC is surely an added responsibility. But with the support of other colleagues, managing positions of a secretary and a turf manager has become really easy,” she says.
She describes the RSGC as one of the best golf courses in India. “We want some tournaments to be held here. We want players from the western countries to come and play here. You will not find such scenic golf course anywhere in India,” she says.
In 2002, the US manager of the course left the Valley after western countries issued fresh travel advisories, asking their citizens not to travel to Jammu and Kashmir. With no other qualified turf professional available, Gul got the job during Farooq Abdullahled government.
For Gul, the RSGC is her first love.
“Royal Spring is like my baby. I have given it the best years of my life, my youth. I cannot tell you how I love to be here. It is always a different experience,” says Gul.
She says though the golf is a male-dominated sport in Jammu and Kashmir, she did not face any difficulty as such in performing her duties at the course.
“But it has always not been such an easy journey. I have had my shares of troubles while managing the course. But then you learn to know how to tackle them. I love my work. It is my sheer love which has helped me stay in this profession for so long,” she says proudly.
“I was the first Indian to be a certified turf-grass professional. I pursued an online irrigation professional certification course which helped me to get in touch with the new things happening in turf-grass management. I am on board of directors of the Indian Golf Industry (IGI), the Golf Course Superintendents and Managers Association (GCSMAI). I represent India in superintendent’s chapter of the Asian Golf Course Owners Association (AGCOA).”
“The golf courses are coming up in India like anything and the jobs are also available but they are mostly going to foreigners. We need to produce our own trained manpower,” she says.
Situated adjacent to the Chesmashahi Gardens (Royal Springs), overlooking Dal Lake, the RSGC, designed by Robert Trent of the United States, is at the foothills of Zabarwan mountain range. The course has four of the Royal Springs. The Royal Springs used to be the source of sweet water.
The Mughal emperor Jehangir built an exquisite walled-garden – the Chesmashahi around the springs.
Apart from the scenic beauty, it has all the ingredients of a grand golf vacation. It has two marshes, club house, comfort stations, tea shelters, heritage house and a maintenance yard. It has tented accommodation for golfers, who want to stay here along with their families.