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Golf is a pursuit, a study of a life time in which one exhausts one self but never the subject.‚ As you make your way to the Seven Lakes Golf Course, the ambience clearly hints at the Army influence. The long driveway, well trimmed plants, immaculate, pristine surroundings and of course the guard standing tall in his army uniform, all emit an aura of order and discipline. Once at the golf course, you are greeted by scores of furry objects scurrying around joyfully - rabbits! You wonder if you are at an ecological park and then shake your head in bafflement as the familiar sound of a golf club hitting the ball prods you into the reckoning that you have indeed, reached the right destination. That's the Seven Lakes Golf Course for you - a consummation of an idea of the Bombay Engineer Group (BEG) to convert the Kiksar forest into a golf course without disturbing its ecological sanctity. Formally laid out in December 1996, the course has been designed, laid out and wholly created by the efforts of the sappers alone without the aid of any external expertise. Col. Ashok Srivastava, the Golf Secretary elaborates, "The Bombay Sappers is 183 years old. BEG is a training centre for these sappers or jawans. Sappers are people who clear places of mines, explosives and booby traps and provide logistic support in terms of mobility, water supply and electricity to soldiers during the war."

This thirty-four par, nine-hole course is spread over two thousand, seven hundred and fifty yards. 34 par - a term, that to the uninitiated golf population may sound puzzling. What it implies is that the course must be completed in thirty-four strokes, which certainly is not facile, considering the course is ridden with challenging hazards that can put even the very seasoned players in a quandary
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The appeal of the course lies in its verdant, panoramic beauty, one that is a far cry from the routine trappings of an urbane existence. It is also a bird sanctuary of some sort as the rabbits and the ducks have beautiful white homing pigeons for company. The course as Col. Srivastava asserts, has been designed in such a manner that the existing ecology would not be tampered with. He explains, "We did not want to disturb the inhabitants of the forests like the mongoose or the snakes. So certain pockets have been given to them and no animals were killed. All the greens and the tees are located in a manner that the trees were not unnecessarily felled. To level the ground we needed earth and this is how the ponds were created (from the earth that was dug)." These ponds that function as formidable hazards have five thousand fishes in them that constitute the marine ecology. Also pesticides are not used to preserve all life forms and the grass had to be deweeded physically.

A guided tour around the course by the Colonel reveals a wide gamut of trees that have been planted on the course. Silver Oaks, Kaner, Gulmohar and Casunium are some of the 1,500 trees planted by the sappers that add to the salubrious environment. On the fifth hole, Havaldar R.C.Nair is busy coaching a golfer. Nair is the pride of BEG and for good reasons too. His superlative golf, a culmination of years of sedulous hard work, qualified him for the Malaysian Open Championship where he stood sixth. His golden tip for golfer's is `an avid interest in the game and regular practice'. The champion leads us to the sixth hole that he considers the most difficult. It is par 3 and had 3 ponds that pose as a serious threat for any ball to land safely onto the green.

It is a contest calling for skill, planning, control and courage. It is a test for temper, a revealer of character and a great leveler. Golf is often termed as a humbling game. It underscores the irksome fact that humans are not infallible and often the finest players have their agonizing moments on account of frustrating shots. The sixth hole of the Seven Lakes has done just that as many a ball which may pinch the wallet if shots like these are seldom repeated! Who said golf was easy anyway? Col. Srivastava reveals that the complete slopes of the course are towards the river (that flows at the back) and thus even after two hours of rain, the course is playable after an hour! The course is open to the civilians for a small golf fee. What are the future plans for the course? The Colonel smiles and says, "We want to make it one of the best courses in Pune city." Since the course is still new, it has yet to develop completely and work remains to be done on the fairways.

But the proverbial army discipline is sure to ensure that the task will be completed expeditiously and professionally. As you make your way back home... you see the rabbits scurrying back to their enclosures. The ducks too, wobble back to their homes. A quiet reminder that a well deserved rest is called for, after a hard day of play.... golf or otherwise




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