Devang Shah – MD, Navratna Organizers & Developers
Having built one of the India’s best Championship courses- Kalhaar Blues & Greens in 2012, Devang Shah has been actively involved in the development of golf in India over the past several years. His love for the game led him to get involved with the Indian Golf Union (IGU) where he serves as Chairman of the Junior Development Committee, enthusiastically introducing more youngsters to the game. Devang was recently appointed
as President of the Golf Industry Association of India (GIA) which works towards the promotion of
the game and organizes the annual India Golf Expo. Devang also owns the Navratna Ahmedabad Pro Golf team which has won three out of five Louis Philippe Cup titles. Golf Digest India caught up with Devang to learn more about his passion for golf.
What prompted you to build a championship course at Kalhaar Blues & Greens?
We felt a need to have a championship golf course in Ahmedabad. I started my career by playing golf at the Army Golf Club and then after that I started playing at a new 9-hole facility that came up in 2003. Being a real estate developer I always wanted to create a property which I would leave behind as a legacy for everyone to enjoy. I think what we did correctly was to get the right golf course architect on board at the very beginning. Nicklaus Design has done numerous golf courses across the world and they are the number one real estate golf course designers. They guided us very well and they are very particular about the way they design courses and properties employing stringent USGA standards. This has made Kalhaar a true championship golf course.
How has the occupancy of the real estate around the course been & how many of the regulars are residents?
We have now completed about 420 villas around the golf course and people have started moving in. Many are using the property on weekends and holidays as of now with a large number also planning to move in permanently. Several people have already made Kalhaar their first home.
Environmentally sustainable initiatives being practiced?
Yes absolutely. We are a green project. We have approximately 14 lakes and they cover in excess of 40 acres. We are about a 500 acres property which includes the golf course, real estate and infrastructure. The entire property is drained into these lakes. We harvest a tremendous amount of rain water and the excess rain water is drawn back into the soil thereby increasing the water table.
We are also in advanced talks with the Sanand Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant which has come up just about one kilometre from us. We will use that treated water for golf course irrigation and for real estate garden maintenance. However, the golf course in any case is entirely sustained on rain water harvesting so the treated water will mostly be used for real estate maintenance.
Advise to other developers for sustainable and viable operations?
Water is the key for any real estate development or golf course. Rain water harvesting has to be employed and every drop must be conserved. Storing this water in artificial lakes is essential for sustainability and increasing the water table. This water can fulfil the entire needs of the golf course. Lakes also create an ecosystem for flora and fauna to thrive thereby improving the ecology of the area. Just to give you an idea, when we built these lakes the land was absolutely arid and barren. Now we see a variety of birds living on the golf course. In winter we get migratory birds and it is beautiful to see over 500 birds around the course at that time.
Also installing good irrigation and drainage systems is essential for the golf course with excess water running back into the lakes. In our case about 35-40% of the irrigation water drains back into the lakes.
What plans do you have for Kalhaar?
Presently, we are making a golf clubhouse as well as a sports clubhouse. We also plan to have a hotel with banquet facilities and a spa. Essentially we are trying to cover all areas of rejuvenation and promote a stress free and healthy lifestyle for people to embrace.
What needs to be done in India to grow the game?
I am very clear on the fact that the game needs to go to the schools. As part of the Indian Golf Union’s junior development program which I chair, we are starting with schools in Ahmedabad as a model program. We are taking golf to the schools rather than the schools coming to the course. Once this model is successful I plan to take it to other cities where there is golfing infrastructure available. Tier 2 & 3 cities will be the focus. Tier 1 has issues with infrastructure and the golf courses are not that empty either. The idea is to make it really affordable for parents to get their kids to learn the game. In the smaller cities most of the golf courses and driving ranges remain empty most of the year. If we want to grow the number of golfers we need to focus on getting more children into the game. Our target is kids from Grade 4-9 initially and we will teach them golf for free at the schools during their free periods as well as before and after school hours. I believe Juniors and kids are where the growth will come from.