A group of 26 Indian tourists were in Kathmandu this week. But they hadn't come to gamble in the casinos, on honeymoons or to shop.
No, they were here for three days of golfing at the Gokarna Forest Golf Resort in what could signify a new trend in tourism. Indeed, the only thing that unites this disparate group of Indians from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata is their passion for golf.
Ankur Prakash, a four handicap golfer, had heard about Gokarna and came here in August on a reconnaissance mission. What he saw made him so excited he phoned his friends in Delhi from his hotel room and immediately started organising this trip.
"None of us are pros, we just enjoy the game and with Nepal's scenery and Gokarna's amazing setting I knew everyone was going to enjoy it," Ankur told us waving from the Number One hole at the view of the Himalaya and the thick jungles of the nature sanctuary.
The others agreed wholeheartedly. Zom Hranga, who runs a GSA for Malaysian Airlines in Kolkata, admits being a bit sceptical about coming to Nepal to play golf but said after a nine-hole practice this week he would come back. "It's an amazing course, the natural ambience is not like anything I have seen," he said, "The course itself is narrow and very challenging, if you get into the rough it is difficult to extricate yourself."
The tourists broke up into three groups of three players each and played a Stable Ford match. Often the ball would go off into the wild and players could be seen entering the forest to hit it back onto the fairway. "There was a lot of jungle walking and mountain climbing going on but it was fun," joked Kaizer Roka, an Indian exporter of Nepali descent who says he found practicing his Nepali with the caddies almost as enjoyable as the game itself.
Kim Atwal, a cousin of famous Indian professional golfer Arjun Atwal, was ecstatic after completing 18 holes in four-and-a-half hours. Also a four handicap, Atwal says, "This is an amazing course, very challenging and with lots of ups and downs so you get a great workout."
The group meets informally for golfing in India and every year holds the fiercely-contested Mango Cup between teams from Noida and Delhi at the ITC Golf Club in Gurgaon. Such is the lure of the game that some of the wives have also taken it up.
But in Gokarna, the women and children were either at the Le Meridien spa or sightseeing at nearby Boudha. "We are golf widows," explained Ruma Roka, "but we are merry widows. These men will be boys."
For advertising executive Sabal Singh Sikhawat from Mumbai, the trip was a great way to combine a holiday with family and friends with a game that each of them loves. "Golf is not a power game, it's a great leveler," he explained, "You play according to your ability and more than anything it is the camaraderie and the setting."