The Shangri-La Villingili resort in Addu Atoll is due to open the first full-sized golf course in the Maldives on March 27, according to Maldivian newspaper reports. The 9-hole course sits on seven-and-a-half hectares of previously undeveloped land at the southern end of Villingili Island.
Most holes par three and average 123.4 yards in length, and are set amongst the island's natural veggetation including of palms, pandanus and other tropical plants. The course includes a clubhouse, refreshment bar and a pro shop.
"It's a recreational course, not a professional course," explained Shangri-La's Assistant Communications Manager, Cristina Acenas according to a report in Minivan News (a web newspaper). "It is accessible to beginners but advanced golfers will also enjoy it." Challenged about the environmental impact of a 9-hole golf course on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the resort was quick to respond.
"The golf course uses salt tolerant Paspalum grass for its greens which thrives on available grey water and natural environmental factors existing in the Maldives," Acenas explained. "Seashore Paspalum is used on golf courses worldwide and is said be the most environment-friendly among the types of grass used for golf courses."
"A salt tolerant plant growing in sandy substrate is not going to need many nutrients, so it's not so bad," suggested a marine biologist consulted by Minivan News. "The main worry would be using well water to irrigate the course, which would impact the island's freshwater lens and other vegetation on the island," she said.
The golf course is located near a turtle nesting habitat (August - October), "and turtles can be seen coming to the surface all year round on this side of the island, especially on the ocean side from holes six to nine," she added. Approval for the course was granted by the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Housing and Environment, following an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The Maldivian government in March 2010 signed a contract with Dutch Docklands of the Netherlands to develop a floating golf course and hotel in the Maldives. Then Deputy Minister for Environment, Mohamed Shareef, said the floating golf centres would be "much better and more environmentally friendly than reclaiming land."