When golf enthusiasts worked to get a nine hole golf course in colonial Calicut

An expansive golf course is still a luxury in contemporary Kozhikode. Yet at a time when comforts were few, the city boasted a golf course. Archival documents from colonial times show the Collector of Malabar giving his consent for a course here. However, modern remnants of this play area which would have been a hub for recreation for the colonisers are hard to come by in the city. A palpable sign of the once-existent golf course is the Golf Link Road running through Chevarambalam and Chevayur and which joins the main road at Chevayur junction. Apart from this pointer of sorts, nothing much tells us about the location of the course. Documents from 1929 show it was in Mayanad desom adjacent to Kovoor. Inquiries made among residents and senior medical practitioners point to the region around the Calicut Medical College, particularly the college grounds, as the place where the British played golf.

Although locating its premises may be an uphill endeavour today, getting the region for golf was a fairly easy task for the administrators. Complexities that arise when acquiring land were absent here as a considerable part of the 73.96 acres was the government’s and it was given to the golfers at a nominal rent. The subject comes up in the letter the honorary secretary of the golf club committee writes to the Collector of Malabar in April 1929. “I have been asked to approach you with regard to obtaining permission to use your land at Chevayoor in view of making a golf course,” he writes. The golf committee proposes a nine-hole course with provisions for a temporary structure.

Collector E.M. Gawne dispatches a reply almost immediately. He writes, “I should be prepared to allow a nine hole course on the present Volunteer Training Ground at a nominal rent of Rs. 3 a year.” But there was a matter that needed to be sorted out. Though most of the proposed course was government land, running through it was a patch of private property that need to be acquired for the golf course to be a reality. The Collector mentions this private land in his letter. The nominal rent will not be applicable for this land, he writes. He also draws up a strict list of do’s and don’ts while renting out the property. “The permission would not enable the club to exclude other persons from entering the land. The land has to be kept unoccupied and I do not consider that making golf brown would interfere with this,” he adds.

The Collector also wants to know more about the “temporary structure” the golfers intend to build. The secretary in his reply gives the details. The building, he says, “will be intended for a motor shed.” He also voices the committee’s wish to have “the ground to the southern end of the Volunteer Training Ground on the left hand side of the road which will be clear of the rifle range.”

Seeking permissiom

As for the main golf course, the secretary needs the permission of the owners of the private land which lies in between the proposed course. The Collector instructs him to find the owners and also enquire the conditions of lease. Gawne writes to the secretary with a piece of advice. “I think not more that Rs. 10 an acre per annum should be the lease amount.” Once given on lease, cultivation will not be possible on the land. However, the Collector adds, “But the Golf Club will not wish to prevent the owner from grazing his cattle on the land if there is grass. The Golf Club will not fence the land and would require it to be left open; he could fence off his remaining land which he cultivated.”

The tahsildar begins to make enquiries following the Collector’s orders. He records his findings. The private land in Mayanad desom he writes is of “government jenman.” “The land assigned to one Veluthedath Koyapperi and Kader of Kovur amsom.” Koyapperi, writes the tahsildar, is willing to lease from his land two acres which will fall in the region of the proposed course. Though he demands an annual rent of Rs. 15, he finally settles for Rs. 10 per acre per annum, reports the tahsildar. Veluthedath Kader, they find, is a trader residing in Meenangadi in Wayanad. The Collector gives instructions to get his consent letter from the authorities of the region. The tahsildar also furnishes a long list comprising information of entire fields and sub-divisions measuring up to 73.96 acres which will come together to be the golf course.

Source: Regional Archives Kozhikode

(The series ‘Past Continuous’ concludes with this 50th article.)

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