Golf guru Metroplus

A hoary past

indian golf story   | Photo Credit: mail pic

Golf is played in a variety of settings throughout the world and on a variety of courses. Without a doubt, not all are blessed with the refinements of manicured greens and watered fairways that are nowadays taken for granted. This has not stopped entrepreneurs from picking up vast tracts of land be they deserts or swamps and converting them into salubrious surrounds. But without argument, golf is considered best played on seaside links, as the Scots do, but sadly not prevalent in India.

Golf in India is a British legacy, bequeathed to us as has been cricket, the railways and the bureaucracy.

Golf in the 19th century

Eight years after the passing of Napolean, in 1829, was founded the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. Till the formation of the Indian Golf Union in 1955, the RCGC was considered the administrative centre for Indian golf. Five years into Queen Victoria’s reign, the Royal Bombay (no longer in existence) was founded in 1842.

The world’s oldest inter-club

The Bangalore Golf Club came into existence in 1876 followed closely by the Madras Golf Club in 1877. Indeed, members of these two clubs are proudly privileged to play the biannual inter-club, played continuously since 1878 (with breaks on account of the World Wars) and touted as the world’s oldest, surviving, inter-club event.

Ride that horse

Interestingly, when the Madras Golf Club merged with the Madras Gymkhana Club in 1878, a round of golf meant that seven holes were played at Island Grounds, with a horseback ride to Guindy to play four holes and a ride back to Island Grounds to play the remaining seven. Some endurance this by Col.Ross Thomson, the first Captain of Golf and his merry men!

As old as they can get

In the 1850s, the Maharaja of Travancore allowed his lands in Trivandrum to be converted into a nine-hole course. With the RCGC having moved more than once in its history, the Trivandrum Golf Club is considered the oldest course in India. 1878 saw the formation of the Shillong Club in Assam, 1884 in Ahmedabad, 1887 in Bolarum, Hyderabad and 1895, the Kodaikanal Golf Club and the Tollygunge Club, Calcutta.

Golf in India had firmly taken root, well before it could in the United States or in mainland Europe even though Golf had been introduced in these areas during the end of the 18th century. 1873 is the year recorded for the first golf club in the United States and somewhere in the 1880s, for the first one in Europe.

Close to a thousand

In a marked contrast, in England and Scotland, almost a 1000 golf clubs were founded between 1830 and 1900, an explosive growth attributed to the expansion of the railway lines in the U.K as part of the Industrial Revolution.

Indian golf greats

Prior to 1947, golf was very much a part of the social fabric of the British Raj and post Independence, it was known as an elitist game and afforded by few.

H.S.Malik, his brother I.S.Malik and nephew Ashok Malik were some of the early, exceptionally-gifted amateurs and considered the first family of Indian golf. With memberships to Golf Clubs restricted to Europeans only, I.S Malik broke the mould in becoming the first Indian member of the RCGC in 1946, paving the way for many more Indians to join the elite golf clubs.

Mohinder Bal was the first Indian to win the All Indian Championship. P.G. ‘Billoo’ Sethi was a genius five-time All India champ and the first ever amateur to win the Indian Open in 1965, beating the great Peter Thompson, winner of the inaugural Indian Open in 1964 and most famous for his five-time Open Championship wins.

Rajkumar Pitamber, or Pit as he was called, was another outstanding golfer and a two-time All India champion.

The modern crop

In recent times, Vikramjit Singh, Lakshman Singh, Sita Rawley, Nonita lal Qureishi, Amit Luthra, Smriti Mehra, Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh, Gaurav Ghei, Shiv Kapur, Jyoti Randhawa, Digvijay Singh, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri are some of the men and women who have done India proud, with many of them bringing laurels to this country. Grateful for the huge traditions bestowed upon us, the modern day pundits of the game in India are determined that they build on the past and firmly guide Indian golf to greater heights.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 8:33:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/golf-guru-a-hoary-past/article6426722.ece

Next Story