Thwacckk! Clingg! Thunkkhh! Bang smack in the middle of a golf course your ears slowly tune in to the sounds of a tee off. Those in the know say they can tell how far a shot will go just by listening to the satisfying whack of a club against the ball. At the recently concluded Marriott Bonvoy Golf Tournament in Bengaluru, Shiv Kapur says how and why he took to the sport.
“Like almost any child growing up in India, I loved cricket — I still do. If there’s golf and cricket on TV, I watch cricket,” Shiv says with candour. “I started playing golf at the age of nine. My father made a small club for me when I was a child and I would hit a ball around while he played at the Delhi Golf Club.
“People would ask, ‘Why don’t you play a real sport?’ especially at that age. Golf always had this tag of being an old man’s game, but thankfully that changed with the entry of popular players such as Tiger Woods. What intrigued me the most was that it is an individual sport. That drew me to the game — you are your own referee, your own judge. It teaches you etiquette and life lessons.”
Having played golf for over 30 years now, Shiv says there are many things a child can learn from playing a sport. “Golf is one of those few games where you wish your opponent luck before you start. You learn to wait your turn. And win or lose, at the end of a game, you take off your hat, shake hands and leave.”
He adds, ”I can play a round of golf with somebody and I can tell you about their personality; whether they are honest or not. Golf is about etiquette — how you conduct yourself, your respect for others.”
Shiv says golf is essentially a mental sport. “I believe what separates a good golfer from a great one is their mental toughness. The most challenging thing about this sport is as simple as it looks — you are hitting a stationary object. In every other sport it is a reflex action, you are reacting to a moving ball or a fellow player. When it is a stationary ball, however, a certain amount of mental discipline is required.
“In golf, no two shots are ever the same. You play on different surfaces, slopes, weather conditions; there is constant change — the only thing you can control is your mind and your execution. It is like a mental game of chess where you are fighting your mental demons with every round.”
Delving into the nuances of golf, Shiv continues, ”Every game you play is a lesson in itself. In a team sport, you could perform badly, but your team could still win the match. Here, all the credit is yours and so is all the blame. It is a game that you can never master nd that keeps you going back for more.”
Besides its intense, intellectual points, Shiv believes the game’s enjoyability is its greatest USP. “You can play golf well into your 70s or 80s even as a competitive player. What makes it fun is you can play with anyone of any standard, age or gender because you’re playing your own game. In tennis if I’m playing against Roger Federer, it’s not fun for him, it’s not fun for me,” he laughs.
Shiv Kapur says these are three reasons to give the game a shot:
“In a country of a billion people, if you really want to grow this game, you need to have more public golf courses. It’s great to have posh places but 97% of our population is not elite. If we had public golf courses, the pool of talent India has to offer is unbelievable. We have yet to tap into it,” he says, rueing the dearth of golfing talent in the country.
“India has a lot to offer both in terms of talent as well as venues. If you want to nurture golf tourism in India, you need golf resorts which is what we lack when compared to Thailand, Spain or Portugal. We need to package and market it well — an avid golfer can easily spend spend two weeks touring the country from north to south, playing the game and taking in the sights.”
Talking about the JW Marriott Bengaluru Prestige Golfshire Resort & Spa where the tournament was held, Shiv says it could be the first modern golf resort in India. “However, one course by itself cannot support the ecosystem. The Karnataka Golf Association is a classic golf course lined with trees, Golfshire is in a more spacious, scenic locale with more water bodies built in the modern style and the Bangalore Golf Club is a condensed version of a golf course. All of them have their place in the sport — the variety is something cities need. Most importantly, everywhere would be a concrete jungle if it wasn’t for golf courses,” he laughs.