How Golf Developed in India
Golf was introduced into India during the days of the Raj. It has now caught up and is a popular game.
Development of Golf in India
Rudyard Kipling born in India and that great son of England, stated that the east was the ‘white mans burden’. Frankly burden or no burden, India in particular benefited a lot from its occupation by the British. Everything that we see the Post and telegraph, railways, Airports, hill stations etc is a gift of the Raj. As a spillover of the British occupation two famous games, cricket and golf were also introduced in India.
Introduction of Golf in India
The origin of Golf is attributed by some historians to Scotland. It is a hoary sport that traces its lineage to the 15th century. But the game flourished in England and when the English became masters of India they introduced Golf in India. The aim was to give pristine pleasure to the English gentlemen who came to India, but as with all institutions the benefits accrued to India.
A large part of credit for the furtherance of golf lies with the British Indian Army. Golf was considered an officer sport on a par with Polo and riding. The English officer class developed some of the best golf courses in India and later on after independence they became part of the assets of the Indian Army. The Indian Army after independence also developed some more golf courses.
The first country in which the Britain introduced Golf was in India. Asa start the Royal Calcutta golf club came up in 1829. Calcutta was at that time the Capital of British India and initially Indians were debarred from membership. This is oldest Golf club in India and the only one that was introduced outside Great Britain at that time.
Spread of Golf Courses
As the British consolidated their hold in India a rapid proliferation of Golf courses and clubs came up all over India. Thus the Shillong Golf Club and course came up in 1886 and Bangalore Golf course came up in 1876. Bombay was not behind and the gate way to India had the famous Royal Bombay Golf club being inaugurated in 1842. India was way ahead of Golf courses at that time and even Europe got its first golf course 27 years later than India. Even India dated the USA by 55 years as far as a Golf course is concerned.
Many golf courses were set up by the tea planters in Assam and Bengal. These intrepid workers from England set up Golf courses in remote areas which were managed by the Planters clubs. Thus the tea plantations are dotted with Golf courses and some prominent ones are available at Bangui and Jalpaiguri, Bina guri in Bengal and Tezpur and Jorhat in Assam. As on date one can count over 200 Golf courses in India and 90% of them is a gift of the Raj.
India must be the only country in the world where Golf courses exist from the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas and the plains of Assam and Madhya Pradesh to the sea-shore golf club at Mumbai. All these golf course have history behind them and it is to the credit of the Government that these relics of the Raj have not been tampered with, but allowed to blossom.
Golf and Money
Golf is big money, but I am afraid it’s an elitists sport in India and for a common man to play golf even if he wishes you are well-nigh impossible. Here you must have tons of money or be a member of the elite Government service like the IAS or the Army to play golf. To get membership of some of the elite golf clubs one has to pay lakhs of Rupees as a deposit and then also you will need to be endorsed by existing members. Thus it’s a closed world. In addition the cheapest golf club set can set you back by a minimum of a lakh of rupees. But despite this India has produced some good golfers who have made a mark on the world stage like Jeev Milkha Singh, Bunty Randhawa among others. They are earning millions of dollars.
Incidentally Golf is a game of skill and given the chance Indians can excel at this sport. We should not forget that an Indian expatriate from Fiji, Vijay Singh is bracketed as world champion of golf along with Tiger woods. His earnings? 100 times more than the combined earnings of the entire Indian team. One sincerely hopes that the government and sports bodies will set up a few courses for the common man to play and maybe India can produce 10 Vijay Singhs.