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Written by: Manvi Singh
“... At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” said the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru at his first official address to independent India. What also went down through that independence was the conviction of the Indian Army to keep the game of golf alive."
|Royal Calcutta Golf Club under construction||
The history of golf in India can be traced back to the 19th century, where India was rather the first country out of Great Britain’s hierarchy to adapt to ‘the game of the elites’. Golf was then considered the white-collar sport that demanded a high-end status to be around the putting fairways. With the inauguration of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club in 1829, golf was destined to stay in India yet the golfing community was not big enough to harbour the game on its own.
Under this circumstance, in 1955, a group of veteran golfers established the Indian Golf Union, the governing body that aims to promote and manage golf in India. Ever since its establishment, the Indian Golf Union has been an abode of experienced army-based golfers who have cherished the legacy of the game and chose to take it forward embedded in the army culture.
A country that grew out of the difficult times of struggles to the glorious Mission Mangal today, golf and golf courses would’ve never been the same without the support and care of the Defence forces.
While a higher percentage of the golf courses are subjugated to authorised access granted via memberships or government officials background around the country, the rising concern in point is -
What is the future of the golf industry in India and the road map to the 2024 Paris Olympics?
The golf industry holds a handful of 75,000+ playing golfers while a large number of people hold the memberships for the golf courses. This builds a pathway to a massive opportunity to grow the industry to approximately 500,000 playing golfers, increasing the chances of a medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Remarkably, Aditi Ashok’s stellar 4th position at the Tokyo Olympics created history for the Indian golfing community along with an opportunity for the game to grow.
In the past, when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Abhinav Bindra won an Olympic medal, they put shooting at a different pedestal in the country inspiring several youngsters to take up the sport as a career. This raised the demand for shooting ranges across the country. Such was the story when Saina Nehwal brought home a bronze in badminton raising young enrolments in the sport.
Post Tokyo 2020, the game of golf would experience a substantial level of similar curiosity from the people too. Advisedly, to build a repetition of the pattern for golf, one needs to have enough golf courses available to a larger percentage of aspiring golfers and their kids.
Is the Golf Club Membership concept at the government-owned courses, suffocating the sport of golf?
|Qutab Golf Course||
Tokyo Olympics highlighted the gaps that survive in golf. The limitations that come in for non-military/government background players seems evident. The aspiring golfer gets limited choices for their putting dreams at the few public courses, like Qutab Golf Course - the only pure public golf course in the country and the small course of Bhalswa, an eminent initiative taken by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Besides, the government-land based golf courses have green fees run as high as Rs 4000 per round to Rs 8,000 for the non-members with no standardisation across the eminent courses. While additionally, more than 70% of the 200+ driving ranges across the country are still established in the member-only golf courses which allow no access to the non-members.
Other Challenges for the Expansion of the Game
The National Golf Academy of India has 95 registered coaches in the A and B category which is a lot less for expanding the sport to half a million playing golfers. The above-stated limitations of the fairways also bring in the lack of space for learning and practising golf.
What we also cannot miss is the lack of awareness of the sport. Out of the 14,94,052 schools in India, approximately only 50+ schools across the country offer exposure of golf to the children, which exponentially decreases how people look at the sport compared to the other fast-paced school sports like football, basketball badminton, etc.
The Demand for Change in Golf
The Indian defence has always worked keenly towards the unabridged expansion of golf, yet only this time does the expansion demands something a lot more than usual.
As a professional golfer, Aadil Bedi stated in an exclusive interview with 4moles.com, the wide-edge expression of his feelings towards the growth of the game even after a bureaucratic background himself could not be ignored.
The young players of the country demand a change to favour the game and we believe the same, while this might not be the apprehension of the majority stakeholders, yet this is the need of the hour to build more spectacular performers like Shubhankar Sharma, Diksha Dagar and Anirban Lahiri who twisted their fate to the professional golfing world from the army courses.
The growing demand for approachability will only bring in a better tomorrow for the golfing world that settles in India’s stance for Paris 2024.
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