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“... 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."
Golf's history in India dates back to the 19th century when the country became one of the first outside the British hierarchy to embrace this sport associated with the elite class. Initially considered a white-collar activity that required a high social status, golf found its place in India with the establishment of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club in 1829. However, at that time, the golfing community was not large enough to sustain the game independently.
The Royal Calcutta Golf Club
To address this situation, the Indian Golf Union was founded in 1955 by a group of experienced golfers. This governing body took on the responsibility of promoting and managing golf in India. Over the years, the Indian Golf Union has primarily been composed of skilled golfers with military backgrounds, who have played a crucial role in preserving the game's legacy and integrating it into the army culture.
From its humble beginnings to the present day of India's remarkable achievements, such as the Mission Mangal mission, golf and golf courses have flourished with the support and dedication of the country's defense forces.
What is the future of the golf industry in India and the road map to the 2024 Paris Olympics?
The future of the golf industry in India holds great potential, with over 75,000 active golfers and a significant number of individuals holding golf course memberships. This presents a tremendous opportunity to expand the industry and attract approximately 500,000 golfers, thereby increasing the chances of winning medals at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Indian golfing community witnessed a historic moment with Aditi Ashok's impressive 4th place finish at the Tokyo Olympics. This achievement not only brought pride to Indian golf but also opened doors for further growth and development of the sport.
In the past, Olympic medals won by athletes like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Abhinav Bindra elevated the status of shooting in India and inspired countless young individuals to pursue it as a career. Similarly, Saina Nehwal's bronze medal in badminton sparked a surge in interest and participation among aspiring players. Following the success of Indian athletes at Tokyo 2020, golf is expected to experience a similar wave of curiosity and enthusiasm.
To replicate this pattern of success for golf, it is crucial to ensure that a sufficient number of golf courses are available to a larger percentage of aspiring golfers and their children. By creating accessible and well-maintained golf facilities, the sport can attract more enthusiasts and nurture future talent, ultimately enhancing India's chances of achieving success in golf at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Is the Golf Club Membership concept at the government-owned courses, suffocating the sport of golf?
The concept of golf club membership at government-owned courses can be perceived as limiting the growth of the sport. The gaps in accessibility and opportunities for non-military or non-government background players have become evident, as highlighted during the Tokyo Olympics.
Aspiring golfers face limited choices for pursuing their passion, with only a few public courses available, such as the Qutab Golf Course, which is the country's sole pure public golf course, and the smaller Bhalswa course, a notable initiative by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Furthermore, the green fees at government-land based golf courses can be quite steep, ranging from Rs 4,000 to Rs 8,000 per round for non-members. There is a lack of standardization across these renowned courses, making it challenging for individuals to plan and budget their golfing activities.
Additionally, more than 70% of the 200+ driving ranges in the country are located within member-only golf courses, which means non-members are denied access to these facilities. This further restricts opportunities for non-members to practice and develop their skills.
In summary, the golf club membership concept at government-owned courses, coupled with limited public course options and varying green fees, along with restricted access to driving ranges for non-members, may indeed be suffocating the sport of golf and hindering its wider growth and inclusivity.
Other Challenges for the Expansion of the Game
Expanding the game of golf in India faces various challenges that need to be addressed for its growth and development.
One significant challenge is the limited number of registered coaches at the National Golf Academy of India. With only 95 coaches in the A and B categories, there is a shortage of qualified instructors to cater to the goal of expanding the sport to half a million golfers. Furthermore, the lack of adequate space for learning and practicing golf due to the limitations of existing fairways adds to the difficulty.
Another obstacle is the lack of awareness about the sport. Out of the vast number of schools in India (approximately 14,94,052), only a handful, around 50 or so, offer exposure to golf for children. This significantly diminishes the visibility and popularity of golf compared to other fast-paced school sports like football, basketball, and badminton.
To address these challenges and promote the expansion of golf, certain changes are demanded:
Opening up Defence/Government Golf Courses to Tax-paying Civilians: The involvement of military/government golf courses needs to extend to the public, allowing more individuals to access and utilize these facilities. This can contribute to the development of talented golfers like Aditi Ashok, who can bring recognition to India on the global stage.
Temporary and Standardized Membership for Government-land based Golf Courses/Driving Ranges: While maintaining authorized access to these courses and ranges, offering temporary memberships for shorter durations, such as 3 to 6 months, at standardized rates decided by the government can increase accessibility.
Improved Access to Driving Ranges: It is essential to ensure that driving ranges are easily accessible to civilians at affordable rates, enabling aspiring golfers to practice their skills.
Availability of Qualified Coaches: To meet the demand of expanding the golf industry to half a million players, there is a need to significantly increase the availability of coaches in the A and B categories.
School-Level Awareness: Introducing golf at the school level, similar to popular sports like cricket, football, and basketball, can generate initial interest among the younger generation and contribute to the growth of the game.
In summary, addressing these challenges and implementing changes such as opening up golf courses, providing temporary memberships, improving access to driving ranges, increasing the availability of coaches, and promoting awareness at the school level can pave the way for the expansion of golf in India.
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.
Read more stories - https://4moles.com/golfing-news/golf-tour-in-sabah-malaysia-golfing-paradise
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