Golf In India: Are we riding the wave yet?
When golf as a topic is picked in a social gathering, then the enthusiasts have anecdotes, regulars have wins to talk about and the remaining fill up with the most generic information like how it’s a sport for elite or maybe one or two will comment on the living legend, Jeev Milkha Singh. The sad part still remains that the percentage of people in that group who have never tried or even thought of trying this sport is the highest. What do we attribute this to? Lack of information or awareness, preconceived notion, or the fact that the sport is still not available so easily to the general mass.
We were the first country outside Great Britain to take up the game of golf and its safe to say that we were way ahead of USA and Europe when it came to golf as we were already dabbling with the sport for 59 years before the first major course opened in these places, however, as per a recent survey, the main conclusions drawn were that golf is not popular among the common mass and thus the general participation is very poor. Other reasons that corroborate the stand that many take for not affiliating themselves to the sport is that it is technically tough sport with the cost of the equipment being too high.
However, it’s not that the fraternity has not tried in every way possible to make golf stand out and create a special place for it in our country. For instance, in the year 1955, a group of skilled golf players got together to form the Indian Golf Union (IGU) which became an integral body solely working towards the management and promotion of the sport in the country. Even the Professional Golf Tour of India and also the Women’s Golf Association of India are teeing off new efforts to get the game on the fairway. One can’t outright deny the fact that the golf culture has grown since then to now with many competing on the international circuits. Though there is still a visible gap that needs to be filled by making it more accessible to the common public.
We have definitely kept up with the culture once started in our country with the advent of the first national-level golf championship in 1892 where Royal Calcutta Golf Club played the host to Amateur Golf Championship which eventually started getting conducted alternatively in three different cities, Bombay, Calcutta, and Delhi. Our legacy without a shred of doubt is very enriching as this tournament turned out to be the second oldest tournament in the world after the famous British Open. Even the Indian Open tournaments which commenced in 1964 and now take place annually has contributed significantly to the development of golf in India. One cannot forget the great milestone in the history of golf in India wherein Delhi was chosen to host the first-ever golf competition for the Asian Games in 1982.
Golfing in the country has certainly taken an upswing since then with the number of enthusiasts continually growing in numbers and new courses adding to the existing list almost annually. But having said that, according to a popular consensus, we currently have approximately 1.5 lac golfers in the country and is still considered to be an elitist sport. How are these numbers justifying the great history that we once started with? Why have we not milked the rich culture of the sport in our country as much as cricket? Why is golf still viewed as the game of the riches? What are the possible catalysts to engage more people in this sport?
Vidisha Narayan- Communications and marketing professional. A mandala & doodle artist with a flair for writing about offbeat topics.