99.99% of Indian in India have no access to golf. In a cricket mad country, golf has an image of being too elite and unaffordable. Though India can boast of being the home of the first golf course outside Great Britian – the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, the game in India has achieved precious little. There are only a few Indian golfers out there with Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa and Arjun Atwal being the most prominent one.
However, the past 15 years or so, as the Indian IT generation spreads around the world; I have seen more Indians take up golf. Cheap municipal courses in the US have helped in providing a sanctuary for the Indian golfer. However, inside India things have been rather slow. This is despite smaller Asian countries like Thailand, Korea and increasingly China producing more world class golfers.
Some of it can be attributed to high club fees – life membership can cost six times annual salary of avg ‘middle class’ Indian. Kits can be equally expensive and difficult to buy. The priority (and profitability) of providing housing means golf courses will be replaced by apartments at the first opportunity. Hence Indian golf seems to be restricted to four distinct communities – the rich, the returning expat, the noveau rich and the staff of existing courses. This is why I just love this video about golf in Mumbai’s slums.
Closer home, in the past few months, I have noticed a few more Asians around Hoebridge. Over the next few months, we need to reach out to some of them and expand our desi golf circle – probably get an ‘Asian cup’ to help all of us to raise our game.
As the world economy increasingly moves East and as more expat Indians return to India, golf in India is poised for interesting era. We need a hero to help lead this charge. May be Anirban Lahiri’s recent qualification to join the British Open would spark more interest in the game or we can go out and do a ‘Top Gear India Special’ someday 🙂