The journey of golf as a sport in India  – From British Raj to today

The glorious game of golf was brought to India by the colonial rulers in the 19th Century. In fact, it was the first countries outside the geographical boundaries of Great Britain where a golf course was built. With growing influence of the British rulers in the Indian empire, new golf clubs in India mushroomed, and the sport took a professional turn by the 1960s when the IGU was formed.

Over the years, India’s pool of professional golfers has made their mark internationally. Infrastructure related to the sport of golf is still seeing crucial development.  In fact, until the last few decades, golf in India was limited to the wealthier people due the expenses involved in buying golfing equipment, and the money involved in playing the sport.

But, the sporting story of professional golf in India isn’t as elite. Also, it’s not as pretentious. Indian Golf faced a big disappointment last year was when Kolkata Classic was dropped from 2018’s calendar by PGTI (Professional Golf Tour of India) due to lack of sponsors.  However, PGTI “managed” to continue the McLeod Russel Tour Championship, despite principal sponsor McLeod Russel’s contract with PGTI coming to an end.

The government of India is showing keenness on promoting golf and sport tourism, and getting the game on the desired track. But for the overall growth of the sport, it is essential that every golfing event should be flooded by sponsors, with a focus on direct investment to promote it. This is why it has become necessary that bodies like PGTI, Indian Golf Union, the PGI, the National Golf Academy, and Women’s Golf work closely with a strategic plan to develop the sport in the country.

This can only be possible if the independent bodies, which are teeing off separate efforts every year, unite and work towards a common vision. The Professional Golf Tour of India, which have had a distinguished board from a corporate background, with Avantha Group’s CEO Gautam Thapar, President Srinivasan HR, Vice Chairman & Managing Director of TAKE Solutions, and others like Deepak Talwar, Digvijay Singh,  Amardip Sinh Malik, and Manav Jaini, needs to establish a bond with members from other bodies. This will aid in drawing a clear plan to bring radical changes in golf.

The struggle to find sponsors is real; the economic structure of golf in India still seems to have close connection with how golf in the country has progressed in the country. India’s growing golf industry contributed Rs 2,202.5 crore in economic value in 2015. A closer breakdown tells us that the luxury real estate had contributed the highest aggregate value of Rs 957.4 crore to the golf economy in India. Whereas, in the United States and Europe, the prime contributors to golf economy are from Direct Industries like Facility Operation, Capital Investment, Golf Equipment and Supplies, and Events and Associations. The Indian golf economy is still majorly dependent on associated industries like Tourism and Real Estate.

The road ahead of India’s golfing community could be brighter in the near future. With major improvement in standard of living, and more Indians willing to associate with ‘classier’ sports like golf and polo, this is definitely the best time to give a fillip to the golf industry.

This year, PGTI has been able to retain the decade-old sponsor for the Indian Open, which proves that Indian companies want to continue their support for the sport.  Yet, it is essential that PGTI capitalizes on the exponential growth of the luxury market, whilst getting domestic and global companies on board.

With adequate support and training, India can prepare a legion of young golfers. It will not only increase golfing as a sporting culture in the domestic arena, but also prepare young golfers for international exposure.