Golf has long been perceived to be a bastion of exclusivity, out of the realm of public consumption. In fact, except for Scotland where it is the National Game with golf courses at every village, it is considered an elite game for most countries in the world. But the IPL model that has been so successful in cricket has had a tremendous impact on Golf, leading to a level of inclusivity that has permeated the rarefied exclusivity of the game to make it broader based among members who ironically, represent all strata of society.
It is a misconception that golf is a very expensive game for elites only. That may have been the case 100 years ago (though for the Scots, it has always been a peoples’ game). It is true that getting into a golf club in India today is difficult, but that is no different from admissions into any other established club. Just like normal clubs, golf clubs admit members on a waiting list, irrespective of gender, caste, or creed and give preference to domicile status. The only investment in golf is in a person’s golf clubs when they start, but that is not more expensive than a premium badminton racket for beginners. Most beginners in golf look at equipment with marginal costs till they are more proficient.
But the Golf IPL held by various Golf clubs have been a game changer, and have impacted the perception and participation of most people who are members of the Golf Clubs in India. Until the IPL Model, Golf was more a case of ‘playing a few games with friends’ over the weekend and an occasional tournament or two for networking. However, with Golf Clubs in India introducing club level Golf IPLs’, the participation and perception of the game has started undergoing a tremendous change
One example as enumerated here is the RBD Tigers, a team participating in the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) IPL in 2023. Due to the lack of public perception, many do not realise that Golf is the only game in the world that is gender, age or fitness neutral! A famous tennis player once said that the highest-ranked woman tennis player in the world could not even beat the 50th-ranked men’s player! But not so in golf. Priya Kunnath from RBD Tigers can beat any ranked player irrespective of gender due to handicap points given to each player to level out the differences in their game. As the Captain of the RBD Tigers, CS Subramanian, himself a former Captain of the Bangalore Golf Club and a distinguished golfer for over 40 years says, “We have a mix of players from age groups of 35 to 65. And any one of them, on any given day can beat any player on the course!”
But Golf is also an extremely addictive game that generates passion in those that play it to the highest level of achievement. And it is an ancient game in India that pre-dates independence. The British brought golf to India in 1829. There are 236 golf courses in India, and around 2 lakh people play golf. But this number is changing fast with India’s youth performing extremely well in International competitions and even missing out on an Olympic golf medal by a whisker! The number of youth who are looking at golf as a career is burgeoning as seen from the tremendous interest in golf youth programs and coaching.
In fact, the future of golf as a broad-based sport is so high that the owner of RBD Tigers, Austin Roach has gone to the extent of buying out a golf course, Clover Greens in Sarjapur, near Bangalore. According to Austin, “The future of a sport is in its perception. After Covid, participation in golf has skyrocketed and the perception of it as an elite game has changed to one of great potential for the next generation. With such a glittering way forward, any golf course in the future will be an opportunity for success, both for upcoming players and for the future of the game. I would also like to create a Golf Academy to encourage young golfers which in turn will bring kudos to all stakeholders”
By:- Joseph Rasquinha is a PhD in Economics from St. Andrews University in Scotland, ranked the 1st University in the UK before Oxford and Cambridge, in 2022. He has written over 40 articles and 2 books across various subject domains