Golf in India: When and Where It Started?

Today India houses approximately 2.5 lakh golfers and 196 registered golf courses, but it is quite interesting how it all started. So, here’s the story: Way back in 1829, long before the first ultimate course was opened in the USA and Europe, the Royal Calcutta Golf Club was established. However, it did not get the title of Royal until 1911, when the title of “Royal” was conferred upon it by King George V and Queen Mary to celebrate their visit to Calcutta. It is the oldest golf club in India and was the first one outside the UK in the world. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club remained central to the story of golf in India for a long time.

During this time, India was under British dominion, and as a result, several new golf courses arose as a result of British influence. The Royal Bombay Golf Club, which is now obsolete was established in 1842, followed by the Bangalore Golf Club in 1876. Later in 1898, golf arrived in Shillong as a result of the efforts of a group of British civil service officers who constructed a course in an area called Laban. By the turn of the century, a dozen golf clubs had emerged across India.

A conspicuous shift happened in the history of golf in India in 1955, when some golfers in Calcutta (now Kolkata) organized and established the Indian Golf Union. Until the formation of IGU, all golf clubs in India was following the rules of St. Andrews in Scotland under the affiliation of the Royal Calcutta Club.

Royal Calcutta Club

After its formation, the IGU worked intending to promote the game in India. In 1957, with an aim to train assistant professionals and caddies, IGU started its first training camp at the Royal in Calcutta. The very next year, IGU was affiliated to the enormous golf organization in the world, the World Amateur Golf Council, now known as the International Golf Federation.

Six years later, in 1964, the India Open Golf Championship was played in Delhi for the first time. Today this is the most crucial golf championship in India. The prestigious golf event, the Indian Open, became a part of the Asia Pacific Open in 1970, and today, the event is also co-sanctioned by the European Tour.

P.G Sethi

P.G. Sethi became the first and only amateur Indian golfer to win the Indian Open in 1965. The subsequent Indian golfer to win the tournament was Ali Sher in 1991.

At the Asian Games in 1982, the Indian men’s golf team did the wonders and won the gold in the team competition event. Lakshman Rai won the individual event.

1994 was the year Indian golf saw shinning doors of world golf because of Jeev Milkha Singh. The son of the legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh, Jeev tasted success on many prominent golf tours that made golf a mere popular sport in India. In 1998, Jeev became the first Indian ever to play on the European Tour, and since then, he has won 4 titles on tour, which is most by any Indian to date.

Jeev Milkha Singh

Singh became the first Indian to crack the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings after an outstanding performance in the 20s. Other famous golfers who have opened the way for hope include Jyoti Randhawa, who earned the Asian Tour's No. 1 player title in 2002, and Arjun Atwal, who was the first Indian to qualify for the PGA Tour and win the Wyndham Championship in 2010.

In 2006, the governing body for professional golf in India was formed, named Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI). There had been previous professional tours, but PGTI changed the tide for Indian golf and has played a significant role in honing the game in India. In 2009, PGTI was inducted into the International Golf Federation, the world's top golf federation council.

PGTI became an open tour in 2018 with no restrictions on the number of foreign players allowed to participate on tour. Numerous brilliant players are now proving their mettle on the international circuit because of the challenging home tour, PGTI.

Indian golf has come a long way since then, and with the joint efforts of many individuals governing bodies, golf in India today is not just restricted to tier-1 cities, but it spread its arms to every town of the country, and with this speed and excellent talent, golf will become one of the most popular sports in the country in the coming years.

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Posted on: 2022 Feb 5 Sat
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Author: Tushar Narang

Co-Founder of Golfoy.com