Golf in India goes back a long way. In fact, it goes back a very long way because the first golf club established outside the British Isles was Royal Calcutta (originally named Dum Dum Golfing Club) in 1829. The now defunct Royal Bombay Golf Club followed in 1842 then Cosmopolitan Club and Bangalore Golf Club were founded during the 1870s. Madras Gymhkana was formed in 1884 before places like Shillong and Royal Western India appeared around the turn of the century.
On the tournament front, the All-India Amateur Championship was first held in 1892 so it’s said to be the second oldest international golf event in the world (after the Open) because it preceded the US Open by three years. More recently, the Indian Open was inaugurated in 1964, when Peter Thomson won the first of his three Indian titles, and it’s been a co-sanctioned event on the European Tour since 2015.
The Indian Golf Union was founded by six clubs – Bombay Presidency, Delhi, Madras Gymkhana, Royal Calcutta, Tollygunge and Willingdon Sports Club – in 1955 and this national governing body now tends to the administrative needs of more than two hundred clubs around the country. It’s one of 149 organizations affiliated to the International Golf Federation, sending teams to compete in the World Amateur Team Championships every two years.
On the professional side of things, the Professional Golf Tour of India was formed in 2006 and this body, with more than 300 professional golfers as members, now organises around 25 tournaments a year within the country. Incredibly, at the end of 2016, 22 Indian professionals had won no fewer than 75 international events around the world, with Jeev Milka Singh leading the way on 13 victories, followed by Arjun Atwal on 10 wins.
Diversity is the keyword for golf in India; from desert plains to the tea estates and Hill Stations in terms of terrain, from traditional parkland to modern resort golf regarding layouts. Some courses, such as Madras Gymkhana in Chennai, are located inside a horse racing track and others, like Patna in Bihar and Bhatinda in Punjab, are situated close to wildlife compounds – the 1st fairway at Patna lies next to the lion enclosure at the nearby zoo and there’s a protected deer paddock inside the Bhatinda layout.
Of course, while there’s still a place for old-fashioned quirk in Indian golf – be it the magnificent sight of the Qutub Minar brick minaret backdropping the west side of the Qutub course in New Delhi or, twenty kilometres further east, the Battle of Delhi monument on the 16th tee at the Noida course – there remains plenty of scope for new designs to flourish in modern residential developments where the international brands of Nicklaus, Norman and Player lead the way.
Our Indian Top 20 rankings were last updated in December 2016. Click the link to read the story.