Indian roller, hoopoe, coucal and tree pie are just some of the many species of birds that can be seen at Delhi Golf Club. In fact, each hole is named after a bird, but if it’s birdies you’re after, you’ll need to be on top of your game, as Delhi Golf Club is one of India’s most challenging and foremost golf courses.
The oldest golf club in India is Royal Calcutta, which dates back to 1829, but Delhi Golf Club is the oldest in the New Delhi area and the site for the course was decided, one hundred years after the formation of Royal Calcutta, by a golfing Scotsman who had a passion for excavation and hoped to find archaeological treasure while building the course. Why a hundred-year gap? Well, for some reason unbeknown to us, the British decided to move India’s capital city from Calcutta to Delhi prior to the Great War. We know not why the capital moved, but we do know that despite the fact that the Delhi course is located in the middle of the bustling “new” city, it’s a genuine monument.
Delhi golf course, or the Lodhi, as it is known locally, is brimming with reminders of bygone times predating the Moghul Empire. Amongst the ruined tombs of a mighty empire are the two golf courses which occupy some 220 acres. The main 18-hole course – Lodhi – is a par 72 and additionally there’s a 9-hole “B” course – sometimes known at the Peacock course – which is a useful warm-up layout.
Delhi Golf Club (founded in 1951 and designed by General J.H. Wilkinson) was the inaugural venue for the Indian Open in 1964. Fittingly, Peter Thomson, who was the driving force behind the tournament, won the event. Thomson believed in the potential for golf in India and promoted an international competition that has since become an integral part of the Asian Tour calendar. The Australian then left his architectural mark on the course and redesigned the Lodhi in 1977.
More recently Delhi Golf Club became the first club to host a European Tour staged event in India. The diminutive former caddie at Royal Calcutta, Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia, won the inaugural 2008 Indian Masters with a score of nine under par and he also banked a pay cheque of €280,000, which doubled his previous career earnings.
Peter Thomson commented as follows:
Built on the rubble of the old Moghul metropolis, the Delhi course, set amidst the grandeur of such ancient architectural monuments, has a fascination and beauty all of its own. The fairways of pure couch grass – and the natural jungle rough – have a verdant greenness after the monsoon rains which suggests coolness in an otherwise torrid climate.
The layout has undergone several changes. At one time it ranged over wider territory, but the club now confines twenty-seven holes within a tight boundary, the main eighteen forming a championship course of high merit. It combines the need for length with a demand for extreme directness. Drives that curl into the wild bush rough are invariably unplayable, so necessitating the almost mandatory employment of an “agi-wallah”, who performs the function of a fore-caddie while understudying the more responsible job of caddie.
The club is a delightful meeting place for many of Delhi’s sporting citizens and diplomats.