Golf is not just a game but a lifestyle in itself. The beautiful landscape of golf courses bears testimony to the Indian golfing heritage withan immense potential to attract the local and the foreign tourists alike. With most golf courses spread across topography as varied as the hills and the valleys, they bring alonga flavour of nature. Many golf courses in India have a notablelevel of historical significance attached to them. In fact, one could find golf courses laden with varied attractions such as natural sights, local markets, spas, gourmet as well as business propositions, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the cosmopolitan tourist.
The India Golf Tourism Association (IGTA) is a non-profit organization working with the objective of creating greater international awareness of golf in the country. It intends to promote the game in a multi-faceted manner, such as by tying up with the Ministry of Tourism, Golf courses, Airlines, Hotels, Travel operators, International Tourism Board and the Media. This step could likely augment the footfall of golfing enthusiasts from world across.
Talking about golf infrastructure, no country except the United Kingdom had a golf course of international standard before India had one. This was built in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1829. ‘Royal Bombay’ based in Mumbai was India’s second golf club. Later on, golf courses opened up in Bangalore, Shillong, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Today, the Delhi-NCR region also boasts of picturesque golf courses and the NCR Golf Cup held annually draws the interest of a multitude of stakeholders. With such a background, golf has gradually come up the popularity curve.
Moving over to the display of golfing talent in India,let’s look at the past 2 decades. Indian golfers have marked a strong presence in international tournaments held in the country and beyond. Arjun Atwal, JeevMilkha Singh, Gaurav Ghei, Ali Sher, Jyoti Randhawa and Shiv Kapur are some prominent names. Many of these stars also own the cause of promoting golf and teaching budding golfers the nuances of the game.
As far as golf training facilities are concerned, the National Golf Academy of India (NGAI) is the first government-supported program for teaching professionals to train budding golfers. The academy is well supported by the Indian Golf Union (IGU), the R&A and the PGA of Europe. Moreover, the National Initiative for Golf in Schools (NIGS) is a promising training program that aims at harnessing and nurturing the raw golfing talent of the country.
The need of the hour is to market golf in India in a well-planned manner. An appropriate level of focus on golf tourism and training could not just promote India as a global golfing destination, but also bring along additional foreign exchange through foreign participation. It could also catalyze socio-economic development through employment generation. Lastly,this focuswould help prepare world-class golfing infrastructure and talent, a visionstill distant yet worth-a-pursuit.