• Founded in 1829, it is the oldest golf club outside the British Isles
• In 1911, the club was honoured by King George V and Queen Mary, who conferred on it the title of “Royal” to commemorate their visit to Calcutta
• The RCGC played a significant role in the formation of the Indian Golf Union (IGU), the governing body of the game in India, in 1955
• The project cleared by the state government will allow RCGC to develop over 5 acres of the club and generate funds to re-lay and upgrade the course and build a proper golf academy,
besides initiating a giant water harvesting and management programme
Pictures by Pabitra Das
“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life.”
— Bobby Jones, golf legend
The Mamata Banerjee government has given a Royal putt to that game of life in what may be a small step for Bengal but a giant leap for golf.
Writers’ Buildings has cleared an ambitious project for the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) to create a golf address on a par with the best in the world, government sources told Metro on Wednesday.
|This is fantastic news. The Royal is a name to reckon with. Everyone’s heard of it, wherever I’ve played, in Asia or Europe. I don’t know any person who would disagree with this move
“This Rs 1,000 crore-plus plan for a world-class facility will not only give the sport a boost in this part of the country but also turn Calcutta into an international golf destination,” said the source.
Founded in 1829, Royal is the oldest golf club outside the British Isles, and this venture could see it score a hole-in-one.
“While clearing the project to be undertaken over 5 acres at RCGC, the government has also made it mandatory that all profits be ploughed back into sport in the city,” the source added.
The funds generated from the project — that should see a combination of residential space and guest-rooms coming up — will be used to:
• Re-lay and upgrade the course
• Put in place a mega water harvesting and management programme
• Build a proper golf academy
• Boost coaching facilities for juniors
• Create a new changing room to meet the strict conditions of the European Tour
• Upgrade the swimming area into a wellness complex complete with infinity pool
• Have a Royal Tower with rooms and other facilities.
“The Royal today has a proper practice range, facilities for night practice, proper course equipment, a professional green keeper and a gym,” said a club official.
“And now we can take the next big step by bringing in the best expertise and equipment to make this a world-class golf destination.”
For the revamped Royal course to enjoy the rub of the green, it will have to be made more immune to the whims of the Calcutta monsoon, with an aim to make it play-ready within 60 minutes of a sharp shower.
That is something that will please Arjun Atwal, Calcutta’s most famous golfing son.
“I remember when we were kids we couldn’t play the course in the monsoons; we used to play on temporary greens without any shoes! Now it’s improved a lot but it’s still got some way to go,” he had told t2 on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, when informed about the Royal push thanks to a money-spinning project to revamp the greens, the PGA pro said: “This is fantastic news. The Royal is a name to reckon with. Everyone’s heard of it, wherever I’ve played, in Asia or Europe.... I don’t know any person who would disagree with this move.”
Golf buddy Rahil Gangjee welcomed the news with a “wow”. “So we’re now finally on the way to becoming a superstar golf club. It’s more exciting than people can imagine. We golfers are in for a treat,” said the winner of the PGTI Player’s Championship in Chandigarh last week.
For die-hard Royal-ists, the state sanction for the dream project is Diwali-cum-Christmas come early.
“The club will become financially more viable. There can be more development, making it an international club. I think all golfers will be excited and happy to know that this money will be pumped into the course and the sport,” said Gaurav Ghosh, chairman of the APGC junior championship and member of the Indian Golf Union.
Post-makeover, the Royal should be a magnet for big tournaments to add — and multiply — to the lone biggie in the bag: the McLeod Russel Tour Championship, which has marked RCGC’s re-entry into the world of professional golf with a Rs 1.35 crore kitty.
“It will make our case strong to get back the Indian Open, last held in Calcutta in 1999. It will also help to bring the European Tour because that requires certain stipulations, for example, a changing room with a minimum number of lockers and enough space to keep the golf sets,” added Ghosh.
The club’s commitment to train and groom the next generation of golf stars is good news for golf coach Indrajit Bhalotia.
“The fact that RCGC can now cut the best golf course in Asia is a big thing for Calcutta and the country. And a good coaching institute is more than welcome,” he said.
The boost given to the 184-year-old club by a two-year-old government is great news for the city, felt Derek O’Brien.
“The clubs of Calcutta are the crown jewels in the social life of corporate Calcutta. Projects like these give a fresh, new interpretation and meaning to the word paribartan. These are exciting times for our city,” said the former president of Dalhousie Institute and present Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP.