|I am playing on Saturdays and Sundays at Tolly. I very much miss playing at the Royal and I hope things return to normal soon
— Bunny Lakshman Singh
The hallowed greens of the second oldest golf course outside the British Isles are wilting behind closed doors. And it’s not just the merciless May sun that is doing the damage.
It’s been more than three weeks since the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) management suspended operations at its heritage premises after agitating employees roughed up two of its officials on the morning of April 29.
The first-ever lockout in the history of Royal has meant that the 18-hole, 7,200-yard course has gone unkempt for 24 days now. And the drain on the bleeding club coffers is already pegged at around Rs 15 lakh.
Many of the 700-800 playing members of RCGC are starting the days on the 18-hole Tollygunge Club or nine-hole Fort William Golf Club greens, where they have been ‘temporarily rehabilitated’. But their hearts still lie behind the gates slammed shut. “The course must be in a pathetic state, and the management will have its task cut out to restore it to its original glory,” said Vivek Jairath, a keen golfer at the Royal.
“The course was last watered on Sunday, April 27, and reports filtering in from the campus indicate that large patches of grass on the greens and the fairways have been burnt to a dull brown,” said club CEO M.M. Singh. The greens, fairways and tees are usually watered every day and manured once a week, some areas fortnightly, while periodic pest control keeps out the weeds.
Singh, who has “cervical trauma and a head injury” to show for bearing the brunt of the militant trade union’s ire, is already counting the cost of repair, which mounts with every passing day of impasse. And the end is nowhere in sight. It would take at least six to eight weeks to make the course playable again once the deadlock is broken, reckons the management.
The club may have to turn to its members to raise the mend money. “We have to first de-weed the greens, cut the overgrown grass and dress up the burnt patches, before we can manure and irrigate. For that, we must procure two grass-cutters, one fairway aerator, green dressers, de-thatchers, extra manure and pesticide, besides an additional labour force,” observed course manager Lt Col R.S. Saini (retd), the other official to be assaulted.