The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Diwali tee time for Royal clubbers

The gate was opened on Sashthi after a five-month suspension of operations following labour trouble. However, it would be a while before the irons can be wielded again on the 7,200-yard, par-72, 18-hole championship golf course at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) — the oldest outside the British Isles.

“We hope to get the rudimentary facilities up and running around Diwali, so that members can at least play on the temporary greens and the practice greens,” the heritage club's golf convener Satbinder Singh told Metro on Monday. He felt it would take at least six to eight weeks for the course to “take shape” following the extended period of inaction.

With grass growing “four to five feet tall” and weeds throughout the greens, the Royal management, for all practical purposes, is looking at a total relaying of the course, which along with the practice greens, take up “85 per cent” of the club's 170-acre property. “We have a Herculean task ahead of us to try and restore the greens and the fairways to their former glory, and it will cost us Rs 20-25 lakh,” said CEO M.M. Singh.

The club, which has only recently forked out in excess of Rs 70 lakh as its VRS outgo, is planning to ask members to “chip in”. Nearly 100 contract labourers and caddies have been pressed into service to work alongside the RCGC course staff to get the long-unkempt greens ship-shape.

“The stress is now on accelerated de-weeding and sifting out scattered seeds from the greens and the fairways, besides renewing the 50-odd bunkers,” according to the golf convener. More than 700 truckloads of grass need to be removed from the course, and the management is praying for fair weather over the next few days to get maximum work done.

“It’s now a race against time to get the course ready for the new season, more so because grass doesn't grow during winter,” a club spokesperson added. The Royal course, designed by Peter Thompson and regarded as one of the most challenging in the country, was renovated two years ago with an underground drainage network to render the greens playable throughout the year. The clubhouse, too, needs repair, and would be opened to members “in a phased manner”, according to the CEO.

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