Having spent the summer months perfecting their putts and improving their drives in an attempt to better their handicap in various golf courses in India and abroad, amateur golfers in the city are back in action at the Madras Gymkhana Golf Annexe and the Cosmo TNGF golf course in Nandanam.
Both clubs are having a busy tournament calendar for the year. In Madras Gymkhana, the recent Caddies tournament was, always, a popular draw. The challenge of the roughs in Madras Gymkhana is matched by the difficulties posed by the tree lined Cosmo TNGF for players.
And it is getting crowded out there as evidenced by the fact that nearly 100 junior golfers gave their entries for the two-day tournament at TNGF on the mornings of August 8 and 9. A day prior to that, many of the youngsters took to the course for a practice round, keeping caddies on their toes and the canteen staff sweating over the omelette and dosa pans. The scene at Madras Gymkhana is no different with the recently monthly medal, drawing excellent participation.
Between now and early summer, there are tournaments practically every weekend (weather permitting), including an Addicts tournament, next month. “It may sound ironic, but there was a time when I was addicted to golf and would try to play at least four or five times a week,” says Narendra, who started playing in 1980.
“Nowadays I play on weekends and it more about enjoying myself,” he adds.
Bharathan Padmanabhan likewise began playing in the early 1980s, and kept up with the game, even when he took up an assignment in Indonesia.
A regular weekend golfer in the city, he follows the tradition of playing at the Kodai Golf course during the summer months. He is also the goto man for all when it comes to golfing rules and doubts regarding free drops and penalty points if a ball for example, lands on a tree—as it did recently for lady golfer, Viji Sarathy, when her ground shot flew and nestled on a branch.
One of the most popular foreigners —at least on the TNGF course— is the big-hitting, friendly American from Florida, Bruce. He will make a typical dog-leg four-par hole appear to be child’s play. A modest tee shot of his travels 280 yards, leaving him just a chip and putt away from the hole. He has plenty of stories up his sleeve, having worked with Rolling Stones for a while. However, the masala-dosa loving Bruce would rather talk of the best places in Chennai where you can get an excellent ice cream. He personally prefers the one on RK Salai, opposite the Music Academy.
Bruce, popular among the foreigners
Many foreigners find it easy to play in Chennai, thanks to Major Dr Raghavan. From Jeong, a Korean national who was posted in a firm in the city, to Europeans who pass through, they manage to get a game of golf, courtesy Dr Raghavan’s organising ability. Aki of Norway, Fernandez of Spain and Raymond of China are some of the golfers who have teed off from Chennai.
Chennai’s greens are also a teaching ground, in a way. The basics of golf—to keep the head down and the eye on the ball—are best learnt from Madhavan, the former cricketer, who has been a regular golfer in the last few years. “Your eyes are your camera, and just as how you have to hold a camera steady to click a picture, you have to focus your eyes, unmoving, whether you are playing golf or cricket,” says Madhavan. If you want to learn how to sink impossible putts, then you have to play with SBS Raman or Usha Sridhar, who can sink a 30-ft putt, uphill or downhill, smoothly. It is a pleasure to play in the city, but equally enjoyable to watch, says D Ashok, a golfer from Bengaluru.