Teeing Ground; Madras Week: History of Madras club, golf patronage
The PGTI and South Zone Junior Cup tournaments, held back to back in the city showcased budding talent and a promise of further accolades for the country in this sport in the future.
CHENNAI: The PGTI and South Zone Junior Cup tournaments, held back to back in the city showcased budding talent and a promise of further accolades for the country in this sport in the future. It is only a matter of time before the Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) comes to the city which has a long history of golf, dating back to over a hundred years.
S MUTHIAH AND MUSINGS
In fact, I had been wanting to record golf history for years and when I was contributing to The Madras Musings and Aside magazine, I used to have long discussions on the evolution of sports with historian S Murthiah, who is one of the prime forces behind Madras Day celebrations. On one occasion, when I told him that the husband has been playing golf since 1987 and I wondered who brought the sport to Madras, he pulled out a book form the vast collection in his house, and told me, “You write about it someday. I am not a golfer.” The small book, “A short history of Moubray’s Cupola,” by John Malvenan, published privately, is a well researched work.
MOUBRAY, de MONTE
It chronicles the history of Adyar Club, which was started in 1890 by a group of members belonging to the Madras Club which was functioning from 121, Mount Road. The Madras Club in those days must have been like the Drones Club- ladies were not permitted. The Adyar Club functioned from Moubray’s Cupola after leasing it from the Diocese of Mylapore -- which was asked to administer the properties of de Monte, as per his Will. Once owned by George Moubray, at some point of time John de Monte acquired this property and after his lifetime, the Cupola had various occupants until 1840. Record of who occupied it for the next 50 years is not available, but in 1890 the newly formed Adyar Club took it on lease.
Formed under Lord Connemara’s patronage, to be a more egalitarian entity, it allowed Lady members. At its inaugural programme, the Adyar Club boasted rifle shooting, lawn tennis and clock golf among other things. From clock golf, where players putt from 12 positions of the clock face, the Club sanctioned plans for a golf course in 1892 and a 12-hole course, designed by Justice Wilkinson, was used by golfers for over 50 years after it took shape. “There were many trees and the course was well bunkered. A well protected brown stood more or less where the petrol service station stands now, on Chamier’s Road,” Malvenan adds.
HASKELL GOLF BALLS
Golf was popular and the author provides many interesting titbits - like the Golf Member buying one gross of handmade Haskell golf balls, to replenish stock! Lady golfers were actively encouraged to play and the one who posted the lowest score in any one month stood to win prizes worth Rs 15! Interest in golf continued to remain high until 1949, when the golf course was scaled down, due to effects of the War. However, the sport was never fully sacrificed. Eventually, golf moved from Madras Club, but this book does not mention it.
At present, Madras Gymkhana Golf annexe and the Cosmo TNGF golf cater to golfers with same enthusiasm as was seen centuries ago. The 1980s and 1990s saw a number of ladies taking up the game and quite a number of them excelled in it.
There was not much infrastructure investment in junior golf then, an aspect that is being corrected now. Many junior golfers today are opting for online/home schooling and pursuing golf in golf academies. Madras that is Chennai is catering to both amateur addicts and professional aspirants.