Chennai weather was the talking point last week, when the temperature fell by 5 full degrees. Tongue in cheek comments ranging from ‘Winter is coming’ to ‘Brrr.. We are in the Arctic Circle’, and memes flooded the internet. With the cyclone flirting with the city’s school like a tease, a cloud hung over the daily golfers’ habitual round on the course. One could do nothing but share anecdotes or follow the green exploits of fellow golfers on courses overseas.
There are essentially two types of golfing expeditions, if they can be termed so. The first is when golf is a prime motif of the travel. Everything is planned around the game. This is the kind of trip where Angkor Wat takes second place in Siam Reap and airport transit times are filled by a rushed trip to a golf course where the buggies are waiting after pre-booking slots. The second is when golf fills in as a secondary activity.
Yes, November/December is not only the music season in Chennai, but also the time of the year when young grandparents fly away to various continents to bond with their grandkids, and also touch base with golf courses – both public and private ones are in plenty – abroad. When KP Ramachandran (KPR) played in Chennai a few days ago, the city skies could have put Ooty to shame. On Wednesday, he was at the Maidenhood Golf Club, while visiting his son in England. “It is 10 degrees here, lovely golfing weather,” he told me that day.
It was a different experience for VK Narendra, however, who says that he misses having a caddy around when playing in the West, although a few courses do offer a caddy on request. Suresh Venkatraman is also a frequent flyer to the West on parental call. He also manages to fit in golf. A regular golfer in Atlanta, San Francisco and other courses, the 81-year-old Narendra was the greens sensation this week, when he had a hole in one on the new Hole 1 from blue tee at the Cosmo TNGF, where a few changes – such bunkers – were made in the last few months.
If absence of caddies is a factor in the West, lady caddies of the courses in the Far East are yet another novelty for someone travelling from India. Different terrain, different types of grass and slopes and undulations pose difficulties and add to the excitement of the game in far off places.
Essentially, it is your basic skills that are tested. Narendra, who plays a very straight game and has very good control over his short game, was up to the challenges posed by the several courses he has played in Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles. “It is my short game that helped me when I played in Pebble Beach and in San Francisco,” he says.
In Pebble Beach, he recalls doing just that on the tricky Hole 6. One has to lay up on level ground in two shots and from the bottom, one has to hit high and drop flat – if you hit too hard, you go over into the sea and rocks. It was a hole to remember for Narendra as he made a bogey there. Another hole reminded him of Kodai Golf course. One has to hit from the top of the hill down to the green, but “that was a breeze” as it was similar to a hole in the Kodaikanal Golf Course where Narendra got his first Ace a few years ago.
Public golf courses
The concept of Public or Municipal courses, common in many western countries, is very useful. One does not have to be a member of a golf club to make a booking and the starter groups you with other golfers. It is very economical and practical as you find several courses within 15 to 20 km of each other, enabling you to stay in touch with the game even as you are pampering your grandchildren.