Golf courses shut, players left in the lurch

With top golfing events being cancelled and sponsors keeping their spending under a tight leash, players are feeling the financial pinch.

Golfer Jeev Milkha Singh.
Golfer Jeev Milkha Singh.

As the sporting activities have come to an unprecedented halt, the entire industry is taking a blow owing to the fatal pandemic. Among them, niche sports like golf are worst affected. With top golfing events being cancelled and sponsors keeping their spending under a tight leash, the players are feeling the financial pinch.

“It’s going to take a while for the industry to bounce back and think about the sponsorships. It’s a sport where social distancing lends itself so easily that I don’t think there’s any reason for the government not to seriously consider resuming it,” says Nonita Lal, a senior golf coach, and an Arjuna awardee.

Jeev Milkha Singh, who has won multiple European and Asian tours, has a piece of advice for youngsters playing the sport professionally, “I know youngsters were looking forward to the season which was going to be fantastic, but something like this has come up and is beyond our control.

They’ve just to hang in there and work on themselves mentally, and imagine that when they’re back they should be strong enough to play tournaments” With restrictions on travel, professional and amateur tournaments called off, many players now want the government to intervene.

Chiragh Kumar, an Asian Games silver medallist, says: “The government will have to help the professionals out when it comes to organising and hosting tournaments. They’ll have to come up with some fine sport-friendly policies.” Owing to the nature of the game, numerous golfers are hopeful about the tournaments resuming soon. “It’s a sport that you can play by yourself and the only thing you have to be careful of is to keep a safe distance from your fellow player or your caddy.

I think golf is going to be one of the first sports returning to the competitive arena,” says Gaurav Ghei, a golfer who has won multiple Asian tours. With most of the golf courts shut and golfers confined, people like Neha Tripathi, from the Women’s Golf Association, are advising young golfers not to give up hope and keep practising in the space available to them.

“The situation has taken a toll on everyone’s lives, especially the juniors, amateurs, and even the pros; but from what I have heard from most of them is that they have created a space in their houses and gardens where they’ve put bedsheets to hit golf balls. People have been using their yoga mats to practice their putting strokes.” However, golfers like Shiv Kapoor bitterly yearn for the professional environment. “I miss competition more than anything else, as this is an important time for our season. March and April are when we have big events.

To not be able to do that and be sitting home is very frustrating. Nevertheless, at the same time sport makes you mentally tough and resilient and you’ve got to make sure you take whatever comes your way, look at the silver lining and be positive,” says Kapoor, who has won multiple Asian tours. Ghei believes that the golfing industry, which is mired up in the losses being estimated about Rs 100 crore, will not revive easily, even if the lockdown ends sooner.

“Professional Golf Tour of India is going to have a tough time restarting as there is a lot of factors that come in. It’s all going to be very difficult and all of us are part of the same storm, but we’re ferrying in different boats. It’s going to be interesting to see how different tours take up the challenge,” he says. The question nonetheless remains as to how and when the government lifts restrictions on the game wherein practising social distancing is fairly easier, and what would be the nature of policies to tackle the losses the industry has so far suffered.