Move over cricket; its golf that is fast becoming a popular game in India with youngsters now dreaming that they become the next Tiger Woods instead of becoming the next Sachin Tendulkar the famous Indian cricketer.
Jessie Grewal, India’s top golfing coach says, "Golf has moved from being a social status to a sport. We have a whole different section of society coming into golf, people from non-golfing backgrounds." The sport is opening up to those on lower incomes due to the availability of subsidised green rates and public golf courses; and further investment, including the leasing of government land for courses, could revolutionise the game in the country. India has about 200 official golf courses. Plus, now with tournaments such as the Indian Open and the Avantha Masters offering prize money of millions of dollars it is changing the sporting landscape.
In India golf has traditionally been a game played by the super-wealthy because of the expense of joining a private club which could be anything up to $90,000 (£56,000) for life membership. The National Golf Academy located in Chandigarh, the Punjab and north of India is where Mr Grewal coaches. The Academy reflects the changing face of the game as now some 90% of the people who attend the Academy are from non-golfing backgrounds. It is estimated there are now about 50,000 active golfers in India with this figure set to grow.
Yet, it is in Mumbai's slums that here lies the real story and proof that the game has a wider reach, and appeal. Here players swing off from a range of vantage points, including a rubbish mound, a vegetable cart, and a truck. The players improvise and get round the expense of buying new clubs by using handmade irons made from bent pieces of metal and instead of a putting green, the keen golfers hit the ball into holes marked out of the dry earth using stones.
Bappu Shahane who earns 4,000 rupees (£56/$90) per month as a caddy at a local elite golf club organises golf tournaments in the nearby poor areas where the winner can win 100 rupees (£1.40/ $2.24). Mr Shahane has dreams and aspirations, he says, "I want to take my game to the next level as a professional and to do that we need some kind of help and sponsorship from outside." As more money is injected into the game, and more land being given over for public golf courses Mr Shahane’s dream could slowly become a living reality.
Photo credit: Kaushal Karkhanis