As the Director of the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), Padamjit Sandhu is well placed to explain the golfing boom which his native land is currently experiencing.
With five international tournaments – this week’s Guajarat Kensville Challenge on the Challenge Tour, next month’s Avantha Masters on The European Tour, and three more on the Asian Tour – now held in the country in addition to those on the domestic Tour, Indian golfers have arguably never had it so good.
The practice facilities and championship course at Kensville Golf and Country Club, in Ahmedabad, are a case in point, with the condition and design of Jeev Milkha Singh’s co-creation drawing glowing praise from the Challenge Tour’s membership.
Sandhu was understandably delighted with the positive feedback he and other members of the PGTI had received, saying: “Our aim is to grow this tournament year on year, and the comments we’ve heard from the players will definitely help in that respect. The course has really matured over the past 12 months. It was already a great layout, and now the condition of the course is up to a similar standard.
“Through word of mouth, a lot of the players have come along this year, from home and abroad, and they’ve all been impressed with what they’ve seen. Shiv [Kapur] and Gaganjeet [Bhullar] have both praised the facilities here now, and that’s a good enough recommendation for me.
“It’s a testing course, which is one of the main requirements of hosting a Challenge Tour event. You can’t have easy courses where the winning score is 20 or 25 under par. Last year Gaganjeet won on five under par, and whilst the scoring this year might be a little lower because we’re not expecting much wind and because the course is in better condition, it won’t be that much different.”
With two rounds of the tournament still to be played that remains to be seen, but what is certain is that golf’s popularity is increasing year on year.
With cricket a religion in the sub-continent, players such as Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur will never replace the likes of Sachin Tendulkar in the nation’s affections, but the aim of the PGTI is to try to make golf the second favourite sport of a population which numbers around one billion.
Sandhu said: “Our major long-term objective is to grow the game and generate interest across the whole country, not just in the big cities. If a city has a course capable of hosting an event, we’ll do our level best to go there. On our developmental Tour in India, we host seven events in smaller cities where we do not allow the top 60 players to compete.
“Some of the courses might not be able to host a 72-hole professional tournament but they can host developmental Tour events. So far, the tournaments we have staged have been very successful, and the more we have, the more the popularity of golf will grow across the country.”
Sameer Sinha, Managing Director of the tournament promoters Savvy Group, has witnessed at first hand the growth of the game in the city of Ahmedabad and across the state of Gujarat.
He has lofty ambitions for the future of the Guajarat Kensville Challenge, saying: “Our goal is to host a European Tour event at Kensville in the coming years, and if the course continues to mature, I see no reason why we can’t achieve that goal.
“We now have more than 500 golf club members playing regularly in Gujarat, whereas this time last year the number was only around the 200 mark. We also have a total of eight courses already built or being built, and the new three-tiered driving range in the centre of Ahmedabad is proving to be very popular. So the situation is looking very positive at the moment, and if the game continues to grow at the current rate, there is no limit to what could be achieved here.”