Being the Ball—Golf in India

by Bob Bestor

BDjraaHr6hn2lIhlQRs3RVRhmJ2n0oYMj36AwIJMPro,RhShjkKIZ3zvGGQamoLk9y6i9l5IwNsIXdvWGnb7iyAThere comes a time, even in a country as amazing as India, when four men traveling together have had enough of forts, palaces, museums and markets—when a break from the traditional sites is required and a manly activity that men like to do is necessary. So after about a week on the road in Rajasthan we decided that a round of golf was in order.

Throughout India you find men idly hanging out just about everywhere. And the front gate of Rambagh Golf Club in Jaipur is no exception. We pulled up to its somewhat humble entrance and were soon herded onto the grounds by a few of these men.

A short walk led us down into the bowels of the club and to a crowded office where we were able to communicate our intention to play golf that day. The men working in the office communicated to us that we needed to see the boss before we could be allowed to play. Soon we presented ourselves to the man in charge of the whole operation (the Raj of Rambagh perhaps?) seeking his blessing.

Handshakes and greetings went all around and I simply stated our intention, “We would like to play golf today here at your golf course.”

“Yes,” was his answer. But it was not a “yes” said with the tone of granting our wish. It was a “yes” said more with a tone that made it sound like “Yes, I acknowledge your inquiry and I am considering it.”

Golf Course Sign

A few awkwardly silent moments followed while he looked us over and soon Dave, who is much better at greasing the skids than I, chimed in with perfect gravitas: “We have traveled all the way from the western coast of the United States. And from the moment we decided to visit India we knew that we simply must visit Jaipur to play a round at world famous Rambagh Golf Club.”

Well that did it, and this time the Raj answered with an enthusiastic yet stately, “It is done.” We were in. A brief, convivial conversation ensued in which we were asked about our handicaps and were informed of prices and services. It was all acceptable, and within minutes we were standing at the first tee with our caddies at the ready.

Komsel w_India FlagThe golf course and caddies were great. This was the first time I’d ever had a caddy and my man, Komsel, right away had me figured out for the tremendous slouch that I am. Rambagh is a fine, challenging and well-maintained track that features sandy soil for firm and fast conditions. Other than women dressed in bright saris weeding the greens and the gigantic Indian flag billowing in the distance, you could be on any golf course anywhere.

The caddies were knowledgeable, and mine in particular was quite helpful. So helpful in fact that on at least three occasions I arrived at my ball after a very wayward shot to find that it was nowhere near as wayward as I had thought. In fact all three times my ball ended up in excellent position. After the third such occurrence, I realized that on each occasion my caddy had run well ahead to “find” my ball. He probably thought that the better I scored, the happier I would be and the more I would tip. He was correct on all accounts!

More than basic golf communication with my caddy Komsel was difficult. I asked him what score the best golfer he’d ever caddied for shot and he answered, “four hours.” I carefully rephrased the question but once again the answer was “four hours.” However all the caddies knew a couple of key golf phrases in English. Whenever one of us hit a grounder, they would diagnose our mistake by saying “head up” in unison. With any shot hit well offline, it was “wrong DI-rection,” once again said pretty much in unison. Thanks for the help guys.

Notes:

The total charge per golfer for greens fee, club rental, caddy fee and a brand new sleeve of balls was 3400 rupees (about $55). We passed on cart rentals, which would have been another 1000 rupees per player.

We did buy tees from a man hanging out somewhat idly at the first tee. While he didn’t appear to be an employee of the club, he did seem to be the only option. We each bought a couple of tees for 10 rupees while he pretty much harangued us to purchase extra balls, gloves and tees. We declined all but the tees.

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