Personal Finance

Swinging to the Golf tune

Meera Siva | Updated on January 20, 2018



The golf course is where business gets done and deals are signed

Imagine you are wrapped in plush greenery amid complete tranquillity and breathtaking, picturesque views.

As you pull out an iron club, the focus is fully on the way the wind is blowing (and not the tensions of corporate life).

A big whoosh of the wind and the dimpled ball is hoist in the air. Welcome to the world of Golf, which isn’t a simply a leisure sport. The golf course is where business gets done or so many corporate bigwigs would claim.

Popular sport

Golf is a hugely popular sport worldwide. In the US itself, there are about 15,000 golf courses with 25 million golfers. About one in eight Americans is a golfer today with the 2015 US Open tournament attracting 6.7 million TV viewers.

Golf is also a huge business with the golf equipment market alone worth $9 billion.

In addition, there is a separate market for golf course development, services and golf travel. Then there are the intangibles. It’s popularly said that business and political deals are made over golf and that the bond of golf buddies is seldom broken.

The cricket-crazy Indians — especially the crème-de-la-crème — are slowly swinging to the Golf tune.

Age agnostic

For one, it doesn’t have an age barrier and is suitable for people of all ages. One can start playing right as a child, at middle age or even post retirement. Not many sports can claim to have such a wide appeal.

While sports such as tennis require a lot of physical fitness and can be demanding as one gets older, it is not so with golf.

According to golfers, all you need to play golf is to be physically fit. “A golfer might have to be out in the sun for close to five hours to play a round of golf and that calls for endurance,” says Tarun Sardesai who is a certified instructor, mentor as well as a former golf professional.

While one can turn into a professional golfer at any age, many parents are eager to introduce the sport early to their children. Take the case of Vani Kapoor, a top-ranked Indian women golfer. Her dad, a golfer, introduced her to the game, when she was just nine years old.

As a kid, she played for fun and never thought of choosing this sport as a career, but later chose to turn pro in 2012. Also, the success of Indian professionals such as Anirban Lahiri and Jeev Milkha Singh on the international stage is triggering interest for the younger generation to take up the sport.

Networking naturally

Even if your intention is not to go professional, golf can still be a great sport to network with senior management executives.

“I started playing golf early in my life when I was just starting my career. I met a few CXOs on the course, people I would never have had access to, if not for our common love for golf,” confesses Arjun Lal, an avid golfer, who is also the Director of Golf Operations, Zion Hills Golf County.

Who can honestly deny the relationship-building abilities of golf? asks Ranganath Thota, Founder & CEO of Golfgaga Greens. “If you play a game of golf with a client, you get to spend six hours with that person. You cannot dream of getting that sort of time in any other situation,” he says.

Many mid-level managers also aspire to learn the game to ‘go up the ladder’ through networking, according to Thota, although he admits the deal-making aspect is not yet fully developed in India compared to other nations.

It is usually said that  golf buddies form strong bonds and often travel together to exotic golf courses across the globe. Not the least, playing a round of golf is also a great stress reliever. After all, it gives you a chance to get away from the pollution, noise and the fast pace of city life, while enjoying some quality time in the lap of nature.

Holistic healing

If you are taking up the sport to remain fit, then golf fits the bill. For starters, it offers holistic healing for your mind and body. After all, hitting a golf ball 300 yards away takes immense strength and, in the process, one gets to do a lot of walking.

“The game makes you flex your body muscles when you play; by the time you finish a round of 18-hole golf, you have walked a good seven km distance,” says P Ranganath Nayak, a Bengaluru-based cardiologist.

Also, you are on a continuous learning curve. Mastering one’s swings and refining them to suit the different weather conditions and seasons is a never-ending process. Unlike other sport, where there is a lot of uniformity in the playing field, golf courses are designed to be unique. “Playing in each course offers the golfer a different experience. Playing in a hilly terrain course versus a beach-side course are completely unique games,” says Thota.

Trying to master a technique or dealing with the frustration of not being able to finish a hole even after many attempts can teach you patience.

Going green

Golf can be an exotic game; getting started is easy and not very expensive. There are about 250 golf courses spread across India, thanks to the Colonial heritage, with many academies having good training facilities.

Initial lessons cost ₹400-1,500 per session. Trainers are certified and coach you on a one-on-one basis. “It took me close to 10 classes and a few practice sessions over a period of two to three months to learn the basics,” says Lal.

You can start off with the demo clubs at the training facilities, says Callaway Golf, an equipment maker. If you decide to plunge into the game, golf can be very addictive, warn golfers. A beginner’s kit starts from ₹30,000 and could go up to ₹4 lakh. In addition, there are basic accessories, such as caps, gloves, etc that you need to buy.

Look out for complimentary deals that credit card companies are doling out to golf aficionados. Amex Platinum Reserve credit card, for instance, gives complimentary access at many premium courses, while the fee is waived off at some domestic courses.

ICICI Bank Visa Signature credit card gives its users one complimentary round of golf every month, if the total retail spending on your card is at least ₹1 lakh.

So, are you ready to hit the greens?

Published on May 22, 2016

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