By Akash Pharande, MD, Pharande Spaces
Because the elite game of golf has been around in India ever since most of us can remember, it does not mean it always existed here. However, India does have a long, rich golf heritage dating back to the 19th century – and it does have the distinction of being only the second country in the world to host a golf club back then.
India’s first golf club, started in Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1829 was the oldest of such clubs outside of Great Britain. After this, the second golf club was started in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1842, followed by the third one in 1876, which came up in Bengaluru (then Bangalore). In 1878, it was the turn of Assam to launch India’s fourth golf club, followed by Ahmedabad in 1884 and Chennai (then Madras) in 1886. Hyderabad, the City of Nizams, opened its own golf course a year later.
India hosted its inaugural national-level golf championship in 1892, with the Royal Calcutta Golf Club being the venue for the first All-India Amateur Golf Championship. This event, too, was distinguished by the fact that with the British Open of 1860 being the world’s first such golfing event, this one was the second-oldest global golf tournament.
Thereafter, the ‘sport of kings’, as it was known, spread quickly. Spurred on by the occupying British’s intense preoccupation with the sport, golf courses began to appear across the width and length of the Indian subcontinent. However, it continued to be driven chiefly by the presence of the British in India. This fact caused golf to remain culturally dependent even if Indians participated in it.
It was not till 1958 that the Indian golf story became a distinct post-Independence phenomenon, with the Indian Championship being shunted out of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, instead taking place in Bombay, Calcutta, and Delhi.
Today, golf continues to be an aspirational and avidly pursued sport in India. Nevertheless, full-fledged golf courses are exceptions rather than the rule in most cities because of the rampant spread of urban real estate sprawl. As a result, memberships to golf clubs with attached golf courses are a matter of social standing and highly prized.
Urban land is costly because of its shortage and demand for housing and commercial real estate. Creating a golf course requires a developer to set aside substantial land parcels that most developers would typically develop into lucrative real estate formats.
While 4-7 acres suffice to set up a basic golf course, a three-hole course and driving range require at least 8–12 acres. Thereafter, the requirement of undeveloped but well-maintained land rises from between 15-30 acres for a 6-9 hole executive golf course to 75 acres and more for a full-fledged 18 hole course. An international standard championship golf course requires 120 acres of pristinely manicured land.
Not surprisingly, townships with golf courses are the ultimate standard of luxury in Indian real estate, and very few developers offer them. A golf course is a very different offering from a health and wellness perspective than, say, a tennis court or a large gym. The reasoning is simple – if a developer must buy so much land, it will be far more profitable to fill it with real estate rather than keep it reserved for a golf course.
To live in a project with an attached golf course is something that few Indians can dream of.
Obviously, homes in golf-centric projects are in huge demand and see much higher price appreciation than other luxury housing. A villa is a golf-centric township will see as much as 5-12% higher price growth over 5 years than a traditional luxury villa. Land is the most scarce resource today and will become increasingly scarce over time.
However, Indian HNIs generally do not think about resale value but rather the superb lifestyle quotient that a home in a golf-centric project gives them. While golf is no longer the ‘sport of kings’, it undoubtedly remains a passion pursued mainly by high networth individuals in India.