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‘Value Of Indian Golfers Is More Outside India’

Golf-veteran Rishi Narain, managing director of RN Sports Marketing, shares his views with Ashish Sinha on why a golf league in India has not been a success so far and what is being done to popularise the sport here

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Golf-veteran Rishi Narain, managing director of RN Sports Marketing, shares his views with Ashish Sinha on why a golf league in India has not been a success so far and what is being done to popularise the sport here.

Edited Excerpts:

Why is golf not very popular with the masses despite active corporate backing, a dedicated golf channel and Indians performing at the top consistently?
There are 1 lakh active golf players in India and 100-odd registered golf clubs (another 100 are with the Indian Army). A golf league was tried in the past, but didn’t go anywhere. We failed to educate people on the nuances of golf, its scoring system, and the science behind a swing and a putt. And of course, on how much money can be made through it internationally. All these steps are essential for building spectators, who may not necessarily play the sport, but who understand it. Once there is a basic understanding, there will be a viewership for the sport. For top golfers to participate in an Indian league, we have to shell out a minimum of $1 million, plus provide business-class tickets and five-star facilities to them for a week. But when Indian golfers, who have done well abroad, go out, they get better value than playing at home. Value of best Indian golfers is more outside of India. That is a sad thing.

What is being done to popularise golf? Can there be a successful golf league in the future?
We are joining hands with the association and federation and various clubs to sign on 20,000-plus new golfers every year for the next five years. We are doing it through our India Golf Expo. We are bringing all the five golf bodies to do this. The mission is to double the number of active golfers. Every existing golfer will need to add two or three members. These new golfers will be encouraged to play the sport across India at a small fees and at non-peak hours at some of the best golf clubs around the country. Once we have a substantial base of players and viewers who understand the game, we will have an audience. At that stage, perhaps, we can make a successful golf league. Indian Golf Union is also driving membership for people to sign up and play at any member golf club. The fees is around Rs 2,500 or so.

If there is a golf league in future, how will it make money?
For a league or a franchise owner to make money in golf, revenue streams have to be created. There are basically four streams of revenue generation: broadcast rights, central pool, gate money or tickets and merchandise. In golf, people don’t pay that kind of money to enter and watch. But look abroad. For one-week-long Augusta Masters, the gate money is $2 million per day. For four days, it’s $8 million. Add 1 million a day for practice days, and we are talking about $10 million in gate money. Then there is also the TV broadcast money and merchandise.

Then there is a unique problem for golf. Indian golfers get more mileage and more value outside India, unlike in cricket where the cricketers in India get the best value in India. Even the overseas players do.

How can the government help?
The government can help the cause of golf by providing land, mostly wasteland, at lower price points, so quality golf courses can be developed. Like the Qutab Golf Course in Delhi. It used to be a dump-yard, a wasteland. Today, it is a green lung for south Delhi. In Chandigarh, the golf course used to be a dry nalah. Now, it is a beautiful golf course that attracts hundreds of first time golfers. Golf courses are self-sustaining in today’s day and age. The Lado Sarai golf course is a good example. We just need more pieces of land to create and develop self-sustaining golf courses. We are not dependent on government to promote golf per se. Golf that way is self-sustaining. Unlike other sports, golf does not depend on government apart from for land pieces.

Is the golf industry on board with the real estate developers to develop golf course? How much does it cost to make a decent golf course?
Yes, the golf federation and industry associations are in touch with developers. At Golf Expo, we have government bodies such as Delhi Development Authority, Naya Raipur Authority and Karnataka Tourism officials. They are there to give land in return for development. If you don’t factor in the cost of land, a decent-sized golf course requires a one-time investment of Rs 10-15 crore. Maintenance is another Rs 1-3 crore annually depending on the size of the course. Water requirement for golf courses is very high. But today, almost all courses are water positive — they return more water to ground than they take. This is possible by developing beautiful lakes and catchment areas to retain rain water.


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