The Tollygunge Club

The Tollygunge Club – October 2016 – The Tollygunge Club or Tolly Club as it is known locally was founded in 1895.

I have spent the past couple of days in Kolkata as my plans changed due to unrest in the village I was initially heading to. It has been a blessing in disguise as although I have lost money on flights and accommodation, I have connected with Indrajit Bhalotia who is running numerous programs for underprivileged children in India.

Professional golfer Mintu Banik was scheduled to head north to Chalsa with me but instead, after checking in and waiting to board our flight, I was informed of the unrest up north and was told we should cancel our trip due to safety concerns. So we pulled our luggage from the flight and remained in Kolkata instead.

Mintu met me at my accommodation, a five minute walk from The Tolly Club and I shouldered my clubs as we negotiated the crazy cacophonous Indian traffic. We were met on the other side of the road by Goga, a caddy that Mintu had arranged. I had never used a caddy before and considering the crazy traffic I was continually looking over my shoulder to ensure my clubs had not been taken out by a wayward car.

I met Indrajit on arrival and we had a golf chat about juniors in India. Indrajit has been running numerous programs for underprivileged juniors in Kolkata and runs golf clinics both at The Tolly Club and at Royal Calcutta Golf Club ensuring that caddie’s children and slum children who have never golfed before have access to this wonderful game.

After our golf chat I headed to the range with Mintu – he is practicing for a tournament he has in a couple of days. I think perhaps it was good for him that Chalsa was cancelled too.

We watched some of the junior golfers hole out the 16th and tee off the 17th from the top of the driving range.

At 1pm we headed out to tee off. Again it was strange not carrying my clubs myself and I was hoping I wasn’t offending Goga as I kept going to take my clubs and at times pushed them myself. Poor form making my caddy feel superfluous.

While my driver worked well all day, not much else did.

I always seem to play poorly when I just get off a flight and it didn’t help my feet were swollen from flying and I had squeezed them in to my newish golf shoes. Walking 18 was not ideal but I did nonetheless. I couldn’t seem to manage to hit down on the ball as I was trying to sweep the ball up which never works.

I also think hitting balls off the range mats (which forgive so much) did nothing to help my game as I was hitting some great balls from up there however I know I was drop kicking shots yet still the bounce off the mats recover your shot quite well – but on the ground not so much.

My hands too were a little swollen and my fingers were like slimy sausages trying to ensure I kept the club in my hands. The only time I have ever felt I needed a glove is in the humidity here in India.

The humidity that hangs in the air and at times is visible, reduces the flight of your ball by quite a distance. A few times Goga handed me a club and I said no that is way too much and he would nod his head in disagreement and I would hit the club he handed me and be surprised at the reduced distance.

I did find that I don’t really like being told what to do on a golf course particularly when I putt and  when I mentioned this to my family they all feigned shock.

My putter wasn’t great as the greens were quite slow although I did drop a few good putts but for the first time in a long while I was short on a few. It didn’t help that I had been practicing on astro turf and having the ball fly when barely making contact.

Mintu was playing some great golf and I spent a lot of time laughing at my terrible attempts at hitting a ball.

I was hitting so far behind ball and numerous times I was hitting with the bottom of the club and watching the ball shoot off in various directions. In fact I don’t think I have played this poorly for at least a year.

Once we finished playing nine, Mintu left to practice and I sat at the range catching up on emails before heading out to play the back 9 with Indrajit.

After sitting for 40 minutes my feet complained as I headed back out but I ignored them and tried to focus on keeping a club in my hands.

My towel had been given to Indrajit’s caddy and he was a little horrified when I headed over to wipe my hands – I apologised but my other towel is useless for actually absorbing anything but he was horrified that I needed to use it and he had it in his possession. He shook his head refusing to take the towel back and Goga grabbed it ensuring I had it as I was needing to wipe my hands before every shot.

Running them down my trousers was certainly not helping.

Indrajit was certainly showing why he was a touring pro and hitting some amazing shots, I on the other hand managed maybe five “golf” shots, many pretty good shots and multitudes of rubbish.

Multitudes of rubbish should actually be the title of this blog.

There are a few water hazards to contend with, some tight fairways, then wide open fairways, tricky bunkers (I always seemed to be tucked in nicely at the very edge so I was either hitting into the sand from above or trying to pop it over the top but mostly succeeding in hitting the ball into the centre of the bunker so I could give it another whack. Then I would thin it and watch it fly. I did manage a couple of great bunker shots but not always on my first attempt.

I donated a ball to the nasty rough down the left side on the 16th and having your caddy place a ball for you was quite nice. Goga always ensured I had a great lie and yet I struggled to hit the ball well for the most part.

I was pleased to nail a ball down the 17th fairway after watching some great shots and some terrible shots earlier by the juniors in the tournament. One junior snapping a club over his knee after hitting three in the water – I’m sure the golf gods will punish that behaviour.

The course is a jewel in the middle of a bustling neighbourhood and jackals laze in the shade around numerous holes. I’ve never golfed with jackals before.

Following our round we headed back to Indrajit’s office and I met with five junior golfers who live in a nearby slum. They are all relatively new to golf and love it.

How can you not?

I gave them two Snell Golf balls each, much to their delight and Indrajit had them log the balls with the office as the equipment between the underprivileged is shared so as to not have clubs being sold by desperate families which has unfortunately occurred in the past.

We discussed the best way Fairways can help these children and my plan is to pay for green fees for the five of them for the next 12 months before I leave.

Now to fundraise to cover the costs.


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