As Chandigarh Golf Club celebrated its golden jubilee in a function on Wednesday evening, 66-year-old Pandit Gopal Dutt Shastri was busy in making the arrangements for the members as well guests. As the oldest serving employee of the club, Swami, who now works as the manager internal administration, has seen the club and course from close since 1977 and also worked with Subedar Major Kartar Singh during the expansion of the course from 12 holes to 18 holes in 1978.
“I joined Chandigarh Golf Club on November 25, 1977 as office assistant. At that time, Subedar Kartar Singh, who was the first employee of the club, would make learn all the work and we would often walk on the 12 holes. There was a shortage of water and sometimes, we had to go to nearby village to find caddies for the members. The canteen was also a small shop and members would bring packed lunch apart from some Army officers bringing their own 1-2 bottles of whiskey. It was only in 1988 that the club got the licence for bar. I worked under past presidents like RS Talwar and Prem Bhatia. It feels special to be part of the club’s journey,” Swami told Chandigarh Newsline.
Founded in 1962, the then Punjab CM Pratap Singh, then Punjab sports minister AL Fletcher, then chief secretary Punjab PN Thapar, who also was the first president of the club, played an important role in its formation. The club, which was registered as society in 1966, got the land for building in 1969 with the then Punjab governor Dharma Vira getting the land allocated from UT Administration and the building was inaugurated on April 24, 1969. TK Sehgal, who was the first secretary of the club from 1962 till 1977, was also instrumental in running the office of the club from his factory Meters and Instruments before the club got the building. Simran Singh (85), who was one of the early members of the club recalls the time.
“I was posted as badminton coach when the golf club was started in 1962. I was working as badminton coach at that time and applied for the membership in 1965. In between my duty, I would often go to play golf and with less than 40 members at that time, we would spent a lot of time at the club. Later, when the club got the land for nine holes, more people wanted to come and play golf. Earlier there were no waiting period for tee time. Nowadays the sport has grown and the course too has grown in terms of the challenges and outfield and it is heartening to see the course develop into a world class course,” shared Simran, who was a former captain of the course.
The course initially had nine holes with eight greens and three more holes were added in the late 1960’s. In 1977-78, it was decided to convert the course into 18-hole golf course with five-time British Open champion Peter Thompson designing the course. Major BS Malhotra (Retd), who was the secretary from 1980 to 1982, started the work along with Simran Singh. “It was a daunting task for all of us. There were huge sarkandas near the Sukhna Lake and we would walk with flags to see the work and do inspections. Subedar Major Kartar Singh would manage all the office work and it was near the present pro shop. We used to sit in that verandah and do the work,” recalls Malhotra.
Over the years, the club has seen the presence of International and national golfers with 14-time international title winner Jeev Milkha Singh being the most successful golfer from the club. “I would call the Chandigarh Golf Club a home away from home. When I started playing golf, apart from school, I would spent most of my day here. The club had 12 holes at that time and later it was converted to 18 holes later. The way the Chandigarh Golf Club has evolved to be one of the best in the country is commendable. It’s a challenging course and such kind of course helps youngsters. I am sure more talented golfers will come from the club and do the nation proud,” said Jeev.