Improbable it may sound, but Lutyens’ Delhi, which boasts of the highest real estate prices in the country, also harbours a tax haven. Spread over 175 acres of prime land, valued at over Rs 1 lakh crore, the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) enjoys enormous benefits by virtue of its unique status.
Operating on land leased by the government to promote the sport, the DGC is acting against its principles. The club’s Memorandum and Articles of Association clearly state, “The Delhi Golf Club Limited is founded to promote the game of golf…”
Now, commercialisation is the driving force. Despite stiff opposition, the management has gone ahead and doubled the green fee for non-members from February 1. Not only is the fee structure among the highest in the National Capital Region, what is difficult to fathom is while properties like the Jaypee Greens and DLF Golf & Country Club are private-run, the DGC operates out of public land and enjoys subsidies.
The move apparently is driven by twin motives — to prevent non-members, who form a large chunk of those using the course, from playing, and making them pay for its upkeep, thus protecting the pockets of the few permanent members.
As things stand, a non-member who earlier paid Rs 850 on weekdays now has to cough up Rs 2000 and on weekends and holidays the rate is Rs 3000, up from Rs 1500. “It is ridiculous as the rates were revised nine months ago,” said a non-member. This is in sharp contrast to what the Qutab Golf Course, the country’s first public course, charges — Rs 250 on weekdays and Rs 400 on weekends and a rebate for senior citizens.
“The management defended the hike by saying maintenance costs had gone up. When we asked them to raise the membership fees, the reply was that several of the senior members were poor!” the non-member said.
Unlike private courses, where paying the green fee entitles one to all facilities, including access to the bar and dining area, at DGC it is different.
If that wasn’t enough, a clause has been introduced which states that if a member signs in a guest more than 12 times in a year, the next time he plays, the discount is not applicable and he has to pay the regular fee.
Ex-servicemen form a significant portion of the non-members and their grouse is unlike the Classic Golf Resort and Jaypee Greens, which allow them to utilise the facilities for Rs 550 on weekdays, the DGC has no such offer.
Their pleas falling on deaf ears, some non-members filed an application under the Right to Information Act last month, asking for the “reasons for allotting prime government land to DGC and a copy of the lease deed” and “whether the land is allotted for promotion of the sport of golf or use it for commercial purposes?”
The Ministry of Urban Development issued a notice to secretary, DGC, “to make submissions as to why information should not be disclosed within 10 days”.
The reply says little save “the lessee will use the land only for the bonafide activities of the club for promoting the sport of golf”. The response has steeled the non-members’ resolve to fight on.