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Golf in Army: Do not make it elitist

The worst effect of golf on soldiers is that it perpetuates a brown sahib culture.

opinion Updated: Aug 12, 2018 12:02 IST
Col RD Singh (retd)
Col RD Singh (retd)
Army,Golf,Golf in Army
Golf courses are maintained at a high cost, taking a heavy toll on army resources.

The news of the army chief banning golf in the operationally active areas of Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast struck a chord with me. I was reminded of an incident two years back when, at about 6pm, while driving home from work at Ambala Cantonment, my car was stopped near the golf course by two army boys in sports gear. When asked why, they said “Saheb, the golfers are coming”.

By now quite a few vehicles had lined up behind me. Soon, I saw two golf carts crossing the road dividing the course with the players in front and their caddies sitting behind. I felt bad. Why should golfers be treated like the elite, and why should traffic have to stop for a golf cart?

Even at the cost of annoying some of my seniors and colleagues, let me share my candid opinion with you on the negative fallout of this otherwise fine game. I feel it is particularly relevant at this time when the army is already fighting to save its cantonments/assets and its soldierly ethos.

The worst effect of golf on soldiers is that it perpetuates a brown sahib culture. Else, why should traffic have to come to a halt for a few golfers to cross the road? Golf courses are maintained at a very high cost and are resource-intensive, taking a heavy toll on army resources.

The requirement of water and power to keep the ‘greens’ lush and manicured is colossal. Quite a large number of engineering resources are required for maintenance of the area.

In fact, you can be sure that the most popular spot at any station will be the golf course with a large number of senior officers, including the visiting senior commanders, making a beeline for it every day.

Another negative point is that some ambitious officers feel this is the right place to butter their bread. Sorry for using this phrase, but it is a fact that many officers talk shop while playing golf. I feel that is not only incorrect, but unethical. An officer who does not play golf but plays other sports such as basketball or volleyball, sometimes suffers.

Golf is also one of the reasons for the growing distance between the officers and jawans. Unless the officers join their men for a round of hockey or soccer, games requiring sweat and toil, how will they remain physically fit and how will the bonhomie between them increase?

Today, officers are keen to be seen on the golf course rather than on the basketball court, particularly those of the rank of colonels and upwards. It is because they have, wrongly or rightly, been tutored about “G standing for golf and G for general”. And once someone becomes a general then he more often than not welcomes self-seeking officers who bring a bad name to our fine organisation.

Golf is no substitute for soldiers’ physical fitness or training for war. That is why General K M Cariappa (later Field Marshal), had cautioned officers against wasting time on useless pursuits, famously saying, “Every second that you waste in peace you will pay for in blood during war for the lives of men you command are in your hands”.

Please, I am not against golf. By all means play golf, but do not think you are a class apart and lose touch with your men or neglect your profession. It is also not a shortcut to good annual confidential reports (ACRs) or a playing ground for impressing your seniors.

Take it like any other sport. It is a good game of the mind, where you play against yourself. You walk for about five to six km on the lovely greens, and it relaxes you. It is also an excellent game for retired officers who can spend a few hours on the golf course and meet other officers. It is a good part of their daily routine.

We are a highly disciplined and professional army. Let’s treat golf like any other sport and not something extra special.

First Published: Aug 12, 2018 12:02 IST