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Demystifying the business of green

Golf isn’t just another leisurely sport played by the who’s who of India incorporated. It’s actually considered to be the champagne brunch of the top rung of the country. Its like the ‘sex and the city’ lunches of downtown Manhattan as we saw in the series. Albeit for men.

For years we have seen the biggest movers and shakers like Franklin Roosevelt, George Bush, John F Kennedy, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Barack Obama and now even Donald Trump as golfers and seen most successful CxOs take to the fairways.

And that’s really the impression one has of the sport. The golfing man is associated with seven digit salaries, yachts and living the good life with ample money to spend if not time, quite ironically as the game requires 4-5 hours of undivided attention!

When you first think of the world of golf, it’s intimidating: high course charges coupled with expensive equipment. The dream gets killed even before you go for your first tee off. But the reality is far different than perceived reality. And in this case, while the perceived reality is that the sport caters to the classes. It’s now making a conscientious effort to reach out to the masses. Say, the man I just tee’d off with–Rishi Narain, the man who has changed the face of golf in India.

He is an Asian Gold medalist pro-golfer turned golf entrepreneur and now working extensively to grow the sport as a golf promoter–a pioneer in the business of the green but getting the sport corporate money in an undulating environment.

Narain demystifies golf each time I play with him. He reminds me how every city is adding a driving range and that’s where the game is really grown. Interestingly, the Indian Golf Union now offers a life membership at a very affordable price that gives you full access to any course in the country, where memberships are available at prohibitive costs. He is helping the sport get more inclusive. Whether its golfing foundations mushrooming or more public drive being added to the cities, the game is seeing a steady influx of people from all stratas.

He’s a man who helps create brand stories for most of his clients through the sport that he believes in–golf. A rare career choice, this pioneer of golf management in India is aggressive off the fairways. He started off as someone who wanted to see the game grow and holds fort with his conviction till date with the bottom-up strategy he adopted for his rare career. Getting first set of clients to fund the game and keeping it running for someone like him is like a ‘walk on the course’. Most CEOs end up making a huge network base being golfers. And he is no different. Relationships for most are built on the course and they make their way into the boardrooms from fairways. No other sport allows you that platform.

They say the most important shot in golf is the next one and this man is now headed for his next round of corporate golfing season fully funded to make a difference to the business of the game.

Chaiti Narula is a business journalist and an anchor at WION