Teeing Off At A Centuries-Old Golf Club For Women In Kolkata

Inaugurated in 1891, the Calcutta Ladies Golf Club is considered to be one of the oldest golf clubs in the world
Captain Dhritipriya Raydasgupta and President Nina Singh take a break between the shots
Captain Dhritipriya Raydasgupta and President Nina Singh take a break between the shotsSandipan Chatterjee

In a corner of the vast stretch of green that is the Maidan in Kolkata sits a cosy green cabin with chintz curtains, white windows, and plush sofas. Inside, you'll find groups of women in tees, visor caps, and arm sleeves discussing caddies, birdies, bogeys, tees, and putters.

This is the Calcutta Ladies Golf Club (CLGC), one of the oldest golf clubs in the world for women. It was founded and inaugurated by 12 lady members on May 7, 1891, and has been governed by women for a very long time. 

Over the years, the CLGC and its challenging golf course have been instrumental in promoting female golf in India, notably in Kolkata. The club has produced renowned female golfers such as Simi Mehra and Vandana Agrawal.

The CLGC is the only all-women golf club in India; when it was inaugurated, it was the only one in the world where women managed everything. "The club is run entirely by women. From stocking the bar to food to staff management to scoring, women handle everything," says Dhritipriya Raydasgupta, Captain, CLGC.

The centuries-old cabin of the Calcutta Ladies Golf Club
The centuries-old cabin of the Calcutta Ladies Golf Club Sandipan Chatterjee

Women in Charge

"Golf, like measles, should be caught young," says P. G. Wodehouse in "The Clicking of Cuthbert".

That's an adage that may not hold here. Papri Saha, 48, has been playing for the last seven years. Her daughter started playing at age 10. Some were introduced to the game by partners who are golfers or were inspired by their children. "There are various ways of arriving at this destination," says Saha. "Once you are here, you find it difficult to leave."

Among the members are Mary Bhattacharya, who has played golf for the last 50 years, and Rina Sen, 62, who started playing only four or five years back.

Monday is "Club Day," when the members come to play their weekly game. "Monday is the day the women are most free," explains Raydasgupta. Some members play their game on Saturdays if that is convenient.

Often, a curious crowd gathers around the players on the Maidan., especially on weekends when the many cricket clubs have their sessions. "The golf ball can hurt, so we get the space cleared of crowds sometimes, with the help of the mounted police," says Raydasgupta.

Apart from the Maidan, the women can play in other spaces. For instance, they have a reciprocal arrangement with the Royal Calcutta Turf Club at the Race Course. They can also play at the 9-hole course at Fort William on certain days. And they can play at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) once a week.

"You know that RCGC did not allow women to play? You could not even enter beyond the dining room and pool," says Dhritipriya. "That's how this club was formed. The English ladies did not have a space to play golf. They approached the Viceroy and were given a piece of leasehold land on the Maidan. It was just a tent made of canvas at that time."

When the club started taking in local Indian women, the members were "literally the Who's Who of Calcutta," she continues. "Ordinary women were denied access."

Today, the club is open to new members, and members can bring guests and avail of the facility based on their interests.

The Calcutta Ladies Golf Club has carved out a space in what is still a male-dominated sport. The game of golf has traditionally been a male turf for a long time. Even now, women are not allowed into several clubs and even golfing events worldwide.

In 2002, The Guardian reported that the venue for the Open Championship that year did not allow women members. It was only in 2017 that Scotland's Muirfield golf course permitted women to join for the first time after members had a change of heart following the loss of the right to hold the prestigious Open championship. In 2014, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews finally voted to accept female members for the first time in its 260-year history.

The CLGC is among the first golf clubs to be established and managed independently by women golfers
The CLGC is among the first golf clubs to be established and managed independently by women golfersSandipan Chatterjee

The History Of The Club

Women were kept out of golf spaces for a long time. According to some reports, it was in 1811 that the first known women's golf tournament was held at Musselburgh Golf Club in Scotland. 

Therefore, it is remarkable that Calcutta forged a path in women's representation in this sport by opening a women's golf club less than three decades later. 

The Calcutta Ladies Golf Club has a fascinating history. Lady Curzon, wife of the then Viceroy of India, Lady Frazer, wife of the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, and other women members contributed to the original club building, a canvas tent. To comply with the restrictions that prohibit the construction of permanent structures in the Maidan, a wooden structure on wheels and rails was built in 1931. Some of the wheels and rails are still intact. The club cabin was towed by wheels inside Fort William for safeguarding during WWII.

By 1953, the club's membership had grown to 433, necessitating the addition of expansions to the club building. After that, washrooms, dressing rooms, a catering wing with a bar, and other amenities were added to the club. 

In 1905, the CLGC hosted the first All India Ladies Amateur Golf Championship. The CLGC continued to organise the event every year, until December 1969, when the IGULS (Indian Golf Union Ladies Section) was created at the CLGC's initiative, and it was agreed to host the championship in Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, and other significant golf cities in India by rotation.

Relaxing after a game inside the club
Relaxing after a game inside the club Sandipan Chatterjee

The Facilities

The Club has a nine-hole golf course on the Maidan, opposite Fort William South Gate, and an 18-hole putting green and practice facility inside the clubhouse premises. They organise golf training camps from time to time. Regular golf tournaments are scheduled for members every Monday and Saturday afternoon on the CLGC course and Thursday afternoon on the RCGC course.

The clubhouse is a well-furnished, cosy, and comfortable cottage surrounded by greenery, plants, flowerbeds, and tall majestic trees. It is popular with members and their guests for organising informal get-togethers.

Inside the clubhouse, there is a well-stocked bar and a multi-cuisine restaurant. Members can enjoy food and beverages with their family and friends in the clubhouse's cosy area or CLGC lawns. Members can also use the facilities for small gatherings/parties.

Address: Hospital Road, Maidan, Kolkata, West Bengal 700071. Timing: 6 am to sundown, Thursdays closed.

Office: Flat No. 605, 6th Floor, Annapurna Building, 12 A, Lord Sinha Road, Kolkata.

Website: https://calcuttaladiesgolfclub.in/

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