Hyderabad Golfing Blues

A golfing weekend with Mayo 74 in the Deccan heartland

Golf is like a love affair. If you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun; if you do take it seriously, it breaks your heart. I am not sure exactly who said that but it definitely fits my definition of this morbidly addictive game!  Fortunately I am not alone in my magnificent obsession.   It explains why six of us middle-aged and well-rounded Mayoites are winging our way to Hyderabad in the heart of the Deccan. Have golf clubs will travel, that is our chosen motto.  Preferably for free but of course no-frills domestic airlines see it a different way and charge us an unfair premium for shipping our unwieldy cargo. You can always tell a golfer from the animated argument he is having with the check-in staff holding up everyone in the queue!

DAY ONE:  Army Course at Bolarum – Bash on Regardless

Like brave generals surveying enemy terrain, we hit the Bolarum Course on D-Day with a dramatic array of weapons, Taylormade drivers and Ping putters pulled forth from golf bags with a flourish! Army golf courses are very much an afterthought to the main purpose of the base and this one was no different. The ground was hard and unyielding, the scrub thick and unruly and the obstacles forbidding and stuck in the most irritating of places.  A road bisecting the fairway, a mud barrier obscuring the green, a water tank lying in wait below the tee box.  How we golfers love to complain
Golf wear signage at Bolarum

The forward guard consisting of our best officers, Bhawani, Charu and Buddha were soon lost to sight.  The Surdie subalterns Harmeet, Ajaypal and I, handicaps grimly set to 24, straggled behind slashing through the undergrowth in search of lost balls and cursing continuously and loudly.  In my experience, the theory of average golf is that you are doing well if you get one decent shot compared to two rank bad ones. We were certainly not about to break any records that opening day.

Taking my mind off my shitty play, I was entertained by the quaint names the Army had given the various holes. Starting with Genesis and ending with Homecoming, we had a brief Tryst with Perfection before meeting our Waterloo and beating a Retreat into the Sunset.  I got all excited when we reached Kanchenjunga, having actually been to the base camp of that great mountain. However my pathetic opening drive didn’t even reach the bottom of the giant mound that blocked our view of the green.  It was that sort of day and the regimental motto of Bash on Regardless seemed a most fitting description.


DAY TWO:  Hyderabad Golf Association – The Grandeur of Golconda

The next day dawned bright and clear with the Southern sun shining out of blue skies and with just a hint of wind – the perfect golfer’s day.  To match it we had the perfect golf course on our agenda. Hyderabad reached its zenith under the Qutb Shahi dynasty which ruled from 1518 to 1687 and its crown jewel was the magnificent Golconda Fort. The HGA has built its championship course through the outer ramparts and I felt like an emperor as I strode among the ruins, even though my play fell far short of majestic.

For this round, Harmeet and I had been paired up with the versatile Charu Sharma, easily our finest golfer.  We watched in awe as his tee shot landed just short of the water hazard and in perfect line with the green. When it came to my turn, the call to prayer of the local muezzin ringing in my ears and reflected truly on my lips, I swung hard only to see the ball shank right into an abandoned kabristan! The Gods were not smiling on my game.

However, it is a fact of golf that the environment makes all the difference and the perfect conditions did end up making me play better than usual. I even managed the average golfer’s Holy Grail and parred a few holes, leading to muttered grumblings from the ranks of the Surdie subalterns about my ‘’unfair” handicap.  I sailed blithely on, knowing that the iron law of golf averages was about to reassert itself any minute.

Ranjan Pal, Charu Sharma, Harmeet Singh take a bow

And so it was to be.  My game fell entirely apart on the Back Nine and the horrible spectre of a clump of triple bogeys reasserted themselves on my scorecard. Struggling back in the twilight, I saved myself from total ruin with a couple of decent closing holes. But the handicap still worked in my favour and I ended up cleaning up the day’s pot through calculations that seemed as mysterious to me as our Math teacher OPA’s scribblings on the blackboard back in the day!

DAY THREE:  Boulder Hills – The Ultimate Ball-Buster

The website of the Boulder Hills golf course has this to say “If you are playing here the first time make sure you have at least a dozen balls as this course is known to swallow them up at a faster rate than you would want!” Truer words were never spoken and by the end of the day, I was in debt to my fellow players not in terms of bets lost but in old balls borrowed.  The carnage started right from the first hole when I sliced the ball left into a rocky pool guarded by huge boulders which made it impossible to approach. These ancient rock formations are a unique feature of the Hyderabad landscape – they are the outcome of millennia of erosion of the granite ridges and hillocks that make up the Deccan plateau.

Today I was paired up with two characters that were a study in contrast – Singhs Buddha and Bhawani. Buddha, understated and mild-mannered like his spiritual namesake, is from Manipur and easily the most talented sportsman of our batch.  Bhawani, overstated and assertive, is from Jaipur and used to issuing orders as only to be expected from a prince and a warrior!  Since none of us had any idea at all of the layout, we spent our time cursing and racing around like madmen over the rock-strewn course in our caddie less golf carts – we may as well have been on Mars riding around in our rovers.

Ajaypal, Harmeet, Charu, Buddha, Ranjan and Bhawani of Mayo 74 Golf

Well all bad things must come to an end as did this round of golf. I spent my time trailing behind the other two, looking for lost balls without the benefit of a helpful caddy, the Indian golfer’s version of purgatory. The average golfer struggles with either minimising triple bogeys or preserving balls, depending on whether he or she is having a good or a bad day and I was clearly in the latter category. As the shadows lengthened behind the giant boulders, we came down the green home stretch, weary in bone and body after three continuous days of golf.  The second edition of Mayo’74 golf was at an end and the golf courses of the Deccan having been put to the sword (technically speaking the driver) by the Mongol hordes.  Not to mention the nightly rations of beer and biryani that kept us going throughout the short campaign.

Ranjan Pal

Ranjan Pal is a Gurgaon-based blogger, photographer and world traveller. His travel stories and photographs have appeared in a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveller, National Geographic Traveller, and Outlook Traveller.