Short dresses, long-tanned legs, high heels and Prada shades mingled with crusty footwear, dhotis, kurtas and turbans. The smooth and sassy with the rough and earthy. These were unprecedented scenes in Indian golf. Trust Jeev Milkha Singh to be at the centre of it all—he has this ability to come up with something new every once in a while.
There was a build up to this unusual get-together. ‘Kensville Golf Living’ hoardings had sprung up around Ahmedabad, one with Jeev smiling down on the city-zens announcing the opening of the ‘Jeev Milkha Singh signature course’. Golf being fairly unknown in these parts, the announcement created curiosity among the city’s high rollers. As for their rural counterparts, the large tracts of trimmed turf laid out over moulded earth, lakes and sand pits where once lay their meagre holdings, aroused curiosity, too. To the organisers credit, there was no discrimination as far as invitees were concerned.
So, on this pleasant Sunday in the second week of January, inhabitants of Ahmedabad and its periphery came together, both sides wide-eyed at the sight of a charming larger-than-life golfer, and then there was the offer of a lifestyle very few were familiar with.
The adulation, again, was something an Indian golfer would not have experienced. It was cricket-like. Youngsters scrambled for signed golf balls, hundreds of autographs were scribbled out and photographs were taken—young ladies snuggling up to him, golfers shaking his hand and the local village panchayat posing somberly as Jeev smiled in their midst.
Owned by Millennium Park Holdings Private Ltd, it has taken longer than anticipated to bring Kensville to life. Piecing together almost 700 acres of land was a task in itself. “It has been an on and off project but I still believe it’s a goldmine,” says Inder Talwar, one of the three Kenya-based NRIs involved with the golf and real estate development. “To me, it’s a commercial investment as well as love for golf.”
Another consistent name over the past eight-odd years is that, of course, designer Col. K.D. Bagga. In fact, it was Col. Bagga’s persistence that helped the golf course see the light of the day. He was the only one on the site who knew golf! Over 130 local villagers were used to shape the land. “If you are clear in your mind about what you want, you can deliver,” he says. And he has, with an impressive 7,300-yard layout in about Rs 8.5 crore. “I want to bring more people into the game and the only way is make affordable yet quality golf courses.”
Jeev, who has endorsed the course, concurs: “This is a long and challenging layout and considering how it has been built, it is a remarkable effort.”
For Sameer Sinha, currently the driving force behind the gated community, signing Jeev made perfect business sense. “There has to be brand recognition with the client base. How many people know Jack Nicklaus or Greg Norman? On the other hand, everybody who will eventually live or play here would know Jeev.” Can’t argue with that.
—Prabhdev Singh is Editor, Golf Digest India