The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

The century old tee-off – RCGC


The Royal Colombo Golf Club. - Pic by Amila Gamage

“On the afternoon of Saturday 13th March 1880 nine gentlemen who deserve to be immortalised solemnly met at the Colombo Club and held the first General Meeting of the Colombo Golf Club confirming that “as this was the first anniversary of the club and as the membership was growing fast, it was necessary to appoint a committee so that rules could be framed.” Edward Aitken (of Aitken Spence) took the chair and R.L.M. Brown (“usually known as ‘Chetty’ Brown as his initials were suggestive of a Sea Street vilasam”) was the first Hony. Secretary.

Probably some gifted clerk of his firm, Lewis Brown and Co; engrossed the minutes of the Meeting which was beautifully written out in copper plate.” – Brooke Elliott – The earliest historian, the late Mr. C. Brooke Elliott k.c. The first scribe of the Voet Lights Society of Advocates founded in 1899 was a leading Advocate in Colombo for many years was appointed King’s Counsel whose records and accounts of History are extracted and reproduced.

The rich history of Golf and life in Ceylon under the British Empire reflect and record pomp and pageantry and the elitist Society who were even allowed to play Golf. The game was controlled by the Members who were wealthy and those who held high Office in His Majesty’s service or in the British owned Private Companies.

The members introduced Rules as the membership grew and some of the first rules introduced was the Entrance Fee which was fixed at Rs.10 and the Annual subscription for Colombo residents at Rs.10, with Outstation members paying Rs.5. The year was 1881 and until local rules were framed, the rules of the Calcutta Golf Club, (which was founded fifty years earlier) were to be adopted. The Rules for members including various Club matters with a few Local Rules like ‘dung’ on the Course, ‘out of bounds’ etc; was periodically updated. However by 1921 Golf and golfing personalities had taken their place with the great sporting events and sportsmen of that era. The Rules Committee of the Royal and Ancient and the U.S. Golf Association jointly amended the Rules of Golf, the principal amendment being the limiting of the size and weight of the ball, and a uniform penalty of stroke for lost ball, ball out of bounds and an unplayable ball. Since then the R and A Rules of Golf with additions and Decisions included has been the Authority on Rules and decisions for the game. However, with the advent of Ceylonese into the membership and the Independence in 1948 the British membership and dominance gradually faded and by about 1970 the last of the British returned home and ‘Lankans’ by the hundreds joined the Royal Colombo Golf Club which was conferred it’s Royal status on the 7th of June 1928,by His Majesty King George V. The RCGC Members Rule Book with by Laws was. First published in the early 70′s, before which a comprehensive document was drafted when the Ceylon Golf Union was officially founded in 1946. The CGU was formed as a National Governing body of Golf and as such the association did not need many Rules as was no Sports Law for any regulations and restrictions.

Therefore the Rules of Golf and for members duly remained so.. After the early period and with the growth of the membership in the RCGC, NEGC and the introduction of Golf to play Open and ‘Caddy’ Championships the CGU became the SLGU and with it the first ‘Constitution’ for the Governing body of Golf came to be. The word Constitution cannot be associated with traditional Rules of Golf nor members but rather refers to a more profound body of principles according to which a State or Organization is governed. A Club is more an Association and as such Rules and Regulations for members is more appropriate. The RCGC has now grown to a membership of about 2900 of which only about 800 members have a Golf Handicap.

The Active membership is about 400 who play at least 1 round of Golf per year while about 250 compete regularly in monthly Competitions. This analysis illustrates that the genuine Golfing member represents less than 10 per cent of the overall membership. This is the reality of Golf in Sri Lanka today. The growth and progress of any game depends on the numbers that play through which talent is discovered. Golf also represents networking and business dealings at the highest.

Singapore’s meteoric rise as a financial hub and centre for development is a true example for the importance of Golf and International Golf Courses. Singapore with its limited land space has over 15 international standard Golf Courses. The present SLGU President Ana Punchihewa is in the right place at the right time to press forward Golf in Sri Lanka and is in the process of organizing an International standard Professional Golf Tournament attracting over 200 Pro circuit Golfers to participate. The Sri Lanka Air Force Eagle Golf Links in Trincomalee is flying high and the Sri Lanka Navy Course is on the way while it is hoped that the Sri Lanka Army could revive the Diyathalawa 9 hole Golf Course. The Lankan Pro’s are doing well playing in the Asian Tour and Indian Tour with Mithun and Anura Rohana currently on Indonesia. The best Sri Lankan Amateur Thangaraja currently ranked 8th in Asia and 76th in the World won the July Pin Fernando Grand-Prix with a 4 under par 4 round total by two strokes from Sisira Kumara. Veteran Golfer Arumugam was 3rd with an aggregate1 under Par and Zen Dharmaratne 4th on two over par. Vijitha Bandara form Victoria Golf Club was a distant 5th on 9 over par.

The game of Golf in Sri Lanka can contribute significantly to the game and the future lies securely in the hands of the members who are actively duplicated in Colombo, Nuwara Eliya and Victoria. The members who are actively enjoying Club facilities from the distinguished Bar and elegant kitchen will do better for their health and skill development on the whole should they start playing. What is ironic is that those who have the talent among the caddies, ball boys and some others who have no facilities to play at a Club are waiting eagerly on the wings with others not utilising what is available to them. It is hoped that the new guardians of the game and Club’s will find ways and means to develop the game allowing talent to blossom and use those with knowledge and talent to take Golf and Sri Lanka in to the future.

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