GOLF IN JAIPUR : THOSE WERE THE DAYS
Maharani Gayatri Devi, the former Queen Mother of the erstwhile Princely State of Jaipur was known for her beauty and elegance but few would know her love for Golf. It was in 1943, while holidaying at Gulmarg in Kashmir that she first had a feel of this awesome game of Golf. She got so fascinated by the sport that the first thing she did after reaching back home was that she insisted the Maharaja to lay out a Golf Course for her . His Highness Maharaja Man Singh II of Jaipur was an epitome of chivalry and a debonair horseman who enjoyed an apex handicap of 10 in Polo.
Incidentally, higher the handicap better the Polo player you are, unlike Golf. He obliged his beloved and in the backyards of Lily Pool (Maharani's abode), part of Rambagh Palace Estate, came up a Nine-Hole Brown Course designed by an Englishman specially hired for the job. He also coached and taught Golf.
The flora and fauna was sacredly preserved and wild life remained tolerably undisturbed. The pea-hens, peacocks, hares, jackrabbits, partridges, squirrels peeped out to watch this funny game of Golf with dismay. As the course was slowly taking shape the group of Maharani was growing around the game of Golf. Some were already showing the signs of being bitten by its bug.
The afternoons were now busier and an ostentatiously stylish new social circuit was forming around the Royals. Crème-la- town was seen importing Golf sets, straw hats, flannels and colourful parasols. A round of Golf would invariably author comic stories around some desperadoes who tried all magic to be in the winners side and able to draw attention of the Queen. These tit-bits would then be narrated most ludicrously by some of the flunkeys over a sumptuous cup of tea served in silver by liveried staff from the palace. The caddy boys would be sitting at the feet of the feudal and cleaning their flannel bottoms and stockings of the "Burrs" which used to get stuck while chasing the ball in roughs. The most predominant undergrowth of vegetation in this part of the country comprises of such bushes which have "Burrs" as their pollen bearer. These get stuck with their porcupine looking spikes to your clothes and get carried away afar for better and healthy pollination. They say the person who invented Velcro straps got his brain wave from these "Burrs" in the desert.
On Sunday mornings golfers clad in flannels, breeches, corduroys, Jodhpurs, Knickers with Pith Hats, Straw Hats, Golf Caps on their crowns would set out to Tee-Off for a cross-country Golf with a final destination about 3 miles away, the Maharani Farms. Each would take as long a shot as possible, the field of fire permitting. The band wagon in form of the staff with extravagant logistics of snacks and refreshments would trail behind the golfers. The incorrigibles would be carrying their hip flasks full.
An indigenous extension of Golf was found here during those days and may be it came from sheer love for outdoors, that generation of Raj fashioned and enjoyed. Could be that originally the Scottish shepherds who invented this game also played a similar kind of Golf.
As the whole zing-bang negotiated the woods, jungles, ploughed fields and hutments, the natives, specially the children and women with their veils would come out to see their Queen and Sahibs; wondering "what the hell are they doing in this heat?" Usual breaks for drinks and rest were well organised by some of the Rasookdars. The final destination was well prepared to receive the golfers with the printed shamiyanas and tentage. Local muddhas were laid out with soft cushions to give some respite. Some ladies would have joined in via the road, driving in to join the gup-shup sessions. After a round of high tea and quipping awhile, the golfers would freshen up, change and come out for the cooking party. Those with culinary skills would cook their best dishes whereas grills and barbeques would be there as part of a common affair. Lanterns lit up the area sufficiently enough to see each other and dim enough to keep the tranquillity of the place intact. Local liquor, distilled by some of the experts with recipes of medieval era vintage, along with Scotch starts flowing as the party got merrier.
Since those days of the Raj, Rambagh Golf Club has come a long way and now we have a 18 holes green course, a five-star restaurant, and other at par amenities like pool, gym and air conditioned, well-stocked Bar. However, yet I indulge in fantasizing those golden days of sublime style. — Col. Raj Singh Brown