RNGC turns 100; centenary celebrations begin

Kathmandu, April 14

The Royal Nepal Golf Club turned 100 this year and the oldest club of the country began the centenary celebrations with a special function and unveiling of the commemorative plaque here today.

Former RNGC President 90-year-old Khadga Jeet Baral and current president Rabindra Man Shrestha along with other former presidents, captains and officials unveiled the plaque and hoisted the RNGC flag on the premises of the club to kick start the celebration on the New Year’s day.

The RNGC was established in 1917 at the Gaucharan with a 36-hole course. The government later established an airport, Tribhuvan International Airport, at the place and the course was reduced to 27 holes. The second phase of airport expansion further narrowed the course to 13 holes and currently it is a nine-hole par-68 facility.

“It was a really huge facility with 36 holes in the beginning,” remembers Shambhu Acharya, who worked as the manager of the club. “It became a 27-hole facility after the first phase of airport expansion and later reduced to 13 holes.”

The course was closed twice in 100 years. “First for 11 years during the first World War and later for a year in 1982 after the Civil Aviation came up with the fourth phase of airport expansion,” says Acharya. “It’s been three years I had started playing golf and I could not remain away from it. It took me a lot of hard works and nearly a month to prepare a four-hole facility at Tilganga side and start golfing again from the second week of December in 1983,” he remembers. “I was even arrested by the police for making a course at a place where municipality office threw garbage. Luckily, my connections worked and I was released,” he says.

After preparing the four-hole course, Acharya invited the then members of RNGC to play golf and it started taking the momentum again. “Later, I handed over the management to my friend Ghana Shyam Thapa (who later turned pro and is currently the advisor of Nepal PGA),” says Acharya, who became the member of the RNGC in 1979. “Actually, I won the Thai Open and got a chance to travel to Thailand. People came to know about that and I think that opened the doors for others to come to golf. Otherwise it was limited to elites including Ranas and Shahs.”

Today, the 68-year-old Acharya is a happy man. “I worked for various projects under UN during my time and actually that connection brought me to this club. If I had not started this club in 1983, my sons would not have got the chance of playing golf and become pros,” says Acharya, father of former Nepal No 1 pro Deepak and top amateur Rupak, who is currently in the United States. “I am happy that the club has produced so many golfers apart from giving employment to many people. But we could have done a lot more.”

Despite being the oldest golf club of the country, the RNGC is always in uncertainty as the area occupied by the facility belongs to Civil Aviation Authority. “This is the only social golf club of the country and is situated at a prime location. We have a fear of being evacuated at any time although the government has decided to keep this place as it is,” says RNGC President Shrestha. “The RNGC gave shelter to around 50,000 people during earthquake time and we closed the course for three months for that. The government has decided to keep certain places, including the RNGC, as open areas but still we fear of being ousted as TIA might be extended any day,” says Shrestha. The current lease of RNGC expires after three years.

The credit of starting golf in Nepal goes to Rana regime and it dates back to 1917. A six-member team went to Britain during and they were invited for a round of golf there. They were unaware of the sport and their British counterparts taught them the basics and presented them with golf sets. After returning back to Nepal, they reported the incident to the then Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher and got the order of making a golf course.

“Brahma Shumsher, Keshar Shumsher, Lava Shumsher, Mrigendra Shumsher and Kiran Shumsher started coming to this place to play golf. Kiran Shumsher was the chief of army that time and he introduced the sport to Prince Basundhara and the club got Royal patronage since then,” says Acharya. “After the second World War, officials from Indian and British embassies along with expatriates and diplomats started playing golf. It was only from 1962-63, other people started coming to the club.”

Addressing the celebration programme, Baral, who was the president of RNGC from 1988-90, said he was indebted to the club that gave him a new identity. “It was limited to a very people in the beginning but now it has become people’s game,” said the former chief of Nepal Police and an ambassador. “A lot of people have made significant contribution and I would like to remember Tashi Ghale and SK Singh for their outstanding services,” he said.

Baral also asked the RNGC officials to take care of the caddies and ground staff. “Every individual has played key role in bringing RNGC to this place and I request the present management to take care of the welfare of caddies and ground staff,” he added.

President of Nepal Golf Foundation Gen Pyar Jung Thapa* handed over a new set of golf clubs to upcoming female golfer Pratima Sherpa, while RNGC President Shrestha gave away the letter sent to her by American golfer Tiger Woods. “Pratima is the daughter of RNGC. She was born, grew up and played golf at the RNGC,” said Thapa. “We have been helping youth golfers through Gaekwad Sports Foundation and Nepal Golf Association and this time we decided to give a new set of golf clubs to Pratima,” he added.

RNGC Vice-president Tashi Ghale thanked the sponsors for their help in organising tournaments throughout the year and running various activities. “This is the first programme of centenary celebration and we will be organising various events before concluding the celebration in September,” said Ghale, who is also the president of NGA.

* Corrected