Driving down from the airport, many people wonder what the refreshing view on the right is. Exquisite and green, it is a part of the Royal Nepal Golf Club (RNGC), Nepal's oldest golfing facility. Many of Nepal's golf enthusiasts, including myself, are proud to say that this is the place we learned the game of golf.
It takes both vision and implementation for a successful result, and when we look at RNGC today, with its club atmosphere and the playing conditions of the course, one person stands out as having being instrumental in this achievement: Manindra Raj Shrestha, who has been the club's president for over a decade.
His selfless support helped create the RNGC of today. Many members of RNGC may not know that the greens they play on came from his courtyard. Despite his wife's misgivings, he brought grass from his lawn and introduced the first Bermuda grass greens in Nepal. I recall one morning when I was playing with him, he saw a big chunk of weed and started pulling it out immediately. It was this passion and dedication that laid the foundations for the development of golf and the RNGC. Today, many follow his footsteps, including his son Sonny.
I was fortunate to share Manindra's thoughts on the past, present and future of golf in Nepal.
When did you start the game? How were you inspired to take it up?
I started playing golf in 1977. Before that, I had thought it was a lazy man's game. It was Prince Basundhara who goaded me into playing, and having taken it up, I became aware of the game's potential, and took an active part in trying to promote it.
I have seen that myself! You are a legend. How do you look at golf in Nepal presently?
Although it is moving slowly in the right direction, I still feel there is a lot left to be done. This can only happen with the all round development of the game, starting from getting more children to play and having more golf courses around the country.
We have talked so much about golf tourism. In your opinion how it is best done?
This is one topic that has been discussed for over a decade, including with people directly related to tourism development in Nepal. However nothing has come of it. To develop golf for tourism, HMG and the private sector need to work together. One of the best ways would be for the government to provide the land and the private sector to develop it. The government has such a lot of unused land. They can easily provide it if they choose to.
You drove RNGC though rough roads to bring it to its present state. What do you see it today?
RNGC, as you mentioned, is one of the most successful sports institutions in Nepal, mainly due to the selfless efforts of its members and strict adherence to its objectives of promoting the game in Nepal. I feel that the effort we put in the last 10 to 12 years have paid off, as the club is still following the visions laid down then.
We have all been talking about getting more juniors started, so how can we walk this talk?
Last year, RNGC started a five year golf development plan with the basic objective of promoting golf at the junior level. If all other clubs and organisations follow that model, I am sure we can have worldclass players coming out of Nepal within 10 years.
Today when we look back at the foundations this gentleman's vision laid for us, we must take our hats off to him.
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]