Golf: From the crude wooden clubs used by children in some of the remotest parts of the country, to the more sophisticated golf club sets used at the Royal Thimphu Golf Club (RTGC), golf is another game that has picked up in popularity over the years.
But unlike other sports in the country, golf is considered an exclusive sport. Owing to the expensive nature of the equipment required to play the game, golf has an image of being the exclusive domain of the elite. Not many know and have the experience of playing the game on a real course using a genuine golf set.
However, officials from the Bhutan Golf Federation (BGF) said that golf is as expensive as one chooses to make it.
BGF’s vice president, Phuntsho Gyaltshen said that apart from the equipment being expensive, golf in Bhutan is comparatively cheaper than many places where the game is played. Registering at the RTGC is open to the pubic and comes at a fee of Nu 15,000 every year.
For every game at the RTGC, golfers need to pay a green-fee. For the members of the club the green-fee is Nu 300 on weekdays and Nu 350 on weekends.
For non-members the green-fee charges are Nu 750 and Nu 1,000 on weekdays and weekends respectively.
A Pro Shop at the RTG course also leases out golf sets at around Nu 2,000 or USD 30 per day. It is mostly tourists who rent the set. There are 14 clubs in a standard gold club set that includes three woods (driver), seven irons or hybrids, a pitching wedge, and a putter.
Different clubs are used for different kinds of strokes during the game. The clubs also have different degrees of inclination that provide golfers with different angles and lifts when hitting the ball.
A putter for instance is used for hitting short level strokes on the green, keeping the ball on the ground. It helps the golfer roll the ball as straight as possible.
Golf is a very technical game that requires precision and a lot of patience. On an average, it takes around four to five hours for a group of four to complete a proper 18-hole game.
Spread over 5,851 yards of Kentucky Blue grass and Creeping Bentgrass, the RTGC is a nine-hole, Par 35 course. It is played as an 18-hole, Par 70 course from two different sets of tees (area from where the golfer hits the ball in the start of a Par).
The origin of the course dates back to the late 60s when Brigadier General TV Jaganathan of India (posted in Bhutan from 1968 to 1973) requested and got permission from the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck to construct a few holes in the area.
Later the course was expanded to nine holes and in 1971 the course was opened as the RTGC.
Today there are around 60 active golfers with the club. There are also some 150 individual club members excluding institutional members from the armed forces, civil service and corporation.
The club along with the federation also trains students and amateurs during vacations. Students and dropouts working as caddies at the course makes around Nu 400 everyday. At the same time, they also learn to play the game.
Some of the caddies have also won cars as prizes during some of the local tournaments organised at the course.
There are seven golf courses in the country of which three are in Thimphu.