The Royal Colombo Golf Club: Teeing off in style | Sunday Observer

The Royal Colombo Golf Club: Teeing off in style

A train that goes right through a golf course ? That could only happen at just one golf course in the whole world. And, it is located right here in Sri Lanka, in the heart of Colombo. If you just want to play a bit of golf and relax, the Club suits you to a tee.

We are talking about the Royal Colombo Golf Club, founded in 1879. Its Royal Charter was obtained in 1928, and it functions as a premier golfing facility in Sri Lanka. The Royal Colombo Golf Club is the oldest and the most established golfing facility in the country, the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club being around 10 years younger.

The Colombo Golf Club was started by the British when Sri Lanka was a colony and continued to function in that manner even after the first local President was appointed. The administration of the club consists of a fifteen member committee and the person who runs the club is called the Captain. The present Captain of the Golf Club is Primal Wijenaike. The former Captains of the Club include F.J. De Saram (JNR), M.A.S. Dias, D.N. Jayasuriya and Dr. C.S.S. De Silva. The President’s is a ceremonial position, and the President is invited to the role by the Captain. Essentially, the President is either a senior member or a past captain in a senior, advisory capacity.

The Club now has an executive structure as it has grown from what it was in the past. The five key areas of growth are, infrastructure, the grounds, the course, finance, marketing and communication, and food and beverage. These sections are headed by Secretaries with the Committee. The immediate past captain also sits on the Committee in an advisory capacity. They are currently working towards having a more professional administration where the sectional heads are responsible for the day to day running of the Club.

Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and President J.R. Jayewardene were golfers and members of the Club. Captain Primal Wijenaike says, “We, as a policy, make the President of the country a patron of the Club, and we also give honorary memberships to service commanders and diplomats.” He says the Club hosts several tournaments and the most keenly contested tournament is between Nuwara Eliya and Colombo, despite the fact that most of the members are members of both clubs. They contest it very strongly and take a lot of interest on both sides. The tournament is 118 years old. The Burdett Trophy is also a famous tournament which was not played for about twenty years during the war.

The Golf Club has a lot of international visitors, the latest being the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key who played golf during his visit. Lots of dignitaries visit the Club and have a cup of tea, or come for a social evening. Prince Charles has also visited the Club. The membership process is fairly strict. Wijenaike says, “you have to be invited to be a member, and another member who has been with the club for five years has to propose it. An individual cannot walk in and become a member.” The application goes through a rigorous process for almost three months. Initially, aspiring members have to fill a form of declaration giving their bio data. After the declaration is filled, it is brought to the Committee which scrutinises it before calling for an interview. Members of the Committee form the interview panel. If they feel the candidates are suitable they recommend them. However, this has to be approved again by the General Committee which meets once a month.

Wijenaike says, “We encourage people who are interested in playing golf to become members. However, I must confess that the majority of members don’t play golf. They join the club for its prestige and because it is a good place for social networking. At present, we have about 2,800 members, of which about 500 are golfers, and on an average, about 300 play regularly, which is quite a capacity.”

Corporates, professionals and business leaders want to join the Club primarily for networking purposes. The primary requirement is, members should be of good social standing, and that is what the Committee looks for. All the members are professionals and leaders in their own fields. They currently have about 350 women members, who have their own tournaments and a Ladies’ Day on Wednesdays.

The Club is strict about the dress code in the club house as well as on the course. Members are allowed to wear long shorts and pants on the course but jeans are not allowed. They have to wear proper golf shirts with collars and proper golf shoes. Collarless t-shirts are not allowed. In the club house, during daytime, members can relax in shorts and flip flops. But, in the evenings after seven, members have to be in pants and shirts with collars, and should strictly adhere to the dress code.

Furthermore, the Royal Colombo Golf Club has the only golf course in Colombo. Many people would not imagine that there is a place such as this in the middle of a city. It has 96 acres of land, centrally located. It also plays an important role in the economy because tourism is improving. A lot of tourists come to the Club to play golf when they visit Sri Lanka on business or on social visits. The unique location in the city has added value to the facilities.

There is a beautiful atmosphere with lovely greenery and even at twelve noon people go out to play golf. It is not warm on the course because there is a cool breeze and lots of trees which provide shade. All the facilities including the bar and the restaurant are centred around golf. Wijenaike says, “We function from six in the morning to eleven in the night. Some members are here at the crack of dawn to play golf, and the restaurants are open. The Club also has dressing rooms, a gym and a practice range with qualified trainers. Members can book the function rooms for private parties and functions.”

The main objective of the Club is to be a premier Golf Club in Sri Lanka which provides golfing facilities that meet international standards, and promote and foster golf in accordance with the rules set out by the controlling body of golf in the world - the R&A.

The Club also arranges matches for members and inter-club matches in Sri Lanka and overseas and other golfing events. It functions as a non-profit making organisation where the surplus of income over expenditure is re-invested in the Club. A lot of money is invested on the golf course.

Wijenaike has been a member of the Golf Club for twenty one years, since 1995, and has served in the Committee for 10 years before he became the Captain. He is an Accountant by profession and says, his experience of being the Captain of the Golf Club is challenging, and is something he looks forward to.

He says, “I’m glad I took it on. I’m very thankful to the members who have placed their trust in me.” He says, he would recommend anyone to take to golf because it is a very good sport and the members should look after the heritage of the Club and value its rich traditions. 

Comments

Because it is the only golf course in Colombo, the cost of a game to a visitor is astronomical. It is a pity the cost excludes many keen youngsters who are eager to participate in golfing as a sport.

The picture for the Royal Colombo course looks great. The Royal Adelaide Golf course also has a train running through the middle. In fact the train line at Royal Adelaide goes very close to the club house. For the players wanting to arrive by train however, the train station is located just few hundred meters away from the entrance to the course.

The charges are in keeping with International standards, or so they say, But after saying that the club does not want to have golf carts on the course, The golfing community is ageing. In the days gone by any young junior exec of any company could afford to be a member, So now we have the old and new rich who become members
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