When you think of Mumbai, India, the last thing that probably comes to your mind is “golf.” After all, between the equipment, greens fees and attire, golf is very much a gentleman’s game – and a wealthy gentleman’s game at that. Conversely, in India, an estimated 828 million people live on less than $2 a day – we hardly think that greens fees are in that budget.
Yes, there are nice parts of Mumbai, dominated by skyscrapers, businessmen and the elites. Then, there’s the other side of Mumbai – the slums. This story of golf in Mumbai takes place in the slums.
But golf in the slums of Mumbai isn’t played on the pristine, green grass like it is on the other side. Nor is it played with Taylor Made irons and Big Bertha drivers. It’s not even played with regulation golf balls. No, this “slumdog golf” is played in the narrow streets between shops. Tee boxes are positioned on store roofs. Holes are man-made divots in the dirt roads. And golfers use iron rods bent to resemble that of a golf club to strike a plastic ball toward the hole. There are still penalty strokes, as some slum holes force golfers to hit over wastewater channels. Other holes feature “garbage hazards,” as golfers are penalized a stroke if their ball lands in the trash heap. Urban distractions are plentiful when golfing in the slums. And there is still tournament play, as slum golfers will play three-hole tournaments for a prize of $5, which is enough to feed a family of five for a week.
This makeshift slumdog golf was actually created by those who have worked as caddies in Mumbai’s nice sector of town as a means of brining the game to more people who aren’t able to afford “real golf.”
But words don’t quite do this slum golf justice – some things you just have to see to believe. By watching the video below, you’ll bear witness to the two sides of Mumbai – and the two very different games of golf that is played. The ESPN short follows the story of Anil Mane, a former golf caddie at one of Mumbai’s prestigious golf tournaments who recently qualified for India’s pro golfer’s tour. But in between his professional tournaments, Mane is forced to participate in three-hole golf tournaments in the slums in order to feed his family.