Golf Course Consulting in India
Mr. Tony Taylor needs no introduction in the world of golf. He is a pioneer in the business of golf in Asia. He founded the Quality Golf twenty three years back in Thailand. Quality Golf is a maintenance consulting company who specializes in golf course benchmarking evaluations. Today the company has developed into a multi-service organization with a network of affiliates throughout Asia maintaining a reputation for delivering an innovative range of products and services to the golf industry.By consistently maintaining the highest international standards, the company has been able to forge strong partnerships with some of the most prestigious golf courses throughout the region, providing significant value based on proven principles and applications. Recently, the man himself was in town and agreed to give an interview to Golftrade.
Q. Tell us about your company and how it started?
I founded my company in 1994 in Thailand. South East Asia was then in the middle of a golf boom. Fifty to sixty golf courses were constructed in Thailand alone from 1988-1994. I realized there was a lack of real professional skill sets in every aspect of the game of golf. It was mainly because people in this region were new to golf and never treated golf as a business but rather just as a sport or social activity. People would come and enjoy the Club’s themselves but they did not know what it took from financial planning to proper master planning to infrastructure planning to clubhouse architecture to put the whole experience together. How the floor pattern and flow of the whole club works, what professional construction management to professional superintendent skills were and that’s where I come in. I was the fellow who puts the icing on the cake so to speak being a golf course Superintendent. Every professional skill set has to come together to create the end product….
Then, I realized there were no trade schools, colleges or universities in Asia to train the local staff and supervisors how do the job.. So, I started my company when I realized that there was a new industry coming up and there wasn’t much technological advancement to support that industry.
Q.What are the golf courses that you look after at the moment?
My business model has changed since 2008 but I used to look after the Hong Kong Golf Club, in Singapore at Sentosa, Orchid and Seletar Country Clubs. Over my 25 years in Asia I have been involved in over 20 world-class projects and 20 televised tournaments for the Asian Tour, the European Tour and the PGTI. So, the current projects that I have are; Royal Calcutta Golf Club where we provide consultancy and Superintendent placement service. And a golf resort property in the Mountain range of Thailand where we manage called Panorama Golf and Country Club.
Q. How golf courses in India are different from the courses in America and Thailand?
India has historic golf courses and some of them are on limited pieces of land. Fortunately, that’s not the case with RCGC. Here, we have
175 acres of land. But I have seen many 18 hole facilities where there is only 80- 120 acres of land which is not enough for championship play but that’s enough to give the members recreation and that’s what the game is about. In Thailand they had enough acreage of land where they created any shape they wanted to use for championship golf. When the Architect asked them for 150 acres they would provide that, because they had 500 acres of land or more. They would let the Architect’s design as they wished. So, there are fabulous designed golf courses in Thailand. There are almost 250 golf courses in Thailand and around 200 of them are built to international standards.
Golf in the US is engineered in a very different way. You need proper permission to develop the courses and the developers are willing to take the risk, some will spend 1-3 million USD before they can find out if they have the permission to build. They get a proper master plan and a proper financial study. A proper plan of operation is kept ready to proceed further. There is always a feasibility study done in advance which is not practiced in India, Thailand or any other South-Asian countries. The government is very strict with the rules and regulations related to environment. US is an over-developed market for golf at the moment we have too many golf courses, but they will eventually work it out.
Some of them are now using the land for other purposes related to the real-estate business. The Golf industry is over 150 years old in US. There are many government regulations in India but there aren’t many government regulations in Thailand. In America, it is a tightly regulated industry. However, you can still play golf in America for ten-twenty dollars because Clubs can survive at all different levels from public golf to high end private Clubs, over 15,500 golf facilities in total.
Q. What according to you are the perfect playing conditions?
I prepared for some of the best golfers of the world from the European Tour, Asian Tours, PGA Tour in America. They want fast and firm conditions they don’t want overly wet golf courses. So, my perfect conditions would be minimal rough, I don’t like deep rough it can be dangerous and
injure the golfer. I enjoy golf courses designed in a way that the golfers can play fast, where one can hit the green from the fairway or rough. The greens should play firm. So, that’s the perfect course for me. I like strategic golf courses. I don’t like dangerous golf courses because they are too narrow and golf balls fly into one another’s fairways , I have a choice. I have been hit by a golf ball one to many times on narrow courses with cross holes.
Q. What should be the ideal green speed?
It depends on the weather and also depends on the conditions, the machinery and the technology you have. It’s like when you maintain race horse or an Olympic athlete you must train them properly with proper nutrition and exercise to perform better than the opponents. It is the same case with a golf course. Every blade of grass has life and my job is to keep it all alive, not to let it die. But, all the odds are against you. You have to protect them against the extreme variables in weather, high traffic from golfers, golf carts and even mistakes from employees. It’s very important to keep the grass healthy during monsoons. Golf courses built in South Asian countries are not natural places for golf. Scotland, England and the East Coast of the US like Long Island, New York, they are natural places for golf. They have been there for 400 years. If you let this grass grow for six months here in Calcutta, without maintaining it you will return it to a jungle. So, now we are trying to grow grass of 3mm in height in the jungle. The weather in these countries is hot and humid. The height of the grass in the green differs according to the seasons. So an ideal green speed should be set for every season of the year as we do here at RCGC there is no real ideal speed but most golfers are happy with a speed meter reading of around 9 feet.
Q. What advice would you give to a golfer if he has space in his backyard to build a putting green?
I would advise them to opt for an artificial putting green, which is better than to build a putting green with real grass. If you chose real grass you need an open area with no tree shade and good drainage system, irrigation, proper mowers and lots of other equipment and trained full time staff. Unless you have a big budget to build it right and then every year to maintain the natural putting green area, I would suggest an artificial one.
Q. So, what do you like about Calcutta and India?
I love the people of India. They are very nice and charming. I am religious philosophy scholar and I have studied this subject seriously for thirty years now and have come to discover it all started here with the Vedic people. From that study and application I have learned I am able to be tolerant and understanding in almost every situation… but still get the work done. The members of the golf club are also very nice as they are here to recreate, the committee brought me in against the wishes of a huge population in the Club who didn’t understand the relevance of my presence. I am here to protect the heritage, it is a serious business for me, I made golf course maintenance my life’s work, people depend on me including all of the employees of each Club, it is a huge responsibility. Once all members understood that I was here for the greater good, they started supporting me more, and once we produced good conditions they showed more faith in me. Plus, I know most of them personally by now and can even pronounce the names properly, which is pretty good for an American. I am happy to provide golfers a great golf course to enjoy themselves on and showcase for tournaments. I take great pleasure and pride in being able to do this here in India, especially at such a historic place as “The Royal”. And Calcutta, it’s all part of the charm of working in India, as they said “if I could work here and succeed I could succeed anywhere”.