The article was first published by the Asian Tour
C. Muniyappa, the 2009 Hero Indian Open champion, grew up learning golf on mud greens with handcrafted clubs. The setting used to be agricultural fields in his village before he moved to pristine championship courses like the Karnataka Golf Association in Bengaluru, his regular practice venue.
Unknown to him then, staying connected to his village, called Poolampatti in the nearby state of Tamil Nadu, would help him many years down at a time when life and golf came to a standstill.
Since the pandemic struck last year, the visits to the village to escape the scourge of the virus were also used to stay sharp, albeit the traditional way. Muniyappa got little time to plan before the first visit and arrived in the village without his regular clubs save the odd iron and had to make do with ones carved out of the branches of a tamarind tree.
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It was nothing new for Muniyappa as access and affordability was not easy in the formative years. The clubs were improvised alright but in sync with the three mud greens he created last year in a portion of the land owned by his uncle.
He was better prepared this time and anticipating the second wave in late March moved to the village with a better ensemble of conventional clubs a week after the Professional Golf Tour of India got stalled again.
Practice was on the mind, but also on the agenda was building a base for the family. Work on both projects started alongside and though it will be a while before the house is ready, Muniyappa was up and about with practice in no time.
Two-and-quarter acres were earmarked for the makeshift mini golf course, and it took Muniyappa and his sons Kiran (16) and Prem (10) about two days to get the facility ready. Making use of the hilly terrain to increase the difficulty quotient, two mud greens of 150 and 120 yards have been created at a higher level while the third measuring 140 yards is on a lower gradient.
Irons and a sand wedge come into use here, and since the putter broke during practice, a 9-iron is being used as a makeshift putter along with a wooden one.
Through April and a portion of May, Muniyappa practiced hard, but just as the connect with the past was getting stronger, he was laid low by body ache and high fever. Given the times, it was a scare till medical reports confirmed dengue. A month went by without practice, and though yet to gain full strength, Muniyappa is getting back to the old schedule.
A typical day starts at 7am with an hour-long session of stretching, pull-ups, yoga and breathing exercises. Depending on the intensity of the sun, practice happens early in the morning or between 4-6.30 pm.
Work starts from the makeshift range which allows a carry of 230 yards. Excited village kids wait at the other end to collect the balls, and for the odd golf ball as a giveaway after Muniyappa is done.
The action then shifts to the tight mini course. Teeing off amid lush green foliage, chipping and putting is a test of skill given the rocky and potholed terrain. But Muniyappa swears by it and claims the experience makes putting in tournaments seem like child’s play. Given the small coverage area, the exercise is repeated 4-5 times.
As for the score, it mostly hovers around 1-2-over. The best he has managed till date is 1-under and that is a source of encouragement to keep at it in the hope when tournaments resume this unconventional practice drill will hold in good stead.
Photo credit: C Muniyappa