When then Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh arrived with his then Vice Chief Lt General Bipin Rawat to assess the attack of Pakistan based terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) on the Uri Brigade on September 18, 2016, he noticed immaculately manicured grass at the golf course near the post as compared to the wild foliage elsewhere in the camp that had provided cover to the infiltrating terrorists earlier that day.
Angry at the loss of 19 of his men at the hands of jihadists, Gen Dalbir told Gen Rawat to issue instructions that golf would not be allowed at army posts in the Valley.
A year later, Gen Rawat, now Army Chief, was waiting for bodies of his fallen comrades to arrive at 15 Corps Badami Bagh headquarters helipad in Srinagar when he noticed caddies waiting at the adjacent golf course.
Learning that the golfing was to begin once the bodies had been taken care off, Gen Rawat reminded the local commander of the previous chief’s written instructions to get the entire course dug up using heavy earth movers. The local commander, once he understood that Gen Dalbir’s order was for the entire Valley and not just the Uri Brigade, banned golf and got a running track with open gym prepared instead.
Taking a leaf out of that, Gen Rawat has also issued instructions that golf will not be allowed in operationally active areas of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the North East, army officials said.
While not every one in the army has taken kindly to this diktat, Gen Rawat is in no mood to budge; his argument is that his officers and men are welcome to play football or tennis, but that there is no scope for leisurely sessions of golf and beer when soldiers are dying in cross-border firing on the Line of Control or facing terrorists in the Valley hinterland or in the jungles of Moreh in Manipur. The men should be prepared for war, Gen Rawat believes, according to army officials familiar with the matter.
It is not that Gen Rawat does not like golf, these officials add. Indeed, he used to play golf with a decent handicap till he was a captain/instructor at the Indian Military Academy. Legend has it that the Army Chief swore not to play golf after his commanding officer at the academy ticked him off for not making to the PT session for cadets in time as the then young captain was more focused on a hole-in-one.