Royal Willingdon Sports Club
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|Category||Private Sports Club|
(Governor of Bombay)
The most exclusive and elusive club in Mumbai, membership has been closed since 1985, and only the children of current members can attain membership. Corporate membership is granted for 10 years for two members at a cost of about over Rs. 30 lakhs. Almost all members belong to wealthy, old money families. The club is very selective of granting membership to current member's children and the applicant's family background takes top priority along with profession. The creme-de-la-creme of Mumbai society consider Willingdon the most prestigious club in the nation.
It was founded in 1918 by Lord Willingdon, the then Governor of Bombay. Willingdon was refused permission to take an Indian Maharaja with him to the Bombay Gymkhana, Byculla Club and Royal Bombay Yacht Club, which then allowed only Europeans and hence, decided to start a club that both Indians and Europeans could go to.
Permanent membership is closed except for members sons though temporary corporate memberships are open (mostly taken by expatriates). In the 1980s membership was temporarily opened but then later closed due to overwhelming demand. In 2007, membership was opened to members' daughters as well, much to the consternation of some members, though a majority of Balloting and Disciplinary Committee members saw it fit to admit them as "younger people spend more money." Membership applications for "ordinary members" (members' sons), corporate members and "services" (civil servants and armed forces) are decided by the Balloting and Disciplinary Committee. Mid-Day wrote that the WSC has an unspoken rule that does not allow film actors and racing professionals, including jockeys, trainers and their spouses to be individuals as "actors might create a nuisance, with their followers lingering around, and ruin the ambience and peace at the club... What is important is not the profession but the applicant's background. If the jockey is a syce's son who cannot speak seven words of English, he may be rejected." However, Akshay Khanna and his brother Rahul are members as of 2010 onwards.
In the 21st century[when?], there was controversy and infighting over the destruction of the badminton courts and club election process. After the original bar was burned in a fire, the former bakery was turned into the "Pub" that functions as a mini-nightclub on weekends and "Bar Nite" once a month. The former bar is a formal, outside-catered restaurant called the "Golf View Bar" right next the library on the upper level.
The club has an 18 hole golf course (the only private one within the city, the other being the military-only club and another in the suburbs), six tennis courts, squash and badminton courts, health club and a swimming pool. Non-sports amenities include a formal dining room, a semi-formal dining room, a bar, a garden cafe (where children under 21 are allowed), swimming pool cafe, a bakery, a plant nursery a members' provision and separate beer and wine shop is available to members at rates cheaper than outside stores as the club is not-for-profit and a mini-grocery store. There is also a pavilion and a patio, as well as facilities to cater to members' parties to host.
A banquet was held there in 1954 to celebrate the first Filmfare awards ceremony. The event was attended by actor Gregory Peck. One of the award winners, Bimal Roy was not allowed entry into the club for the party as he was dressed in a dhoti.
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