Golf is not necessarily a rich man’s sport, it depends on how you approach it. Here are some tips on learning golf in India...Bharath Arvind
Very few sports allow you to be called a ‘dew sweeper’ or quite simply the first one out onto the field at the crack of dawn or sometimes even before it. Surrounded by lush green fairways, a plethora of trees, beautiful water bodies and an abundance of local wildlife, flora and fauna, a golf course is quite aptly referred to as the lungs of a city.
Golf offers you a great chance to spend time with nature at a pace that is comfortable to each person. Whether you are out with your family, a regular group of friends, meeting new ones, building a relationship with a business partner or quite simply spending quality time with yourself, golf is a sport for the ages and all ages.
Few sports, and yes, golf is a sport (was even re-introduced to the 2017 Rio Olympics), allow people of all ages and skill levels to compete on the same platform and still have a fair outcome. While the objective of the game as Robin Williams quite aptly put it in one of his stand-up acts, “Here’s an idea for a sport. I knock a ball in a goffer hole with a tire iron! And every time I hit the ball I feel like I’m going to have a stroke! Oh wait that’s what we will call each shot, a stroke!"
At first glance the game seems rather simple i.e. put a little white ball into a hole in the least number of shots, however, the task is a lot more demanding.
Golf requires a fair level of physical fitness (one walks anywhere between 8-14km in an 18-hole round of golf), flexibility (try swinging a golf club the way it is supposed to be swung), precision (can you hit a 4 ¼ in diameter cup from 150-300 yards out?), a strong mind (to deal with the demons that crop up in your head when you have so much time at hand in between shots) and so on.
At the same time the sport is very addictive, given how hard it is to master as it helps your forge long lasting friendships. No other sport allows one so much time to bond with a person in an informal setting (an average round of 18-holes takes about four-six hours for a group of four). Golf is great even when you travel. Pretty much every city you would visit across the world is likely to have a golf course. Exploring the local terrain and nature through a golf course is probably an experience unlike any other. It is difficult to think of another sport that offers an entirely different experience, owing to the nature of the landscape. Unlike tennis courts or basketball courts that are standard no matter where you are or even a cricket pitch, which will vary on bounce and pace, but other than that, a cricket ground is more or less the same wherever you go in the world! That’s the uniqueness of golf! Thanks to a 24-hour golf channel (Ten Golf) and Neo Sports now in India and with several Indian professionals (men and women) putting India on the world golf map, we get to see beautiful courses from around the world.
Now a lot of you might think that this is a colossal amount of time to spend on a sport when compared to a few games of tennis, badminton, squash etc. However, golf has various formats and a full course has 18-holes and you could choose to play just 9-holes (about 1.5-2.5 hours) or as being done in a lot of mature golf markets, play as many holes as you wish to (3-holes, 6 -holes etc). You could even just go and hit golf balls at a driving range (a place where you can learn golf and just pay to hit balls without any questions asked).
Golf is a sport for life. You can start playing the game as early as five years and keep playing it well into retirement. As long as you can walk and raise your hands and legs, you can strike a golf ball with relative ease. It’s a game that teaches you to manage your emotions, keep your mind in check, maintain calmness and test yourself in pressure situations. It teaches one a lot about how you handle situations in real life and tells you a fair amount about your playing partners' outlook on life and how they handle good breaks and bad breaks. Mimicking life in every way when you really think about it.
You would also want to know how much moolah is this game going to cost you. Let’s take a closer look at how one can learn golf in India.
A simple web search for a golf course or a golf coach in your city will generally yield a course or a name of a coach in your city. India has over 275 golf courses. Approximately half of these are owned by the defence services and the remaining are private or semi-private. There definitely is a dearth of public golf courses in the country, but having said that, a lot of courses allow you to pay and play.
Once you have identified golf facilities in your city or close to your city, call them or visit them to find out about golf lessons and coaching. The National Golf Academy of India (NGAI) has a list of certified teaching professionals (http://ngai.org.in/list-of-certified-teaching-professionals/) where you can verify once you get a name of a coach from the club or facility you called. It is generally good to learn from a certified golf coach and the NGAI is the official body in India that certifies coaches (a division of the Indian Golf Union-the apex body of the sport in India). Not all coaches may be NGAI certified and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they may not be good. It is just recommended to try and identify a certified coach to learn the basics from.
Another emerging trend to learn golf is the rise of indoor golf simulators in the country. A lot of residential properties have adopted indoor golf simulators as part of their club houses which offer a great opportunity as well. This emerging trend can be seen especially in Bangalore which has a large number of golf simulators in residential buildings. The Leela Palace Bengaluru for example has a golf simulator which offers lesson packages with equipment and coach included. A great place to begin if you are based in Bangalore. Soon enough other cities will offer such facilities.'
The rates for golf lessons generally vary between 400-5000 for a 45 minute lesson depending on the quality and grade of the coach (Class A being the highest certification). Depending on how adept one may be at the game, about 5-10 lessons should be good to give you the basics you need to get going. You can then hone your skills on the practice range/ driving range by buying buckets of balls (generally between Rs 100-300 for a bucket of 50 balls). At this stage of your golfing journey you don’t need to invest in your own golf set. You can quite simply rent clubs at the facility for anywhere between Rs 30-50 per club (a golf stick is called a club). Sometimes, depending on the coach, your lesson package will include a bucket of balls and a few clubs.
Once your coach tells you that you are course ready, or if you feel comfortable with a club and ball in hand and wish to test your newly acquired skills on a course here are some of your options. You can register yourself for membership with the Indian Golf Union (IGU) – the main body for golf in India. The IGU offers memberships for non-golf club members and allows you access to most golf courses in India. Now as alluded to earlier in the article, a golf handicap is something every golfer needs in order to play on a golf course. A handicap is essentially a gauge of your potential on a golf course. The lower the handicap number the more skilled a golfer is. With the IGU membership you can submit scores (with the consent of your coach) to get your first handicap. This handicap certificate can be presented at any golf course you approach and they will consider you a legitimate golfer and allow you to play (based on each golf courses’ rules and regulations).
All you need to do once you have your IGU card is to approach your local golf club and ask them what it takes for you to play as a member of the IGU and off you go to test your prowess on the course.
Some online portals such as Golflan.com allow you to buy rounds of golf through a membership platform. This is also a great way for one to start playing on courses at a relatively affordable cost as opposed to very steep golf club memberships. There are also several credit cards (Amex, Mastercard, Visa) that offer complimentary rounds of golf.
Once you realise that this game has become an addiction and something you will keep playing for the rest of your life, it is time to invest in your own set of golf clubs. Like in any sport, a multitude of brands and budgets exist. A complete golf set (we will let you google the intricacies and components of a golf set), can range anywhere from Rs 25,000 - 5 lakhs depending on the sophistication. Depending on how deep your pockets run, choose the set that works best for you after you try them out. You can buy a golf set online through various websites but ideally you should visit the nearest pro shop or golf store (usually located within a golf course) to test out the clubs and gauge comfort levels.
Golf can be a fun outing for the entire family to spend time outdoors and bond. Kids can start golf lesson ideally from the age of five onwards and several junior coaching programs exists across the country. Chances are that a course near you offers some special rates for junior coaching. A lot of schools have started including golf as part of their curriculum with the rise of the popularity of the sport in the country.
We hope this inspires you to give this wonderful game a shot!