The Game of Golf

The Game of Golf

I don’t know about you, but I have always feared golf. I could walk into a run-down martial arts gym and feel at home, but golf was this elitist game, something for the higher-ups, the middle class. Golf wasn’t about fighting; it was about etiquette and a sport for gentlemen.

As I got older, people I knew would talk about the game. Occasionally, I would be asked to play, but it would stir great fear in me, and I would default to saying I was busy. Sometimes I would see an interesting business event, a golf day, and though the audience seemed like my type of people, I would hesitate and then not join or sign up.

Then I moved to Abu Dhabi, a place that has always held a special place in my heart, and I am honoured that now I can call it home. About a year ago, I was asked to go to the driving range and hesitantly, I agreed. Eighteen months of travel and now expat living had conditioned me to say yes when asked to do most things. The guys I was playing with played off 4 (those who know golf are pulling this face now 😬). Let's just say, over the next few hours, I managed to do the unknown and consistently hit the ball backwards off the tee when trying to drive it forward. At one point, I did this ten times in a row, a true party trick.

As you can imagine, this event set me back slightly. About seven months later, golf reappeared in conversation with a different friend and this time it was better; the ball went forward. This started the catalyst of going to the range each week to hit some balls. The driving range, being between my house and my kids' school, made this convenient. After a few months, I started to find my way and get consistently bad shots (though still going forward), but 1 out of 50 balls would be beautiful and lead me to believe I could be a pro (golfers are nodding in agreement now). So, I would go again. Then Christmas came around and, you know what that mean’t - golf clubs. Ordered from the UK, as they were half the price, and brought over when family next visited.

Another month of hitting the range a few times a week and I started to get more consistency, but I couldn’t get any better or further with my shots.

There are 6 amazing golf courses within about 35 minutes of where I live now in Abu Dhabi, 2 of these are championship courses. So, after a few months on the range, I thought maybe it was time for some lessons. There is a group in Abu Dhabi called Viva Golf who manage the courses; they also offer a 'getting into golf' course, £120 (500 AED) for 5 group lessons a week for 4 weeks (20 lessons total) an absolute bargain.

The lessons were great and I would highly recommend Ian at Yas Acres as a teacher. After the first week, I was hitting about 25% further than before and my 1 in 50 nice-feeling shots by the end of the 4th week was up to 10 out of 50. The best bit about this class was that you met other people just starting out, which also meant other people at your level to play with.

At the end of the 4 weeks, there was a beginners' tournament at the par-3 training course at Yas Links. I was teamed up with 2 guys from another course, and though our team came second, it was through no help of mine; they were super supportive with every shot I hit the top of and watched it roll 3 meters in front of me, or when I ended up in the weeds.

The range and the course were two completely different games, and it was only when teeing off that first hole with 2 staff and 3 players watching me did I realise how much of this game was also mental.

I have since played a few 9-hole games and am enjoying it, though I have noticed something very fascinating about golf:

1. It is an expensive game to play and, until you become good at it, has a lot of luck involved, so I find myself hating the game more and more the better I get, yet the complexity of it makes you want to play more. It is ingeniously designed in that respect.

2. It is very true that how you play and interact with other players shows your character. I have played a few games and had another player join us, and you get to know a person well in a 2-hour game, and everyone is in the same boat, if you're not a pro, any shot could be a disaster.

3. There is still an elite vibe to golf, like taking your golf bag to be put on the cart or at the pickup area 10 meters from where you are standing, which I still find uncomfortable.

4. Each time I have played, there have been drinks afterwards where the relationship-building happens. This has been a real eye-opener, and when you live as an expat, it opens up a new world to make friends.

5. Golfers will sell their firstborn to get out on the course. I would regularly message a friend to go for a drink and get a “not tonight” or “busy with work.” Ask someone to play golf, and they are faking a cough and booking the tee time before the end of the call.

6. We are still sitting at the 30°C mark at midday in Abu Dhabi, so that gives a lot of time ranges to play a game, and whether it’s a walk or a buggy course, the views and the greenery are beautiful each time, and it is a nice break away from the computer screen, some even class it as exercise.

Is there a reason for this post? Not really; this is the annoying thing about golf, it gets in your head and makes it all you want to do. I want to say give it a try, but don’t, you won’t be able to give it up.

That being said, if you're ever in Abu Dhabi and want a game, give me a shout 😉