There’s something special about golf. Or at least, I think there is, and I am sure I’m not alone.
Golf may not possess the energy or dynamism of some team sports but it challenges and obsesses in a way no other sport can. This is a game that gets under your skin. You love it and hate it in equal measure.
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is that’s so special about the game – a game that can make world-leaders shake at the knees and turn octogenarians into clubhouse heroes. That’s not because it’s hard to think of a reason, but because the reasons are so many that setting one above another almost detracts from its charm. One day it may be the setting, as you stroll to a cliff-top tee, the rolling-sea providing the soundtrack to a vision of dunes, snaking fairways and greying mountains in the distance. Another it might be the company, the laughs, the shared experience, the one good shot amid the best-forgotten rest. There’s the challenge, the jubilation, the torment, the competition, the camaraderie.
It’s a game of physical beauty, too, with picturesque courses and the poetry of a classic swing. A game that’s so impossibly simple that we can only complicate it and struggle forth evermore, becoming captivated along the way even against our better judgement. But it’s also a game of practicality – get your kids hooked and summer holiday boredom and street corners are a thing of the past.
And of course, it’s a great leveller. Handicaps set a level playing field for all ages and abilities and, with the touring professionals performing on the same stage, even as a beginner you may find yourself emulating Tiger Woods (in location, if not in outcome) – I defy you try that at Old Trafford.
There’s no room for ego or hubris, either, golf will scythe you down the moment you think you’ve cracked it. That’s what keeps you coming back for more. It’ll lift you with elation one moment and crush you with despair the next, testing your body, mind and even your soul at times.
If you’ve never played, you’ll probably be wondering what the hell I am waffling on about. For anyone inclined to find out, the rest of this blog may help you take the first steps.
1. Don’t be afraid
1. Don’t be afraid
You don’t need to be big, strong, young or even particularly fit to play golf. You also don’t need to worry about “not being any good” – nobody is when they start, and the majority of clubs are very welcoming and supportive of newcomers.
2. Getting kitted out
The cost of getting set up is often a concern, but while you can spend an inordinate amount on equipment and clothing if you choose to, you really don’t have to. Look for a second hand set of clubs (there are lots of websites trading in them) and the rest you can probably cobble together from your wardrobe. Proper golf shoes I would say are a must, though again, you don’t need the top of the range and most places will let you take your first couple of lessons in some other footwear.
3. Next stop, lessons
Local PGA professionals are an invaluable source of help and advice – consider them your driving instructor (no pun intended) – and they will save you from snapping your clubs over your knee and giving up prematurely. I know many places that offer six lessons for about the same cost as a tank of petrol, and I promise you’ll have more fun than you would filling up your car.
4. Find a Friend
Finding someone to learn alongside can also be a great help and will give you a natural playing partner when you first start to venture out on the course. Should you eventually decide to make the transition to club membership, doing so with another person you already know, playing at the same level, will undoubtedly help you take the plunge.
5. Join the right club
If and when the time arrives, research a few clubs to see what memberships are available – you’ll be surprised at the variety on offer for those getting into golf. Most clubs now provide affordable and flexible membership initiatives and will welcome an exploratory visit. Soak up the atmosphere when you to pop along – ultimately that’s what you’re buying into and each club’s is unique and you’ll find some more comfortable than others.
6. Forget what you’ve heard
Most of all, my advice is not to be put off by any pre-conceptions. Golf isn’t the elitist, stuffy, cardigan-wearing, pipe smoking game of old (at least, not at most clubs). With a little patience, you’ll be amply rewarded. You have my word on that.
Edward Saxel is the resident pro and blogger at iSpyGolf.com, a website featuring the latest offers, golf breaks and memberships from clubs and resorts across the UK and beyond. The site brings together hundreds of leading courses and hotels, making it easier for golfers to search on a single site and then book directly for complete peace of mind. You can follow Ed on Twitter @ispygolfpro