Getting Started In Golf
With 2,752 courses – 8% of the world’s total – the UK’s affinity with golf could scarcely be stronger. That should come as no surprise however, for Britain is the home of golf. It was in Scotland, almost 600 years ago, that the fledgling sport we now know as golf was formed. Back then, the golf ball consisted of a stuffed leather ball that was whacked about with a bent stick. Today, golf has evolved into a more dignified sport, but one whose inherent principles remain the same.
With around four million UK adults regularly playing golf, it is the country’s most popular sport by far – one whose perennial success can be attributed to a number of factors. For one thing, it has a low cost of entry: while a complete set of clubs, annual membership and golfing attire can easily run into four figures, it costs a fraction of that amount to get started. Armed with little more than a secondhand driver and a few golf balls, a novice can take to the driving range – or even their local playing fields (if permitted) – to practise their swing. Should the sport prove to be every bit as addictive as you’d been warned, there’ll be plenty of time later for investing in a proper set of clubs and contemplating joining a club.
Another reason why golf is so popular in the UK is its resistance to the vagaries of the British weather. While sports such as tennis and football can fall foul of inclement weather, golf revels in the most inhospitable of environments. Horizontal rain; swirling snow; gusting gales; it takes more than the machinations of Mother Nature to cancel a game of golf. That said, the sport is best enjoyed – like all outdoor pursuits – in gloriously sunny weather. Such days are few and far between in the UK, but it makes no difference: come rain or shine, the country’s courses are faithfully traversed by golfers of both sexes and of all ages and abilities.
Not content with having invented the sport, Britain today boasts some of the world’s finest courses. It is for this reason that the country attracts so many ardent golfers from the US and the rest of the world who flock here to pit their wits against the nation’s varied courses with their tricky bunkers, undulating fairways and lush greens. For some tourists, the pinnacle of a UK holiday is a visit to the Home of Golf in St Andrews, Scotland. Its famous Old Course is aptly named, having played host to the noble sport since 1574.
The Old Course – like many courses in Scotland and the rest of the UK – is a links course, characterised by sandy dunes that are typical of coastal courses. While the country has no shortage of inland courses, the links courses are coveted on account of their spectacular ocean views and challenging layout, pitting the player against the land, wind and occasionally the sea itself.
If you’re new to golf and are unsure where to start, the most sensible option might be to visit a local club in your area. Most clubs will offer tuition for beginners; avail yourself of a few lessons and get acquainted with the basics. It’s far easier to start playing golf with the correct grip and swing from the outset rather than have to remedy bad habits at a later date.
After practising your grip, swing and stance, it’s time to head to the driving range and start hitting a few balls. Initially, don’t focus too much on distance; the important thing is to make a clean connection with the ball. Power and thus distance will improve over time, so don’t feel intimidated by the guy in the next stand whacking the ball 200 yards while you’re struggling to pass 50.
Once you’ve gotten to grips with the basics, you’ll be itching to hit the course and start putting all that practise to good use. Don’t worry too much about the score card the first time you go round the course – just enjoy yourself and concentrate on making it to the 18th hole. Then comes the best part – reliving the day’s highlights over a cold beer in the clubhouse.