Contrary to popular belief and Swedish regulations, golf is fun and easy to learn, as my teaching pal pro Tony Meechai often says. With an abundance of great courses and fantastic coaches, Thailand is one of the best places in the world to learn the game. Here is a primer for golf newbies.
- The Absolute virgin stage
Don’t waste your money on something you may not like. Go to a second-hand shop, buy a 7-iron, and go hit balls at a driving range. One club. That’s it. Learning the game will come from repetition and practice, not having THB 50,000 of the greatest gear and snappy threads.
- The OK, I think I like it stage
This seems like it could be fun. Get some coaching. Not an intense program, just some preliminary pointers that can help transform that wild lurch into something resembling a controlled golf swing. People who have played “hit object with stick” games like cricket, baseball or hockey often have a combination of good hand-eye coordination with some pre-learned swing habits that often have to be un-learned. Remember, a golf swing is perhaps the single most un-natural movement the human body can make so it has to be learned from scratch. Yes, it feels weird – learn it right and stick with it. Again, the key is repetition. Remember it is now PERFECT practice that makes perfect.
- The I want more stage
This usually happens after you have hit a few really good shots and have decided that the feel of a flushed 7-iron is better than pretty much anything legal. At this stage add a few more hours of coaching and maybe go for a full set of clubs so you can start getting ready to hit the course. Again, there is no substitute for the number of balls struck, and you should start making mental notes of how often you hit it well.
- The getting ready to launch stage
Making the transition to the course is a big deal so it is time to put things into perspective. Firstly, remember that golf is a social game where the camaraderie comes before the score. Everyone is there to enjoy the day and they don’t want a self-obsessed jackass in their group. Learn the etiquette of the game – it’s actually more important than the rules. Your playing partners will graciously accept that you are a newbie and cut your skills a lot of slack but screw up the etiquette and you will find yourself testing your friendships and ultimately playing alone. Read up on the etiquette and learn by watching and observing like a shy teenager at your first high school dance.
- The tally-ho stage
The first time on a golf course is a heady mixture of excitement, nervousness and fear. You are going to hit a bunch of bad shots and be a slow player. All normal – accept it with a sense of humour and gratitude. So, do not launch your newfound passion on a Saturday morning, golf’s prime time. Instead, your first foray into the golfing world should be limited to 9 holes when the course is quiet, typically late afternoon. Play. Practice. Improve. Repeat. And don’t forget to enjoy the walk as you grow in the greatest game on earth in one of the truly great places to play.