I know. I know. You think golf is a game for the royals or the elite or the high flying. No. It is as much for you as anyone else. So let’s tee off.
But first things first. Let’s get the pronunciation right. We often mispronounce it as gof. But it’s G-O-L-F. The L is not silent.
With five scenic golf courses , Kashmir offers you the best you can think of. The one at Gulmarg is the world’s highest green golf course. Except for a few winter months, Kashmir’s weather is also perfect for the game.
To know more, I caught up with Shabir Ahmad Bhat , a long time golfer and joint secretary of Kashmir Golf Club, KGC. He disagrees with the perception that golf as a sport is out of reach of the common people. “Who says that? Yes, it is a little expensive than other sports and also asks for a lot of determination, but it is a great game,” says Shabir. “Maybe not in large numbers, but young Kashmiris are beginning to show interest in the game.”
So if you want to take up this sport, where do you begin, I ask Shabir. He gave me this checklist, and in this order:
- You need to take a temporary club membership first. The prices vary from club to club. For KGC the fee is around ` 2000 per month.
- This membership has to be taken for a minimum six months. You will be trained in the game and its rules during this period.
- There are separate spaces available for beginners and trainers also known as Pros. Make sure you get in touch with Ghulam Mohammad who has been a Pro for two decades.
- Once you have learnt the game and want a permanent membership, two executive members will PAT you. This is not a pat on your back but a Playing Ability Test. If you pass it, you can apply for permanent membership.
There is a prize here for those who become permanent members. Your spouse and kids (till 18) become members automatically. Yayyy!
And the gear you require? For beginners Shabir Ahmad suggests taking a ‘half-set’ comprising a bag and 6 sticks. This is what’s in the bag:
1 fairway wood
1 pitching wedge
I didn’t ask Shabir what the individual sticks do. But make sure you do when you’re training.
Now, the important thing. How much will the gear cost?
For a brand new half-set, you’ll have to shell out around ` 12,000. And if you go for a second hand, it’s half that price. Well, that’s not much considering a cricket gear can easily cost you even more. Shabir told me you can buy second hand half-sets from the KGC. There is also an option to rent the equipment from the club.
I also wanted to know what draws youngsters to golf. I met a teenage golfer, Numan. “I think the best part about golf is the course. You play in the lap of nature and it is so refreshing,” Numan told me as he swiveled his stick.
Shabir chips in with a different view. “Apart from physical exercise, golf is a game of etiquettes and discipline. You have to follow rules and a dress code. That makes you a better person.”
You read it right. A dress code is very important at the course. Go for formals while you are playing. You could be penalised if you stick to your favourite jeans.
Now if you plan to take up golf, where do you begin. KCG has a junior coaching camp coming up in July this year. You can join that. A similar camp in 2014 attracted over 150 students from various schools, but its second phase was washed away by floods. Shabir says interest in golf should be instilled at an early age for the game to flourish.
Shabir has been playing golf since 1986 when he was a teenager. Any parting shot, I ask him. “If you have the resolve and passion, you can get to the top. I never gave up. It’s been 29 years and counting. And yes, I am not from any high-flying background.”
So, are you ready to tee off?
But before you do that, check out this website for instructions from golfing experts and other related info. www.golf.com