S V L Narayan, April 30, 2013 23:00 IST
I underestimated the skill required to play the game when I started.
With television sports channels going on overdrive to telecast golf tournaments, it is but natural that more people are showing interest in playing that game.
Unfortunately, in India, one needs to be a member of a golf club to enjoy the sport. That is easier said than done. On an average, one needs to wait more than ten years after applying to start playing, unless one is ready to pay an obscene sum to get early membership. I struck gold some years back and now play regularly in a nice golf course.
I underestimated the skill required to play the game when I started. Thanks to watching a few videos of some professionals easily hitting long shots, I presumed that my old skill at college level cricket would serve me well to master the new game.
The first day on the course was eventful. I was dressed no different than any of the professional golfers one sees on TV. Plus, a brand new golf set acquired through a relative in the USA. I placed the ball on the tee and took a couple of practice swings with my club. I was now all set to hit my first shot on a golf course.
I took an almighty swing and was confident that the ball was headed towards the flag. There was a hushed silence all around from the spectators. To my horror, and embarrassment I found that the ball was still there in all its glory on the tee just the way I had placed it. To cut a long and tragic story short, my ball moved about a hundred yards after five shots. The next day I enrolled for coaching.
Golf and Bridge have two things in common. A post-mortem of the game, and exchange of recrimination between the losing partners. However, unlike in the card game there is a therapy centre at the golf course to calm frayed tempers. It is universally called the 19th hole where a few mugs of beer will soon cool down the antagonists. This is also the place where one drops names and talks about one’s encounter with Tiger or Rory or Jeev (it will always be first names to show familiarity).
For a golfer, the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland, has the same status as Tirupati, Mecca or the Vatican. It was my dream for a long time to breathe the air there. A year back, with a reluctant wife in tow, I reached the course. I went through the normal routine of photographs of me against the background of the club house, to prove to my pals that I actually visited the course. Then it was off to the proshop to buy some mementos to give to my golf pals. Like in any other tourist spot, the prices were a rip off.
Today I can proudly claim that I am St Andrews-returned.Like horse-racing, golf also has a handicap system. The lower the handicap the better you are as a player.
Unfortunately, with my stratospherically inclined handicap golfers find it embarrassing to play with me. So I plough a lone furrow on the course week after week. But I am not going to give up.