Let’s get rid of the stereotypes first: you don’t need to acquire expensive equipment or invest in a club membership to learn how to play golf. There are no pre-requisites—besides a collared tee, trousers and sneakers—if you just want to have a go, and see how you take to the game. And you won’t be ‘playing’ golf for at least the first month or two—you’ll be hitting balls in a driving range: a fenced-off field the size of a football field where you can hit golf balls to different distances using different clubs. Most ranges are attached to golf clubs and will allow you to rent clubs, get coaching and hit balls for a casual membership. Once you start getting the hang of things and want to pursue the game, you’ll have to invest in golf shoes and a basic golf set. Most golf courses are open to walk-in members on payment of ‘green fee’, which can range from Rs 500-Rs 5,000 for one round of golf.
Attire is the one facet that you’ll do well to adhere to. Even if you’re going to a range, it helps to look like a golfer. On the course, you won’t be allowed in unless you’re in the recommended attire. This includes a polo (collared) tee and trousers (pleated or flat fronts). You’ll have to tuck in your tee and it makes sense to wear a belt. Caps are recommended, but not essential. Your style quotient will be amplified if you pick up something from golf-specific clothing lines. While you can hit balls at the range in sneakers, you will need proper golf shoes to hit the course. All major sporting brands, including Adidas and Nike, have a large range. Footjoy makes the most popular golf shoes worldwide—while there are no dedicated brand showrooms, you will find Footjoys in most golf course pro shops.
Inesis makes relatively inexpensive golf shoes, which can be picked up at Decathlon stores. Golf shoes can cost as much as Rs 25,000, but a decent pair can be purchased for about Rs 5,000.
Golf club technology is constantly evolving fuelled by golfers’ desire to get more distance and forgiveness from their clubs. That’s why all equipment companies introduce new lines of clubs virtually every year. Given the overload of information and products, it can be more than a tad confusing for someone who is new to the game. Here’s what you need to know: a standard golf set has 14 clubs, which include nine ‘irons’, three ‘woods’ and one putter. The 14th club is usually another ‘wedge’ or ‘hybrid’ club. Woods are sold separately, as is the putter and the wedge, while the irons come in one ‘iron set’. To start with, look for deals, which have the entire curation of 13-14 clubs and also throw in a golf bag. There is a real menace of counterfeit Chinese-made clubs, so make sure you buy from a branded outlet or from a pro shop at a golf course. The better brands include Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade and Ping, and a complete golf set can cost anywhere from Rs 40,000 to more than Rs 1 lakh. You could even consider checking out classifieds for good deals on second-hand golf sets. It’s prudent to minimise costs when you’re starting off—you can always build a new set once you start playing and have a better idea of the kind of clubs that suit your game.
If you’ve got money to splash around, by all means get a club membership. At the end of the day, a large number of non-golfers take golf club memberships for the social and networking aspect of it. Also, most modern clubs like DLF G&CC in Gurgaon, Delhi Golf Club, Madras Gymkhana, Willingdon Sports Club and the like are fully functional clubs with all sorts of sports and leisure facilities. Membership fee usually run into lakhs—Bombay Presidency Golf Club, for instance, charges close to Rs 30 lakh for membership—but even that doesn’t mean that you can get it. The Delhi Golf Club famously has a three-decade waiting list!
It’s only golf, if you’re playing by the rules. And the rulebook isn’t some 10-point memo—it’s a veritable book that even experienced players have to constantly refer to. While you’re not expected to know the whole thing by heart, it does make sense to read it and the bits that apply most often. Golf is also a gentle game, and one that’s founded on integrity and honesty. You keep your own score and are expected to call penalties upon yourself.
Golfers are particular about etiquette on the course and you’ll be expected to show consideration for other players, care for the course and conduct yourself in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times.
Coaching is absolutely imperative. Golf is a difficult and counter-intuitive game in which the answers are never obvious. Also, if you ingrain bad habits in your stance and grip at the onset, you’ll never be able to play to your full potential. Start by signing up for lessons—in any case, it’ll take a week of practice to ingrain what you’re taught in one lesson. Accredited golf coaches are at hand at all driving ranges and golf course academies. Do not waste your time trying to figure the game out on your own—you’ll end up wasting time and money.
In Delhi, look no further than the excellent set-up at the Siri Fort Sports Complex, which is by far the easiest and most convenient place to learn the game in the Capital. Casual membership at the range is Rs 56 and a bucket of 50 balls costs Rs 85. Clubs are also available for rent at a nominal cost. There are a number of coaches at the range, including well-known pro Amandeep Johl, who has played on the Asian Tour, and Mani Bhushan, who has trained some of the top juniors in the country. Coaching sessions usually last 30 minutes and cost anywhere from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000. If you’re serious about learning the game, plan at least three-four one-hour sessions in a week supplemented by three-four lessons in a month. You’ll be on your way in no time.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game