Tiger Woods was an American who turned a professional golfer at the age of 20 years. He won the 1997 Masters title in 12 strokes, a record breaking performance.
I am not trying to be a Tiger in the Woods! I have thought of golf as a game of the leisurely rich. Then why am I interested in golf? I spent a ‘leisurely’ afternoon in a country club, happy to be away from the restrictions of the pandemic, and was given the opportunity of an hour of coaching in the intricacies of golf! My effort is to describe what I understood and played in an hour! Arjun, a professional golf player turned coach, was a tough trainer.
Golf is a game of striking a ball into a hole with a club! Simple, except that the hole would be like 50, 100 or more yards away. The player scores based the number of strokes (hits) per hole. If it take 17 strokes to ‘hole out’ the score for that hole is 17. A standard round of golf consists of 18 holes spread over a large area. The rules of the game are quite complex. The beauty of the game is that you can play it alone or compete with others in a group or in a tournament. The game starts with ‘teeing off’, where the ball is placed on a small rubber or plastic peg. Only the opening stroke is played off a tee and hence the term’ ‘teeing off’.
Debatable origins of golf: Stories of the origins of the game of golf spread from Rome in the First Century to China during the Ming dynasty! Scotland and Netherlands are later contenders. The trophy of the origins of golf appears to go to the latter, the Dutch and not the Scots!
“For many years it was believed that golf originated in Scotland. This belief rested on three references in Scottish acts of Parliament from the second half of the 15th century. In a resolution of the 14th Parliament, convened in Edinburgh on March 6, 1457, the games of football and golf (“futbawe and ye golf”) were banned with a vengeance (“utterly cryt done”). This ban was repeated in 1471….”
“The earliest known scenes depicting golf in Scotland are found in two paintings dated 1680 (or 1720) and 1746–47. The earlier work is an oil painting by an unknown artist who depicted a gentlemen foursome and two caddies against the backdrop of the town of St. Andrews. The second, a watercolour by the Englishman Paul Sandby (1725–1809), shows a squad of soldiers fighting over a golf ball in the shrubbery at the foot of Edinburgh Castle.” https://www.britannica.com/sports/golf
In a phrase booklet written by a “Dutch schoolmaster, Pieter van Afferden, or Petrus Apherdianus (1510–80), Tyrocinium latinae linguae (Recruits’ Drill in the Latin Language; 1545). a chapter titled “De Clauis Plumbatis” (“On the [Game with the] Leaded Clubs”), the club is indeed called a kolve, and the game as such is referred to as kolven (the infinitive of a verb used as a noun). This confirms that the Scots word golf is indeed based on kolve or kolf. In the course of a dialogue in this text, the fictitious players also give the first indication of the existence of rules. For instance, a golfer who misses the ball is said to lose the right to strike (wastes a stroke); to step onto the teeing ground before it is one’s turn is against the rules because a certain order of play has to be adhered to; a player must be allowed to swing freely, necessitating that other players step back; a golfer is not allowed to stand in the light of his partner; and, lastly, in order to putt, the ball has to be struck—merely pushing it is forbidden and is called a knavish trick. The hole, however, is called not a put but a cuyl. Generally speaking, then, the Tyrocinium proves that, by the middle of the 16th century, golf in the Netherlands was a firmly established and rather sophisticated game.” https://www.britannica.com/sports/golf
The Golf Clubs: There are four or five different types of clubs used for hitting the ball. These are wood, iron, wedge, putter and a fifth called hybrid. The clubs have a long shaft and handle to hold it. The shaft could be made of durable steel or titanium, more expensive.
Wood: There is no wood in the Wood club! Perhaps a historical name when these clubs were made of wood. It is rather fat or large club, hollow and with a long shaft. It is used for driving the ball to great distances or long range shots. The clubs are numbered, with Wood driver being number 1. The ball goes furthest because 1 wood has a longest shaft and biggest club head.
Iron: These are the most popular golf clubs, made of steel and numbered 4-9, according to Arjun our coach. Number 4 has the longest shaft to drive and number 9 has the shortest shaft. They are used for striking with more accuracy. Based on the slope or angle of the club and the length of the shaft, it can be used to send the ball far and along the ground or high up and closer. In my practice session Arjun gave me an iron club numbered 9.
Wedge: They are similar to irons, but with a club face at different angles, 46 to 64 degrees. Different wedges are used based on the course, grassier or a sand pit. Wedges help to get the ball out of these difficult tracks.
Putter: This is used only close to the hole, to push the ball in. It has a very different shape of club designed to roll the ball into the hole.
Hybrid: It is a cross between wood and iron and the most modern form of club. They do not carry a number and can be used to substitute for other clubs especially the iron.
Arjun taught me two important things, the posture of your body and the grip of your hands on the shaft of the club are crucial. For the posture, feet apart, knees slightly bend and the torso held straight and bend at an angle. Only the shoulder should move from right to left while you swing the club and strike the ball or ‘tee off’ with eyes on the ball all the time and torso held straight! The swing is what gives the force to the strike. The grip for a right handed person: the left thumb and the index finger gripping the shaft of the club should form a V pointing to the right shoulder at the top of the shaft. Lower on the shaft the right hand will cover the left thumb, with the left thumb and left index finger forming a V pointing to the left shoulder. The grip has to be firm on the shaft, relaxing the right hand when the club swings to the left after striking the ball. Complex? Well, not really when this is shown to you by a coach like Arjun.
And so I tried. Arjun coached me to swing the club to hit the tee alone, without the ball on it. Then I went on to try the swing the club to hit the ball. In the first few shots, I missed the ball completely. Then I got into the act. The ball went off way to the left at first, due to the angle at which I was holding the club. Then after a number of shot, I started to ‘tee off’ more or less perfectly. I am amazed at the ball actually passed the 50 yard (or was it meter) mark!
Overall, it was a fascinating evening and I learnt a new game. While leaving and thanking him, Arjun wished that I would play golf to a 100 years!