There are several championship-standard golf courses in Dubai, yet there are still a great number of us who have never once set foot on a driving range – the closest we manage is a drink at the 19th hole. Often, it’s the long, jargon-heavy list of charges that have to be totted up that puts non-golfers off.
In my bid to prove golf isn’t just the sport of corporates and retirees, and not half as complicated as it first seems, I lace up a pair of rented (shudder) golf shoes and commandeer one of Emirates Golf Club’s pro instructors to try my hand at teeing off. The club has recently launched a First Time Fridays session, where those new to golf can have an hour-long introductory lesson for Dhs80, with clubs provided free. You can hire shoes for Dhs65, or just wear trainers.
My instructor for the morning, Stephen Deane (pictured above), has been coaching at the club for the past four and a half years, and has seen it all. ‘I had one student who believed you had to strike the ball with the grip end of the club, rather than the club head,’ Deane explains. ‘Luckily, he soon realised it’s much easier if you hold the club the correct way round.’
Having previously been convinced I will make the world’s most appalling golfer, I’m cheered by this particularly remarkable anecdote. I’m still a bit nervous, but as Deane explains to all his first-timers, ‘golf is supposed to be fun’, so I’m determined to get stuck in and enjoy my lesson.
Once we arrive at the driving range (a short spin in a golf buggy from the main clubhouse), the first thing Deane walks me through is how to arrange my grip on the club. He hands me a nine iron and shows me how to place my hands, first left and then right, keeping the grip as close to my natural stance as possible, and allowing for flex in the wrists. Next, he asks me to take an unguided swing, so he can take a look at my natural movement. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t pretty, and the first thing he corrects is the fact I’m using only my arms, rather than moving my shoulders. Next, he address my stance, encouraging me to keep my feet shoulder-width apart, bend my knees, and lean forward slightly, keeping my back straight. He places a ball in front of me, and after a few contactless shots, I manage to sweep it out onto the range, finishing almost perfectly.
Towards the end of our session, I’m pleased to hear that although my technique is inconsistent at the moment, I’ve got good balance and ‘a very natural swing’. I suspect Deane is just being kind and humouring my wide-eyed enthusiasm while dodging my rather wild swinging, but it has what I assume is the desired effect – I feel encouraged and keen to return.
Emirates Golf Club’s First Time Fridays sessions offer new golfers an hour-long group intro to the game. Dhs80 per person, Fridays at 3pm (open to men and women over 18). Driving range open 6.45am-9.30pm. Emirates Golf Club (04 380 2222)
Two more to try
Is Emirates Golf Club too far from your house? Try these alternative ranges at opposite ends of town Jebel Ali Golf Club A trip to the Jebel Ali driving range will set you back Dhs30 for 50 balls, and clubs can be hired for Dhs50. You’re allowed to wear trainers, but if you prefer to hire golf shoes, they’re available for Dhs30. Want a lesson? Pro instructors offer 30-minute one-on-one sessions for Dhs190. Driving range open 6.30am-7.45pm. Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa (04 814 5555)
Al Badia Golf Club Step onto the driving range with unlimited balls for Dhs75, or with a pyramid of 80 balls for Dhs30. Club hire costs Dhs175 and golf shoes are Dhs50, though trainers are also allowed. Lessons with professionals are available for Dhs350 for 45 minutes. Driving range open 6.30am-9pm. InterContinental, Dubai Festival City (04 601 0111)