Emirates Golf Club’s new programme aims to get newcomers confident on the par-3 course in just four days. Holly Sands takes up the challenge.
Golf courses can be intimidating places. If you’re an amateur working your way around your first nine holes, the pressure is on when you feel the next group bearing down behind you. And if you’ve always been interested but never thought you had the time or funds, Emirates Golf Club’s new four-day ‘Learn Golf in a Week’ programme could provide exactly you’ve been waiting for, at a reasonable cost.
I arrive at the Faldo driving range for my first of four 60-minute evening lessons. I’m wearing an outfit that as closely resembles appropriate golfing attire as my wardrobe can muster, and wave a nervous hello at the seven other members of my class. Our instructor, Mark Bruce, introduces himself, before asking how much we know about the sport and whether we have any previous experience. After a demonstration, explaining the irons we should use to tee off (a seven, eight or nine) and how we should stand in relation to the ball, we’re invited to take up a spot on the driving range and hit a few balls so Mark can gauge our natural style. He then demonstrates the various mistakes some of us have been making with stance, grip and swing, before letting us loose to practice with our new tips.
One of the instructions we were given last night was to practise our swing for a couple of minutes at home – so there are a few predictably sheepish faces. Fortunately, the first part of the lesson involves us practising again on the driving range, before Mark demonstrates how much our stance can affect the power that goes into the swing. Learning to bend the knees, keep the hips straight and turn only the upper body (all while keeping eyes on the ball) is no mean feat. As such, he suggests starting with a smaller swing before attempting to raise the club all the way back. After a few practice shots, I find my control becoming more consistent.
It’s our first night away from the driving range, tackling a new discipline: chipping. Our task for the lesson is to consistently get our balls across the bunker and onto the green, using a different type of club – the sand wedge. The swing is smaller than we’ve practised so far, and our stance is narrower. As the lesson progresses, I find my main battle is remembering to ‘soften the knees’ and to move only my upper body, as I sway rigidly side to side with the club instead. Towards the end of the hour we’re divided into two teams, with the first team to get ten balls onto the green crowned the winner.
Though many of us see our skills diminish under pressure, it’s a good, realistic way to get a taste of the competitive element.
Our final night is spent on the putting green, where we’re shown a new stance and swing. Making our attempts from different distances allows us to gauge how much power to put into each shot – it’s very frustrating to keep practising the much smaller, highly controlled swing (and even though it’s a big no-no, I begin to empathise with certain pros who have been known to throw their clubs on the ground in a tantrum). Afterwards, we’re taken to the first hole to have the etiquette and a few rules explained to us, including different teeing spots for men and women, provisional ball play and preventing a traffic jam on the course.
Though I would definitely require a few more one-to-one lessons to hone my technique, as the week wraps up I find my confidence has drastically improved. In the past, I’ve felt out of place and in the way on
the par 3 course, but would now happily book a slot to play with a (more seasoned) friend. I wonder if Tiger is busy next weekend…
Dhs600 per person for four hour-long sessions. Emirates Golf Club, www.dubaigolf.com (04 380 1234).
Golf coaching around town
The Academy at this club offers a range of different packages, including the Coaching Retreat – an ultimate three-day experience that includes three hours of coaching each morning, plus four nights’ accommodation at the hotel and a round on the 18-hole course.
Dhs8,380 for one pupil, Dhs9,980 for two. Emirates Hills (04 363 1209).
Arabian Ranches Golf Club
The three-month Mirador long-term development programme is aimed at beginners, and includes ten 30-minute lessons, a one-hour playing lesson and a practice range pass for the duration.
Dhs1,995for non-members and non-residents (discounts for residents and members). Emirates Road (04 366 3000).