As golfing season tees off, Benita Adesuyan practises with a pro to help you improve your handicap.
‘Just clear your mind, don’t over think it and hit the ball,’ says Ed Chapman coach at Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai’s Festival City. Despite taking his advice, we still manage to swoosh the club through the air, failing to connect with the ball and realising in one swing that golf really is far tougher than Rory, Tiger and Sergio make it look.
Dubai is home to many golf fans and has become a top destination for club-toting tourists who want to play on the emirate’s championship courses. Ed has been coaching at Al Badia for three years. The club will be hosting the R&A Rules School three-day course from Monday November 3, for players who want to consider being referees and for ambitious enthusiasts. The course will instruct on the rules of the game and how to handle unique scenarios.
Thankfully, Ed has seen worse than our air shots. Describing the common mistakes he sees from beginners and improvers, he says, ‘Number one, by a long way, is that people are too tense. Not only is it a most common trait, but it’s also a big issue. It’s a real killer for flowing movement. People tend to think that they have more control of the club if they are tense, but they don’t. If you’re hitting over a short distance you might, but for generating any kind of speed or power you won’t.’
Ed says that excelling in golf is as much about the skills you bring to it from other sports as how you learn the techniques of golf itself. In his experience, he finds that people who have played the likes of tennis, baseball or hockey, where you use a rotational movement, tend to adapt well to golf.
On our visit to Al Badia, Ed starts the lesson on the chipping green, getting us to chip the ball towards the flag, letting it roll towards the hole. ‘The next common mistake is trying to lift the ball into the air,’ he says.
‘Even though the club is angled to do that, the proper way to chip the ball is to hit downwards. Often people try and lift the ball by scooping it up. A lot of [this miss hitting] stems from a misunderstanding of what’s going to happen when you strike the ball, but as long as it’s not ingrained, we can teach players how to correct this.’
Ed and his team coach adults and children at Al Badia with pupils as young as five taking weekly classes. As we work on our chipping technique, Ed says that getting the basics right first in golf is key to progressing.
He explains that the starting position must be correct if we are to stand a chance at getting a good hit. ‘You want to place your feet shoulder-width apart,’ he says. As we shift our weight and adjust our stance, he adds, ‘There should be a little knee flex and tilt forward from the waist, arms should be relaxed, hanging down from the shoulders with the weight evenly distributed between your feet – that’s your athletic-ready position. You should feel like you have to work to be in that position. If you feel at ease then you’re probably doing something wrong.’ After an hour-long session, we feel like we’ve been in bootcamp.
Ed believes that improving in golf is simply about practise, and with so many greens across Dubai, there’s no excuse for getting rusty. ‘It’s a bit like going to the dentist,’ he jokes. ‘If you leave it too long and you need a root canal, it won’t be any fun.’
From Dhs100. R&A Rules School three-day course, Al Badia Golf Club, InterContinental Dubai Festival City, www.albadiagolfclub.ae (04 601 0101).
All in the club
To the novice, a bag full of clubs might be daunting. Here’s a rundown of what they do:
These are numbered according to their length. The longest iron is usually a three. As the numbers get higher, the irons get shorter and more angled, giving you more loft in your shot. The distance decreases by approximately ten yards per club.
This is best for hitting shorter distances. It has a wide bottom and comes in handy when trying to get out of bunkers.
This club has the biggest head in the bag and hits the ball the longest distance.
This is a precise club with a long flat side designed to roll the ball along the green and knock the ball into the hole.