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Want to become a golfer?

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:55 IST
Pranab Ghosh
hthorizons

She is 15 years old and a junior amateur golfer who — much to her excitement — has managed to make it to the women’s squad of the national team participating in the Asian Games, currently underway in Guangzhou, China. Gurbani Singh from Delhi is among a few Indian girls who have won an international golf tournament (the Evian Junior Masters Cup in Evian, France, in July 2010). In the overall category where the performances of both boys and girls were considered, she tied at the second spot with a boy from Austria.

Singh has been the number one junior player (girl’s section) in the country and her current national amateur ranking, among ladies, is one. Is she planning to turn professional in the near future? According to Singh’s mother Bharati, “It’s wait and watch for her. Yes, she’ll turn pro if her game comes up to international professional standards.”

Singh, however, intends to choose golf as a profession “as it would be something I would enjoy doing every day of my life.”

“Golf is gaining quite a lot of popularity in India now,” she adds. Though it is not the rage like cricket, “if you go to the driving range in any popular golf club in India, you will see a large number of children practising. Their numbers are growing every passing year,” she says. This growing popularity of the game can be attributed to the success of players like Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh, who “have definitely made a name for Indian golfers on the world platform.”

But what exactly is this game all about? “Golf is a precision sport, which requires you to get the ball in the hole with the help of minimum number of strokes. A golf course has 18 holes and he who completes the course with the lowest number of shots taken is declared the winner,” says Abhinav Lohan, an amateur golfer ranked number two in the country and a member of the Asian Games squad.

According to him, the chance for someone to make it big in the golf course is immense. “Now we have full-fledged professional tours (in the country) with decent prize money,” he says. “For amateurs and juniors, we have proper tournaments too. Moreover, you can represent India at the international level as an amateur, based on your ranking.”

Detractors say that golf is an expensive game, which not everybody can afford to play. Lohan disagrees. “Anyone can play golf irrespective of his/her background.” This is because of support from golf foundations and various corporate houses. Once you start playing well, then there is a nice support system to carry you forward, he says.

Those wanting to earn a living from golf will have to go professional because amateurs play only for trophies — there’s no prize money involved. And how does one become a professional player?

“Anyone who can compete at a very high level with a scoring average that betters the course par can decide to attend any qualifying school run by various golfing outfits. You can then play as a professional and earn a living if you play well,” says Jasjit Singh, who has a degree in golf course management from the Golf Academy of the South in Casselberry, Florida, USA, and at present teaches at the Delhi Golf Club.

What's it about?
Golf is about hitting shots around a stipulated course by making the least number of strokes/shots to complete the course. In other words, it is a precision club-and-ball game in which competing golfers attempt to hit the ball into each hole on a golf course with the fewest number of strokes. The golfers use different types of clubs to hit the ball. Golf is one of the few ball games that do not require a standardised playing area. The game is, instead, played on ‘courses’, each of which has a unique design. Courses typically consist of nine or 18 holes. If a course has nine holes, it will have to be played twice through to complete 18 holes

Clock Work
The day of a golf-teaching professional looks like this:
5 am: Wake up
5.30 am: Do warm-up exercises
6 am to 8 am: Give lessons
9 am to noon: Continue with lessons after a one-hour break for tea and snacks
1 pm: Lunch
2 pm to 3.30 pm: Work out at the gym
4 pm to 8 pm: Continue giving lessons
8.30 pm: Reach home

The Payoff
At entry level, a golf professional may earn Rs10,000 to Rs15,000 a month; at mid-level Rs25,000 to Rs45,000 a month and at the senior level Rs50,000 to Rs2 lakh month. Talented players can earn more

Skills
. A golfer needs to be dedicated, disciplined, hard working and willing to go that extra mile for his sport
. For golf in particular, a strong mind is very essential. It is one of the few sports where you act and don’t react; so mind power takes you a long way
. Persistence and a steady hand

How do i get there?
The stages are simple. You can rent clubs at any driving range at a golf course near you or at a stand-alone driving range facility for R10 to R50 per golf club for practice. You can take lessons for as little as R100 per half hour or 45 minutes, depending on the level of coach you hire. In addition you pay about R35 to R50 for balls and in about four to six weeks, you get to learn the basics of golf. This totally depends on your personal ability and the time you are able to devote to the learning process.

Becoming a golfer is easy but becoming a pro is an altogether different thing. Amateur golfers play for sport/trophy while pros play for money

Institutes & urls
. DLF Golf and Country Club
www.dlfgolfresort.com
. National Golf Academy, Chandigarh
www.ngai.org.in
. Delhi Golf Club
www.delhigolfclub.org
. Noida Golf Club
www.noidagolfcourse.com
. The David Leadbetter Academy, USA
www.leadbetter.com
. Butch Harmon School of Golf, USA
www.butchharmon.com
. Pinehurst Golf Academy, USA
www.pinehurst.com

Pros & Cons


.

Good prize money in professional golf


.

Name and fame


.

Chance to play for your country as an amateur


.

The sense of competing against the course and your own self will give you a high


.

Players have to travel often and stay away from home for long periods


.

Remaining focused is key and if you lose your concentration you are finished

Golf can become an industry in India

A senior pro analyses the opportunities and challenges

What is the scope of a golf player/practitioner’s work in India?
Golf players are mostly amateurs but then in the pro category there are two types of people: The golf professional, who teaches golf or runs golf facilities; and the professional golfer, who plays golf for a living. The scope of work is great as this is the fastest growing sport in India and with it brings jobs relating to, but not limited to, playing golf — for example, maintenance of the greens, management of facilities, teaching, running events, refereeing, etc.

Apart from playing, what can one do to earn a living out of golf?
Caddies generally earn a general wage unless the facility is a private one where they may earn a salary and also commission on a per round basis. Coaches earn from giving lessons and doing coaching camps and other teaching assignments. There are front office staff or managers, range attendants, greens keepers, general managers etc who help in running a facility from start to finish. We have merchandisers running the pro-shop.

What is India’s position among golf-playing nations? Has there been any major improvement in playing standard of an Indian players in international tournaments?
India has some great golfers playing across the globe and pretty much on all the major tours like the European and PGA Tours. Golf is an individual sport.

Therefore, the numbers of good golfers need to steadily increase and show dominance on world tours, in order to establish India as a key player in the golf world. Nevertheless, the West is taking note of India’s progress in the sport and we will have some better golfers emerge in the years to come, as golf is now an Olympic sport to be played in Rio in 2016.

Who all are the major golf playing countries in the world? How would you explain the rise of China in the global golf arena? Where does India stand vis-à-vis China and the rest of the world (in terms of golf infrastructure)?
The United States of America dominates the world and then there is Europe, Australia, South Africa, Asia and so on. China has developed great infrastructure and it is using golf to improve the tourism sector and in the process, there has been an increase in (the number of) golfers from China. We will, however, have to wait and see how it develops in the subcontinent. China is ahead of India as far as infrastructure is concerned. Also, there are more quality golf courses in China as compared to India but then on the player front, we still have a better presence in the international golf arena.

What are the challenges before professional golfers in India?
Professional golfers require regular tournaments and bigger events with more money and of course, better training facilities with more hi-tech equipment; also health, fitness and nutrition are very important but are not taken seriously. Golf in our country is growing to be a very big industry, which will open many employment opportunities in the years to come.

Jasjit Singh, teaching professional, Delhi Golf Club Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh

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