Can you really learn to play golf in seven days?
By Bernhard Krieger Jul 6, 2010, 12:42 GMT
Faro, Portugal - 'You'll never manage it!' Such discouraging comments from colleagues were ringing in our ears as we disembarked from the aircraft in Faro.
Well there we were, in Europe's golf paradise on the Algarve coast - an ideal location for an ambitious self-test project in southern Portugal, namely to see whether it is possible to learn how to play golf in just seven days.
The experts at the upmarket Robinson Club Quinta da Ria are convinced that the challenge can be met and to prove the point they quickly packed off myself and four fellow golf novices to Steffen Zunker. He runs a preparatory programme for newcomers to the game.
A seasoned tournament professional, Zunker is also passionate about the game. Turning raw recruits into golfers after just 15 hours of instruction is no big deal for the 36-year-old who boasts a success rate of 85 per cent.
Our first attempts at putting are frustrating. None of us is relaxed enough to adopt the right stance and Steffen shows us how to grip the club properly. The secret is to hold the hands lightly on the club before addressing the ball squarely with a stroke akin to the measured movement of a clock pendulum.
The ball should whizz across the closely-clipped grass of the green with ease before rolling into the appropriate hole. At close quarters the procedure seems simple enough but from a distance the typical golf novice pales at the prospect.
Day two sees us putting with a degree of aplomb as the ball regularly finds the hole it is intended for. Shots from the sand also pose no problems and so it is time for the hard bit - how to learn to drive a golf ball like a pro.
Steffen shows us the ropes at the driving range and naturally his shots are accomplished and elegant. Some of our balls wobble along just a few metres and one novice fails to hit the ball at all. My swipes send the ball all over the place but nowhere near the hole.
Steffen encourages us, corrects our strokes and constantly checks whether we are holding the club correctly. The right grip is the name of the game when it comes to golf and behold, after only three days we have absorbed one of the principal rules of golf, namely that 'less is sometimes more.'
Golfers do not need great reserves of strength. The key to a successful golf drive is not power but a natural and accurate swing.
'I would say that 95 per cent of all drives in golf are bad shots which turn out good,' said Steffen. Not even professionals achieve perfection, said the expert. After three days of practising we can feel aches in muscles we did not know we even had and the first blisters are showing on our hands.
Fortunately, the view across the golf course compensates for our trials and tribulations. Giant palms fronds wave gently in a wind which also shakes the centuries-old olive trees. The tower of a church can be seen behind the undulating, green-clad hills and beyond that the shimmering waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
In order to play in such delightful surroundings we are happy to sacrifice our holiday in the name of golf and our level of concentration rises by the hour.
The practice greens see us getting a little better all the time although out on the range all the skills we have acquired seem to evaporate and the balls run wide. 'A golf course is only 10 centimetres across - from one ear to the other,' said Steffen, smiling.
Courses combining a holiday and learning golf skills are becoming popular since golf is a mental game and while on vacation players can enjoy a relaxed learning atmosphere conducive to making swift progress.
Golf is no longer a sport for the well-off only and instruction holidays for beginners complete with a high-quality set of golf clubs and bag start at around 550 dollars. The equipment is fine for playing on any public golf courses but a novice needs to have reached a certain standard before he or she can enter the realm of regular club golf.