In the first installment of his column LifeSport, novelist and avid sportsman Anupam Srivastava shares how he discovered a passion for golf, and offers some tips for beginners. 

They cropped up from everywhere, the oldies dressed in expensive t-shirts and shorts. Behind them followed the gaggle of poor lads in chappals, lugging bags with golf sticks. Fops, I always thought, and insensitive human beings too.

It all began in Patna

I first crossed paths with these oldies in the laidback city of Patna, when I took up a job with the United Nations for a few years. In this town, there wasn’t much to do on weekends, so I watched golfers. It was hard to understand why they spent so many hours on the course.

They would hit a ball, search for it, find it and immediately hit it again and resume the search. I could not fathom either them, or the game they played. But that didn’t stop me from getting a low-cost service membership to the golf club and a golf set. In addition, I took some classes from someone, but my heart was elsewhere.

Lured by beer and kebabs 

You see, I was keener on the nineteenth hole, the club house where golfers rehydrated themselves with beer and re-energised themselves with kababs and tandoori naan. Not surprisingly, most of my weekend visits were made to the nineteenth hole, but minus the tiresome routine of eighteen holes.

The coach reprimanded me for being irregular in practice, and shifted his focus on more promising trainee golfers. I soon forgot about my golf set. Being a bit of a runner, I earned my beer by running a lap of the golf course instead.

Kebab skewers and beer- unhealthy
Initially I was lured to the golf club by kebabs and beer.

Moving on to Noida

Once back in the grind of the big city of Delhi, I began to dream of a golf club membership. The Noida golf club close to my home offered a superb nineteenth hole, a gym and a swimming pool.

I eyed them in that order. Golf was nowhere on my list. Somehow, I passed the golf test and was granted membership.

New start, same attitude

To celebrate our new baptism, my family and I made several visits to the club house where we celebrated the expansion of the bar menu and found many favourite dishes on the menu. Occasionally, I would hit a few balls at the driving range – some would rise while the others would skid away.

With a large number of them, I would not be able to connect. It didn’t matter to me. I was not keen on golfing at all, but would somehow head for the range to conform to the expectation from me as a member.

An unusual occurrence

And then one day, something strange happened. I hit the ball straight and long, one after another, repeatedly, continuously. It was exhilarating, and yet I was surprised at my own excitement. Soon, I began visiting the club frequently, but headed for the driving range instead of hole 19. Also, I found a group of golfers with whom I started to play. Strange, inexplicable, but true, nevertheless!

And now, I get up at 5 in the morning, and leave my home quietly, in response to the irresistible draw towards the vast greens. Here, I swing my club in the hope of a perfect stroke, a perfect sound and a perfect par score, which has so far eluded me.

Now, I am hooked

But I know it won’t be for long before I get pars, have a handicap score that raises eyebrows, to which I respond modestly: Sir, it just happened. Golf has also made me lighter on my feet, and on the weight machine.

Most golfers have the same story. And now the nineteenth hole appears to be a distant sight, a diversion off the straight and narrow path, an indulgence I do not need as the other eighteen are all that I care about.

Pro golfer putting golf ball in to the hole. Golf ball by the hole with player in background on a sunny day.
The hope of getting a perfect par score is more real now.

Some tips for beginners

#1 Remembers, even the pros started one day as beginners, so don’t be in a rush.

#2 There are many places with a driving range, here. Some are the Noida stadium here and the Siri Fort Sports Complex in Delhi. All golf clubs have driving ranges – you have to play a small range fee and pay for the use of balls – usually one rupee per ball.

#3 All ranges let you hire a club. Don’t start with a set. Start with a 7 or 8 iron and practice. Get a coach to teach you the basics. One lesson can cost around Rs. 500 per hour.

#4 Don’t get an expensive set. Instead, get a good second hand for around Rs 15,000. Make sure this is modern though,  since ancient blades are harder to hit and will discourage you from playing.

#4 Start with the irons, then move to wedges – the shorter clubs – for the short game, and the driver and fairway woods later.

#5 Once golf is part of your system, apply for club membership and wait. In the interim, keep playing by paying the green fee.

Useful Information

Anupam Srivastava is the author of The Brown Sahebs, a novel. He is a keen sportsman.