Our columnist and single figure golfer (and cyclist), Naga Munchetty, appreciates how golf gives her the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends, and she doesn't want others to miss out.
Words by Naga Munchetty
Since I last wrote so much has happened - not all good, not all bad ...
Club Championships- well, to say they were a disaster in terms of my golf, would be an understatement. I played with Women & Golf’s Editor, Alison Root, (it wasn’t much better for her) and after walking off the first hole with a 9, the tone was set for the next two rounds that day in temperatures in excess of 30°. My handicap duly went up to 9 and it has stayed there.
Team Naga is feeling frustrated. We’re lagging behind Team Clive a fair bit, but I’m hoping this race to bring our handicaps down will be a case of the Tortoise and the Hare. Still, the team has focused a lot more on its short game with clinics, more focused lessons and constant swapping of tips.
I completed the 100-mile challenge that was Ride London. I have never been so relieved to finish anything - 8½ hours in the rain and wind - urgh! All I have left is a ride to Amsterdam in September.
The community of cycling is a pretty friendly and generous one. I’ve made lots of new friends doing it. I understand why it successfully rivals golf as a leisure activity. It’s fairly inexpensive, easy to do on your own or in groups, and easy to organise. Golf could definitely learn something from it.
I ask myself constantly, Why are we not seeing more new players enter the game? What is putting them off? In an ideal world, we will be at the stage where everyone we meet can say they have hit a golf ball with a club. It should be the same way that most people can say they have ridden a bicycle, kicked a football or gone out for a run. You don’t have to like golf, but at least be able to say you’ve given it a go.
Various groups are trying to reinvigorate the game, but it can’t be easy when the bodies at the top of the game have such different priorities. Do you want to support golf clubs, PGA pros or high-level professional competitions? The links between them are obvious, but does Joanne Bloggs really care about who does what? She just wants to know that it’s easy to access a place to learn to play and find someone to play with, without any fuss. I feel sorry for those who don’t have golf in their lives and I’m on a mission to change that.
I’ve been lucky enough to recently play in the Ricoh Women’s British Open pro-am with Nasa Hataoka and the Aberdeen Standard Investment men’s Scottish Open pro-am with Darren Clarke. They were lots of fun. Both very generous pros who made sure that we had fun.
In fact, at Royal Lytham & St Annes I met a lovely family. The dad had played in the pro-am and was in the winning team, his young daughter and her mum had walked around with the group and really enjoyed the day. It was the perfect example to me of how golf works. Spending time with each other, improving personal skills and having fun. The excitement was contagious and it made me realise that one of golf’s biggest assets IS time. We often hear about how long a round can take, moans about slow play (often justified) and how it takes up so much of a day off. I think about it differently, what other sport allows a family of differing abilities to play on a level playing field, where the worst player can win? In an age of technology, where we worry about how much time people of all ages are spending in front of smartphones and not communicating across the dining table, golf is the sport that claims family time back. I often say that without golf I wouldn’t spend nearly as much quality time with my husband and friends. How often can you say that you spend a few hours in company, on a regular basis, without looking at your phone? Other than the golf course?
That’s how we can sell golf, at a time when I genuinely believe there is a backlash against technology sabotaging our time waiting to happen.
I was so chuffed to be able to congratulate the fabulous Georgia Hall on her great win at the Ricoh Women's British Open. I'm not ashamed to say that I had a proper fan girl moment with her and she kindly signed the hat I wore when I played in the pro-am.
She's a great ambassador for the game and we had a good chat on the BBC Breakfast sofa about encouraging new players to the game and keeping the interest in it alive.
Interestingly enough she is coached by Daniel Grieve, head pro at Woburn Golf Club, who has also been helping out Team Naga and Team Clive... maybe I should pay more attention to what he's teaching us, as who knows where that could lead eh?
Image credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
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