Balls, Birdies & Bunkers

As the great English author and humorist, PG Wodehouse once stated: “To find a true man’s character, play golf with him.”

Originating in Scotland in the 15th century, golf has become a serious pastime (or profession) for many. It is a game where players use a club and score shots depending on how close they can get their designated balls to a hole. With a large number of new clubs (irons, drivers and/or pro-style hybrids) having dropped into the market in the middle of this year it seems that the flashest, savviest selection for the perfect game gets more and more technologically advanced with each swing.

Whether you’re just starting out, or already skilled in the sport, you must always be aware of the three essential keys to the game. You need to know your clubs, the etiquette of the game and your posture. In addition: M2 has researched information on two of the biggest brands in golf and their latest technological advancements for your reading gratification. At a few hundred dollars, it seems you can be suited and booted like a golf pro with the right sort of gear at just a click of a button. But are you really getting the best bang for your buck? Will you look like a player, or will the nearest you get to a birdie be the KFC on the way home? M2 has pieced together a four-step list of what you need to ensure the success of your game.

Your first set of clubs

The initial principle to remember when buying your first set of golf clubs is: it is better to err on the side of caution and not think you need to buy the same clubs as Rory McIlroy. Clearly, understanding how often you plan to play golf will help you decide how much money you wish to spend. If it is a couple of times a year with friends, there is little point spending lots of energy and money finding the perfect set. If you think you will be playing most weekends, invest time up-front to make sure you find something that suits you and your bank balance.

You should consider buying second-hand clubs as an affordable way of getting into the ‘swing’ with minimal financial risk. You can get a full set of clubs and bag for as little as $100 from online auction sites.

A full set of clubs comprises drivers, irons, wedges and a putter (to a maximum of 14 in your set) but you do not need to buy a full set to start your golfing career. Many golf pros recommend mastering a half set before trying to utilise the additional arsenal of options.

The basics of golf and playing a round

It is important for any new golfer to enjoy their time on the course but to also know the basics of the game.

Most golf courses require that you pre-book your game with a specified start time. Some have dress codes so make sure you understand their requirements and dress accordingly. Few courses require you to wear golf shoes; tidy sneakers are also fine.

The game begins at the ‘teeing area’ where a player prepares by placing a golf ball on a tee between the tee markers. Decide who in your group will tee off first. This can be informal, using the flip of a coin, for example. This new order will apply for the first hole only. After this the person with the lowest score will tee off on subsequent holes.

There are few hard and fast rules in golf; one of the absolutes is ‘play it where it lies’. In other words, please keep your hands off yours and others’ balls.

As a beginner it is important to use the correct etiquette, so you are mindful of other people on the course and try to keep up with the pace. If you feel you are slowing people down, let groups behind you ‘play through’ if needed.

Know your posture

When executing the perfect golf swing, your posture is essential. The golf ball must be on the ground in preparation to be hit, between your feet and aligned to the centre of your torso. The shot you are playing should determine how close you will stand to the ball. If a shot requires a lot of power, like a shot produced with a driver (or wood), you should stand a fraction further away from the ball. If more accuracy is needed, like a putting shot for example, then stand a little closer. You should hold the club at the end of the shaft, where usually a rubber handle is placed for added grip. Your arms should be kept straight when setting up and executing the shot. Tilt forward (from the hip and never the waist), with a flat back and your lower body angled outwards. Try keeping your weight on the balls of your feet with your forward-facing shoulder higher than your rear. Your arms should hang straight down, hands centred, holding the club with the thumb of the higher hand nestled into the palm of the lower.

Brands

Callaway

This global US sporting-goods company is renowned for supplying top-quality durability and usability in their golfing gear. Founded in 1982 by American entrepreneur, Ely Callaway Jr., Callaway has been an undisputed competitor, supplying high-quality clubs, bags, shoes, GPS trackers, clothes etc. for golfers of all levels. Earlier this year, the Callaway brand released a new variant of drivers called the GBB Epics, which have received rave reviews online, some calling the clubs ‘epic’ and ‘impressive’. The GBB Epics use an advanced technology that revolutionises the ease of the swing, the weight of the shaft and the refinement of the aerodynamics in the head of the club. Callaway also provides a wide range of other clubs, all of which come with their own unique, scientifically-advanced technologies. Prices for each individual club ranges from $100 to $1000. The higher price tags will not necessarily guarantee a good fit for all, so make sure to shop around, use the professional shops and test the full range of clubs before deciding the right one for you.

Wilson

Wilson Staff is one of the best-known divisions of Wilson Sporting Goods, with their strong, classy appearance and their strong focus on technology. Founded in 1914, with headquarters in Illinois, Chicago, this American club-line produces and supplies a wide range of golf gear. With such highly acclaimed names as Ricky Barnes (winner of the US Amatuer in 2002) and Paul Waring (winner of the English Amateur in 2005) representing the brand, the appeal in Wilson Staff is uniquely fresh and vibrant. Launched recently into the market, Wilson Staff FG Tour V6 irons offer a cleaner, more precise swing for shorter shots and distance accuracy. At a more pricey $1000, this club is so much more than a golfing tool, it is a definite investment. Wilson, in essence, is a very formal, experienced brand of golfing gear that has the breadth of character and the depth of professionalism.

New Zealand is going through a renaissance with a promising number of golfers rising through the rankings in the past couple of years. Recently, we have seen Danny Lee, Rotorua resident and PGA winner, rank #87 in the world. We have also had the pleasure of watching New Zealand’s own Lydia Ko rise to become #1 ranked female professional golfer and take home Young New Zealander of the Year for her contribution to sport in 2016.

Isn’t it time you got out onto the fairways and gave them a challenge?