'A gentleman's game' is what golf has long been known as, with the word 'gentleman' referring to integrity and the following of written and unwritten rules of etiquette during play.
Though traditionally, as in most sports, it was a men's game, today it is very much a ladies sport too. Millions of women play the sport worldwide, recreationally, as competitive amateurs and on professional golf tours where the prize money is quite substantial.
A young phenomenon who just turned fourteen is Michelle Wie, who can drive the ball as far as the men do, over 300 yards, and who shot a 64 at the age of 10! She showed her courage and prowess recently by competing with the big boys at the Sony Open, a men's USPGA tour event. She is expected to give women's golf that similar new dimension that Tiger Woods brought to men's golf.
In Nepal, until just a few years age, we hardly saw any Nepali women playing golf. Most women golfers were wives of expatriates and diplomats. Recently however this has begin to change, with many more females out on the course enjoying the game both on weekdays and weekends, especially amongst the wives of ex-British Gurkha officers.
To encourage more ladies to take up the game, Royal Nepal Golf Club offers 50 percent discount for ladies to join the club as temporary members, and Gokarna Forest Golf Resort offers a family membership, where if one person is a golfing member of the club, the spouse automatically becomes a member as well.
Shastika Shrestha, handicap 20, is one of Nepal's top lady golfers, and she is the lady captain of RNGC. Now retired after serving for 24 years at the Gorkhapatra Samstan, Shrestha says, "When I started the game three years ago, I was very shy as there were very few ladies golfers. Frankly, I just wanted my husband to start playing this game because he used to spend so much time playing cards. The time came that I was up to my neck with this, and I would push him and go along to the golf course where I loved the environment. I found an incredible social life, which attracted me to this wonderful sport that I enjoy so much today, and will continue enjoying it as long as I can still swing a golf club."
When asked how to increase the number of Nepali women playing the game, Shrestha said it needs to start from the men. They should encourage their wives to take up the game, and then obviously, when mothers play it is becomes a family sport and youngsters take up the game. She said it would not be a bad idea to promote golf by offering free golf lessons and providing easier access to make it more accessible so that its popularity would automatically increase.
Eu Hazur Thapa, the wife of KNS Thapa, a retired general and ardent golfer, says, "My husband has been playing golf for the last 30 years. He tried to motivate me all along but I was only convinced when he was just about to retire in 1996." She regrets not having started earlier, and recalls those boring days when her husband was out enjoying lovely rounds of golf around the globe during his service with the UN. Her early wins in the ladies categories of tournaments in Nepal motivated her to play more. She enjoys the sport and says, "Golf has been both meditation and medication for me." Thapa always had an interest in sports and now enjoys golf, loves the environment and the social life at the golf club. She feels it is possible to produce top women golfers from Nepal with integrated support from all sides.
I'm all with her, so why don't you ladies take a tee break?
Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. [email protected]