Nepali Times
Tee Break
Basic golf


So you're an aspiring golfer about to embark on the endless journey of occasional joy and mostly excruciating (mental) pain. There are a few things you best be aware of to enjoy the ordeal you are intending to bestow on yourself.

Obviously, you will need some basic equipment in the form of a golf set.

What's in a golf set?
Golf clubs, usually comprising of 4 Woods, 9 Irons and a putter. Well, actually, it's a little more confusing than that. The Woods are now almost always made of metal, the Irons often have graphite shafts, the once simple putter now comes in previously unimaginable shapes. Besides these, tucked into your golf bag you will find gloves, tees, ball markers, caps, golf shoes, and if you intend to play golf instead of just looking the part, you would be advised to have plenty of golf balls.

What do you actually need to start?
If you had read last weeks article, you would know that you actually just need a pair of sport shoes. Everything else is available for a beginner at the golf practice facilities.

The fundamentals
You're dressed in comfortable clothes, you have your shoes on, and you're holding a club in your hands with a ball at your feet. What next?

Every golfer, whether a beginner, a seasoned hacker, or a professional, has to be aware and take care of the fundamentals of holding the golf club and standing before the ball. Without these, you will always be fighting a losing battle.

Every top professional today constantly has the fundamentals rechecked by their chosen teacher. Why would a leading pro need lessons on such simple things? Because slowly but surely, bad habits creep into these areas. The faults cannot be "felt" or "seen" by the player. They need an outsider to point them out.

When you start playing, you will find yourself concentrating on the actual golf swing, totally forgetting that you may be developing and reinforcing a "bad swing" just because you never take time to check the fundamentals.

Actually, having a good set-up, which is how you hold the club and stand before the ball, is often the biggest key to having an excellent golf swing and striking that ball correctly.

The six important components for a good set up are:

Grip: How you hold the club is crucial. Though there are variations, the basic grip is as follows: if the left hand is hung down in a relaxed position, the angle the wrist creates should be the position of the left hand grip. The right hand should then match this same angle to complete the grip. On a good grip the pressure should be more on the fingers not on the palm. The right hand should be placed on the club from the end of the left thumb. If you unwrap your hands from a perfect grip, the hands should be parallel to each other.

Club Face: In general, the club face should be placed at right angles to the target.

Posture: Good posture allows you to swing properly, with your shoulders free to turn and your weight to shift back and forth correctly. Your spine should be at a 90? angle to the club shaft when you stand with the club behind the ball, and should return to the same position at impact. An example drill for this would be to keep the body straight, then extend both arms with the club at waist level, with the club in the air at right angles to the target. Then bend from the waist, keeping the knees straight until the club comes to the ground. The arms and body should be relaxed and the knees a little flexed.

Stance: Your stance how you place your legs and feet. A comfortable stance is usually with feet placed at the same width as the shoulders.

Alignment: To hit the ball straight, legs, shoulders, hips, and upper body have to be aligned parallel to the target. Shoulders not being parallel to the target line is one of the most common problems golfers face.

Ball position: Where the ball is placed in relation to the feet is known as the "ball position". The "normal" position is to have the ball just slightly forward of a line drawn through the centre of the feet. The shorter the golf club, the closer the ball will be to the centre. With longer clubs, the ball is closer to the forward foot.

I am sure trying to visualise all this through written words is as impossible as scoring a hole in one from your armchair in front of the TV set. So head down to your nearest golf facility with a golfing friend, have him push and pull you into every awkward position you can imagine, and mess up the fundamentals of your golf set up and swing right away.

Or be smart and have a trained professional do it right the first time round.

Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)