It is said that golf is like a love affair. If you don’t take it seriously, it is no fun. If you do take it seriously, it ends up breaking your heart. This is so true. I remember the first time I was woken up at some unearthly hour before dawn by my father who wanted some company on the golf course. He was an Army officer and for the moment, a diplomat, having been posted as the Defense Advisor to the Indian High Commission in Dhaka. He felt that spending some time on the golf course could be beneficial not only from the sporting point of view, but also from a vocation point of view. Anyway, he wanted to pick up golf and he wanted me to be a part of the journey. I was never a morning a person (and neither I am today), but I did tag along and held my first club. A 7-iron if I remember correctly. By the way, the 7-iron continues to be my favourite of among all the fourteen clubs in my bag.
The historic Ramna Maidan
We went to the Ramna Maidan in the centre of Dhaka. It was a nine hole course, pretty raggedy to be called even a halfway decent course, but the coach there was an old man who had obviously fallen on rough times. He was a wonderful coach though and knew instinctively what to tweak to get rid of the hook or slice. Come to think of it, I never did see him hit a golf ball, but his coaching was impeccable. Incidentally, Ramna Maidan was where the Instrument of Surrender was signed by Gen AAK Niazi of the Pakistan Army, a signature that gave birth to a nation … Bangladesh.
Kurmitola Golf Course
After a few weeks both my father and I became reasonably confident of sending a golf ball somewhat in the direction of the targeted hole, and my father decided it was time to take the next step … become a member of and play on the finest golf course Bangladesh had to offer … the Kurmitola Golf Course. As in India. This Course was maintained by the Bangladesh Army and was located in the middle of the Cantonment. Also, anyone who was anyone in Dhaka would find their way to the Kurmitola Golf Course for a round of golf. This included not only the officers of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, but civilians from various walks of life, expats living and working in Dhaka, and diplomats from around the world who happened to be posted there at the time. And that included my father and I. I did carry a diplomatic passport and was pursuing my MBA studies at the Institute of Business Administration in the University of Dhaka, the very University which was the epicentre of the freedom struggle.
To be fair, it was intimidating in the beginning. I was a kid and an Army brat and had been confined to Cantonments almost all my life. Here I found myself trying my hand a new sport, surrounded by people from all over the world, all of who were infinitely better golfers than I was. Not to mention that even the President of the country, Gen Hussain Mohd Ershad was frequently seen on the Course, sometime sipping a cup of coffee on the adjoining table in the club house. I did happen to have a few conversations with him when I was introduced to him by my father. Charming gentleman I remember him as. Anyway, I fell in love with golf and it was for this one pursuit that I did not mind waking up before the sun was out.
A few months went by and I was really hitting a long ball. Not always in the direction I wanted to know, but the ball did go a fair distance. I turned out to be a habitual slicer of the ball, and that remained with me for a long time. I started playing in the low double digit handicap, which was quite good considering that I was really a weekend golfer. One day it was announced that Bangladesh would be sending a team to the Made for Each Other Tournament to be staged in Calcutta. Both me and my father were selected to be a part of the team as were about a dozen other folks from the Kurmitola Golf Club. Played over a couple of rounds, I ended up topping the Leaderboard among the Bangladesh contingent. That felt good.
The bug bites again
After a few months, my father’s tenure was over and he was posted back to India. I finished my studies and came back and found a job. A few months later I got married, over the years had a couple of children and golf became a distant memory. Time went by and I did not touch my clubs.
A few weeks ago, a brother-in-law of mine came over and conversation veered towards golf. He expressed and interest in picking up the game and coming to know of my interest in the sport wanted me to give him the basic tips. I happily agreed and accompanied him to the range to hit a few balls. I was surprised to find that my muscle memory kicked in and in the process of showing him how to hit a golf ball, I was hitting long and straight. The first day I might have hot about a dozen balls and I was hooked once again. Thanks to him I was in the driving range three or four times a week, and then started going by myself in case he was not available. I was soon hitting a hundred balls on the range. And I was enjoying myself. I wanted to go into it a little more seriously and took the next couple of steps. Currently we are living in very trying times with the coronavirus pandemic ruling our lives. Lockdowns have happened in the past couple of years and are likely to be imposed again. I did not want to take a break from my practice and went to Decathlon to pick up a practice net and a driving mat. I wanted to put it up on the terrace but it was windy and the net was very floppy. Also, it is not very wide or tall and I was worried that any miss hit would mean the ball missing the net, flying through the air in an effort to find a convenient window to crash through. That would not be good. I brought the net down to my basement and set it up there. It is ever so slightly cramped but serves the purpose. I can hit real golf balls, with a full swing. I did have a mishap with a nine iron that missed the net, hit the ceiling, bounced off it and broke a frame of a picture I had up on the wall. Good that I did not do this on the terrace!
The second thing I did was to find myself a coach. After a bit of research I found Rakesh Kumar, a golf coach for over three decades. I had a session with him and he seemed to know what to do with me to make me a better golfer. He asked me what my target was and fearing sniggers I said that I wanted to break 90 on the Course. He promised he could make that happen in a month or so. Once he gets to know my game a bit better and once I know the size of the bite that I can actually chew, I will tell him about my goal – that of becoming a scratch golfer. I suspect I can achieve that goal in about six months. I just need to be diligent, not get frustrated and practice, practice, practice.
I am hoping that this is the start of a long affair with golf and that I can enjoy it for many years to come. So far things look good. Wish me luck.