Up against a little ball

Up against a little ball

Leon Lee learns that swinging a golf club takes more than just a whack. There's a science to it

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Young Post reporter Leon Lee learns some tricks from golf coach Martin Chan at the driving range of Whitehead Club in Ma On Shan.
Young Post reporter Leon Lee learns some tricks from golf coach Martin Chan at the driving range of Whitehead Club in Ma On Shan.
Photos: Thomas Yau/SCMP

I've always felt that golf wasn't a sport everyone could afford, but I've always wanted to give it a swing.

The only time I did try wielding the clubs was on some evenings for an hour at a mini-golf range with my best friend back in the US. But now on a sweltering Wednesday afternoon here I was, at Whitehead Club in Ma On Shan, one of the largest driving ranges in Asia.

I felt like a business executive on a casual afternoon off from work.

My instructor for the day, head pro Martin Chan Shu-pang, greeted me warmly. Chan started playing the game in 1996 and has been teaching rookies for 12 years.

We headed over to the Executive Practice Area, where there is a sand bunker and a putting and chipping area with real grass. During the walk, Chan told me about his own experience with the game and how it has benefited him.

I couldn't wait to step into his shoes - literally. Since I wasn't wearing the proper footgear, he lent me a pair of his.

Chan told me that golf teaches discipline as it's a very old game with an established set of rules that all golfers must follow. One of these is the way you dress. Male golfers should always wear a shirt with a collar - and tuck it in - and neat shorts. If you like gloves, wear one only on the left hand.

After a quick outfit change, we grabbed a couple of clubs and we were in business. We started with chipping. Chan broke down a typical swing to several stages by first showing each phase and then asking me to do the same. That seemed simple enough but it wasn't. It seemed like when I was focusing on my hands, I couldn't focus on turning my hips, or vice versa.

When it was time to try and hit a ball, I ran into the same problem.

While I was focusing on keeping my swing fluid, I wasn't looking at the ball. And when I did make contact with the ball, it didn't sail up in the air like it was supposed to.

After a couple of swings and misses, Chan noticed that I wasn't swinging down. I'm more used to swinging a baseball bat so it didn't seem natural for me to swing down towards the ground. I was also afraid that I might break the club by hitting the ground with it. Chan reassured me that I was supposed to pick up a bit of the grass on my swing - that's why it's called chipping. That helped.

Then it was onto putting. This required a lot less instruction because of my years of practice on the mini-golf course. But that didn't mean I was doing it right.

After several failed attempts at getting the ball into the cup, Chan stepped over and turned the head of my putter slightly to the left and asked me to try again. This minor adjustment had immediate returns: I was amazed that such a tiny change can make such a big difference.

Finally, we headed over to the driving range.

The swing there was similar to the chip - except now I was swinging a bigger club. That meant I had to be more aware of people around me so I wouldn't hit them by accident. Under Chan's watchful eye, I managed to send a couple of decent balls flying through the air.

Golf is so much more than just a game of hitting balls with a club. There's a real science behind it. It also takes plenty of focus. Chan told me how he taught people who are new to the sport about patience, peace of mind and self-control.

In golf, it's just you against the ball. The outcome depends on you.

Even in the practice area of the golf course, you can feel the calming effect of the sport. It was a greet feeling to walk around on the grass and be away from my desk on a weekday. Then there was the satisfaction of making contact with that tiny white ball.

I can't wait for another round of golf ... right after I get my own pair of shoes.

Special thanks to Whitehead Club


See what else we're doing this summer

- Canoe polo
- Capoeira
- Fly yoga
- Ice hockey
- Lacrosse
- Lawn bowls
- Pilates
- Wakesurfing

... and revisit last year's YP does the Olympic Games

- Archery
- BMX
- Boxing
- Equestrian
- Handball
- Rhythmic gymnastics
- Rowing
- Sailing
- Taekwondo
- Trampolining

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