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Wonder of Nature & Discipline of Sport!

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By Roli S

It was in June 2023 that one fine day I took a golf iron and walked towards the practice range to try my luck at the sport. Why golf? I can’t give an exact answer perhaps because I have been a sports lover always. After marrying a naval officer as a young woman, when I first saw a golf course, I envied all the golfers who I saw enjoying the game. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to play the game. Never for a second in my life though did I think that someday I would be able to play golf. After the pandemic, not having any other constructive thing to do except perhaps cook food and stories, I decided to learn golf.

A few months short of being called a senior citizen, my decision to take up golf was treated with a lot of agnosticism. People in the family were avid golfers and my better half was perhaps looking for a golf partner, that gave me a head start. I was supported by all at home but more in hope than with certainty. Even the instructors at the range, looking at my height, weight and age did not give me much chance of surviving even the practice sessions in the hot month of June. But I don’t know what always charged me up every time I looked at a golf course. After three months of intense effort at the practice range and suffering wrist sprain, back spasms and sunburns, in the month of October I was finally at the golf course playing golf with all the other golfers that I used to envy from outside all my life. During training, I read a few books, watched many videos and listened to endless advice.  I concluded that Golf is a sport for everyone: For the curious newbies, the passionate recreational or the ambitious golfers. It is about fun, challenges, and the experience, no matter whether you are on your own, with friends, colleagues, or anyone else and most importantly for someone like me, even age is not the limit.

But I can’t help but think there are many other more relevant reasons that golfers continue to play for a long time because they do their thing every day surrounded by Nature. They get up early daily with the sun, walk on the grass among the trees and flowers, breathe the fresh oxygen from all those plants, and see green everywhere. They hear the birds and cross paths with some critters. Yes, even frogs!

Being a nature lover and sports buff myself, I loved the game all the more as I truly realised that no other game combines the wonder of nature with the discipline of sport in such carefully planned ways. A great golf course, both, frees and challenges a golfer’s mind. Many a time while walking on the golf course I smiled to myself remembering two conflicting quotes by two different people. While golfer Greg Norman of Australia said, “Happiness is a long walk with a putter,” Mark Twain quipped, “Golf is a good walk spoiled”.

The science of biophilia tells us that human beings have a natural desire to be close to nature. Scientific studies by the dozens tell us light, fresh air, and proximity to plants makes us healthier, less stressed, more focused, and more productive. Nature helps keep golfers healthier – maybe even younger! If I sing all the praises of golf in front my sons, I am sure they would agree without any debate only because the sport of golf keeps their nosey, bothersome mother busy in a good way for long hours!

We travel nearly four hundred kilometres a week to play golf at the Services Golf Course three to four days a week in Mumbai. But entering nature is reassuring overall for us, because otherwise we encounter far fewer stimuli in our normal environment which is dominantly urban. On the golf course I come across sounds of nature, plants that grow. All processes run at a comparatively low speed, at natural speed. A tree laden with yellow flowers stands out, a carpet of red gulmohar flowers on the ground looks so artsy, an old Banyan tree with its numerous roots stands sagely, cranes and variety of birds literally grace the golf course throughout the year and crows have mastered the art of picking up the golf balls and annoying golfers.  I would give this wonderful show of nature all the points for motivating me to keep returning to the golf course because I have noticed that exercise in nature is good for me. I want to do it more often because I feel the positive effect in my subconscious.

From the time I started playing on the golf course, the one question that I am asked regularly is “Ma’am, when are you taking part in the tournament?” Yes, it is normal practice to have a variety of golf tournaments on all the golf courses as it keeps the competitive minds interested in the sport. In Mumbai, there is an off season of golf due to heavy monsoon rains. So, during playing months tournaments are dime a dozen. I think one must distinguish between a golfer who is aiming for a specific result and is generally playing at a high level and a golfer like me who is just looking for fun and relaxation. If one wants to perform, one must first concentrate on it. For such a person the tree on the golf course is not covered with flowers, it is simply in his way, just an obstacle. In this case, nature is a setting within which one retrieves athletic performance and pursues a goal. Then nature gets less attention. One may ask in that case the golf course would be a sports field like a tennis court. But, I think even with a very sporting understanding, golf is completely different from other sports. For example, in a match on the tennis court, one experiences more of the feeling of a battle. Another person is constantly doing something to his opponent. The atmosphere is that of fights, you run, you slide, and you sweat. There is generally more calm prevailing on the golf course even in the thick of competition. The atmosphere is completely different from a tennis court.

Still, for many, golf is a boring sport. It is extremely noiseless and slow paced for it to be a sport. Long hours of walking in nature do not stimulate them. These people have completely lost the feeling for nature. The factor “experiencing nature” I don’t think is conveyed enough as golf’s great strength. It’s actually an incredible power that the sport of golf has, that people like me are trying to capture and benefit from.

One of the greatest golfers of all time, Arnold Palmer, said, “I believe golf can solve the world’s problems and stop wars.” This might seem like an exaggeration, but since I believe trees and butterflies can solve the world’s problems, I’m with him all the way. Finally, everyone can agree with this wisdom, I guess – “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.”

(Roli S is an Educator and Author based in Thane)