Tuesday

Growing Golf in Some Unlikely Places














Growing the game of golf.

It's something we've been discussing quite a bit lately, as the economy continues to sputter, threatening all sectors of our sport. Finding current National initiatives lacking, one dedicated group of golf bloggers and golf blog readers, headquartered over at WaggleRoom, is even talking about a National "Take a Non-Golfer" to the course day. "TANG to the Course" is the catchy anagram they've come up with

The game is being methodically grown, however, in some rather unlikely places beyond our shores. I'm talking about Abu Dhabi, where the Abu Dhabi Championship just wrapped up. In this Arabian Gulf Nation, Standard Chartered Bank, a major sponsor of the Championship, has created a unique program to expose, foster and sustain a long-term presence of golf in Abu Dhabi, by targeting local youth.

There are bi-weekly sessions on golf etiquette, rules and course management as well as playing skills. The students are learning pitching, chipping, and putting, coached by two golf professionals from the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where the Championship takes place.

This year's program recently culminated in a special coaching session, for the 10 best students given by French golfer Jean Van de Velde.

There were male and female students in the program and all express a desire to continue learning and playing now that the program is over. The girls - who's dress code is decidedly more "covered-up" than ours - especially loved the experience. Amila Al Shaybani, one of the participating students declared, "I enjoyed the game so much I have booked private lessons along with two of my classmates". It sounds to me like this program is creating golf evangelists in a country with no golf history at all.

Just imagine what we can do.