Golf Mentoring to grow the game

Golf currently suffers from declining numbers of golf players around the world and even golf courses here and there have to close their doors forever sometimes. A positive boom definitely looks different!

But what’s the problem? What creates such a big downswing in people being interested in the game? I have my personal opinion but obviously there are regional differences. In countries like the UK, the US or other (former) British colonies golf pretty much remained a sport for everybody. OK, point taken, not all folks are admitted in upscale country clubs or snobbish suburban clubs but in general you’ll find more the average guy on the down-to-earth golf course plus some others who would (love to) consider themselves as upper-class.

If you take other countries into account, there golf always had a label as being a rich man’s sport. For good reason I have to say as in the past golf actually has been very expensive and the combination of membership fees, joining costs, equipment, training etc. made it impossible for the average (wo)man to chose golf as the next sport project.

So we have a money issue.

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We all know that golf can be a frustrating game and it definitely is a huge time-consumer. For those among you who live in a close relationship, have kids, have a regular job, then you know how tricky it is to get out on the course once or twice a week for a full round of golf, for some training sessions, for some beers with your golf mates, it just takes ages. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that it takes so long, but family members who don’t play with you would most likely complain for you being away for so long.

So we have a time issue.

But there are other challenges as well. Golf is not a sport that you can play in your backyard, it deserves heavy practice on a range and once you’re good enough, you wanna go and play a proper golf course. There might be regions in the world where there are no golf courses but I guess it’s fair to say that mostly one course is reachable in a decent drive by car. But what about the kids, they can’t drive themselves. If parents are not willing to give their kids access or a ride to a course, wait for them a couple of hours and then take them home again, then these children won’t have much chance to start playing golf.

The closer the proximity to a course the more likely that a child is picking up the game and is staying with it. No wonder that some current tour pros, now earning millions and millions, originally grew up in families who literally lived on a golf course, when parents used to be responsible for green keeping, managing the club or any other job. Those would hit some balls after school, would find friends being interested in golf as well and so forth…

If one has no contact to the sport or knows somebody who has contact, then it could be quite difficult to get the thing started. Yes, technically it’s absolutely possible to call up the club, get a membership, get some trainings with the pro scheduled, visit the range on a regular basis, become better and better,  and finally play some tournaments and get a proper handicap—all without talking to other people.

But golf is a communicative sport, people generally like being around with some other folks, but at the same time golfers are sort of their own species. Some are really nice and open, some others might be quite reluctant talking to others, probably enjoy their own little inner circle and wouldn’t let anybody else in. I understand the criticism that golfers can be very weird.

So we have a personal issue.

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What to do now with people having general interest in the sport but at the same time had no contact to a club or club members before. They would probably figure out “it’s expensive, it takes ages to learn and the other club members are pretty strange”…

This statement obviously would hinder those to make the first step, to get started, get trained and get better and spend time with this beautiful sport. And this is exactly what has to change. We have to make golf attractive to anyone out there, we have show interested people that golfers are a helpful, nice and joyful bunch of athletes and that it’s quite easy to make the first steps without much cost.

If I look at the average age of a golfer in a central European golf club, I believe it’s something in the mid-sixties! So we are properly talking pensioners here! I mean it’s good they found something they can be good at, at their age, but we have to make this great athletic sport attractive to all sorts of people: young, old, tall, small, men, women, everybody.

There are so many positive side effects to playing golf which I won’t touch on here but I know that the massive majority of golf players love their sport, try to play as often as possible and simply adore everything about it (possibly apart from the fact that they have to stop playing in winter). Why does it have to be so extremely difficult to enter for new-joiners, why is it to tricky to explain the beauty of golf and why does everybody believe that golfers are rich weirdos and the sticks are super expensive?

The answer could be very easy: just break the ice, approach people and make them aware that golf is cool, that playing golf is one of the greatest hobbies on the planet, that it’s actually quite cheap to get started in terms of equipment, talk to people and introduce them to other club members, be nice, show them around, explain club house facilities and amenities, explain how easy it is to find like-minded people, to play tournaments and become better. Sounds easy? Yes it is. Sounds like much work? Well not so much.

I’m quite an open person. Yes I do have my close friends but I like spending time with others as well. Every time they ask me what I do, I tell them I golf. In most cases these people had no contact to golfers before and are super interested in how you play, how you count and whether everybody has to wear checked trousers. Seriously.

In order to bring all this to a new level, Carsten Moritz, a fellow golf blogger, initiated a golf mentoring concept. It started with collecting golfers across the country who would be willing to have their names displayed on a website being ready to be contacted by anybody out there and answer questions around golf. Could be quick questions like “how can I start, what do I have to buy, can I get a test membership somewhere”. Something like this. Not more. Just being available for people being interested in the sport and the question how to make first steps. No question that I am a golf mentor as well and no question that I try to promote golf wherever I can. Carsten further created a Facebook group, sends email newsletters across, distributes information about upcoming open days, etc.

If you live in Germany then you should have a look at the Golfmentor website. If you live somewhere else and you want to grow the game of golf again, want to get in contact to some new people, want to be as productive and helpful as possible to support prospects then you probably should think about your own little local mentoring. All your future golf mentees would love it, sure thing!

Finally I made it to GC Neuhof

This course has been on my list for quite a while now. Neuhof is roughly 20 minutes from my place, hence 15 minutes south-east of Frankfurt and it is quite a famous course in the region. That’s because it’s very well kept and very looked after, both in terms of course and club.

Neuhof belongs to the several really expensive and elite golf courses in the Rhine-Main region. Everything is very member oriented and guests are only welcome during the week. This has always put me off a little as most of the members were said to be very snobbish.

To be fair, having played there now, I can’t confirm that members (or people in general) behave differently here compared to other clubs. People were nice, training facilities are good, club house facilities and restaurant are super old and definitely need some refurbishing but the course itself is fantastic. And the course it was I was interested in last week!

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Neuhof offers 3 combinations of 9-hole courses. The “standard” championship course is the red/yellow combination and blue, the newest addition, is more the younger brother to the old established 18-hole setup. Red/yellow is a classic parkland course, many old huge trees, mostly directly next to the fairway, interesting doglegs, water in play on a number of holes (but not too many) and severe bunkering.

The blue course on the other side of the road offers more the open links-ish character with even more water and tricky hole routing.

In addition there there is a 6-hole par-3 course available, a fully equipped driving range, huge practice facilities, a halfway house and something like the “19th hole” which not only attracts golfers but strollers and local guests as well.

Neuhof is one of the most expensive clubs in the region. They still charge a tremendous joining fee and the future will tell whether they can keep up with that sort of setup. In my opinion this club behaviour is absolutely outdated and leads to a situation in which people are interested in golf, are interested in the club and course, but struggle to get in because the cost in the beginning is so ridiculously expensive. Rumours tell me that there are too many old members in the club, not many young people joining and that as a result the club isn’t in a very good financial situation. Nah, really?! What a surprise…

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Besides the financial situation of the club, the course itself is in absolute immaculate condition. Tee boxes, fairways and greens are in fantastic shape and the course layout is more on the interesting and challenging side I would say.

The men’s team used to play in the highest German golf league (1. DGL Bundesliga) but slipped down to the second. After all, this club is still a very agile club, pushing for league success, pushing for international tournaments being hosted here, pushing for greatest course quality and as well for sophisticated weekend relaxation—no guests allowed.

On top of that, Neuhof is member of The Leading Golf Courses of Germany, a collection of approximately 50 courses in the country which stand out due to their extraordinary course, service and amenities quality. Truly a quality seal, a hallmark of excellence in the field of course management, club management, member and guest courtesy, and always a sign that a club strives to be better than others. I guess Neuhof can tick some boxes here, only the clubhouse and restaurant facilities are not really my cup of tea. That’s because I prefer a modern style whereas Neuhof is a manor from the 15th century!

So if you are in the region and you’re done with all the usual suspects like Hanau or Frankfurt, then you should come visit and play Neuhof. It’s a great course and definitely worth the money—during the week that is…

More information:

National Open Day on golf courses throughout Germany

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You might have realised, there has been a National Golf Day in the US very recently and although I admire the Americans for their commitment and their general love for the game I was pretty sure we won’t have such thing in Central Europe anytime soon—an official golf day. We might have days for everything else but golf? No, not likely…

Golf is still different here, sorry to say but it’s still not properly arrived in the middle class yet and there are so many clichés around it, that we, as ambassadors of the game basically, should act as advisers, providers and connecters. Although golf is a game where you usually play against yourself, it’s at the same time a sport where we appreciate company, where we play in groups, where we communicate much and where other people in general play a big role.

Still especially in Germany people are pretty reluctant when it comes to getting access to the game. People who are generally interested but never had contact with it usually feel overwhelmed with the information, the market and especially not comfortable amongst other golfers in the unknown surrounding of a golf club – as if we were aliens!

In Germany it was decided to do something against it. There will be image campaigns, advertising and generally more public relation in order to attract people but it’s fair to say that it’s questionable whether this turns out into hundreds or thousands of new golfers. It’s a good starting point but at the same time it’s essential to get people on the course, get them have first contact to the game, to the people and the feeling to be a part of this beautiful sport. It’s a lifestyle, and if you ask me, it’s the best one possible!

To establish something like the above it was decided by the German golf association (DGV Deutscher Golf Verband) to host an open day on golf courses across the whole country. Not all are taking part obviously but more than 450 clubs will open their gates in early May to the public, offer golf clinics, training sessions, access to facilities and much more information. All to lower the barriers, to ease the entry to the sport and to inform interested people how to make their first steps.

In case you understand German, live in Germany and know people who might be interested, please let them know the following link. It provides a post code based search for clubs in the region, gives dates, information and all one would need to get it started.

I wish you all much fun on those days. Please comment below if you want to discuss specific things. Here is the right place to ask.

As well, please stay tuned for further Golficiency posts on other ways to get golfers “up and playing” as I will touch on other solutions very soon. Let’s grow this game together. It most definitely deserves it! It’s absolutely the best way to spend a day… and the “most fun you can have without taking your clothes off.” (Chi Chi Rodriguez)

The relaxed rules of golf – playing the easy way!

How seriously are you taking golf in terms of scoring? Always playing by the rules? Really? Always getting out a club to measure a two-club-length from a water hazard or an obstacle, even in practise rounds with your mates? Then you probably should stop reading here, because the below wouldn’t be something for you! If you do read further you could be frightened by the fact how easy and enjoyable golf can be – without drifting away too much though. At your own risk of course!

Couple of days ago, the Golf Channel published a set of so-called “Relaxed Rules of Golf”. They were promoted intensively via the network and other social media channels – and to be honest; they didn’t surprise me at all. For years now people around the world are mourning about golf being too hard to play. My understanding was always, of course it’s hard when you try to play pars all the time, but that’s a great mental push and it has to be that hard! Playing a par round would be a dream coming true for me, but when everybody is true to oneself, pars are for professionals and not for weekend golf daddys, breaking in a round every 2 months or so.

All the former proposals out there like bigger holes, slower balls, etc. – absolutely nonsense! Truly rubbish ideas if you ask me. When you are taking golf seriously, which is absolutely fine, then please stick to the given rules. That’s especially true for tournaments which have effect on your personal handicap. Please, learn the good old rules and stick to them when it matters. That’s not too tough, folks! And when you are penelised by the rules and you have to card down a two-stroke penalty because you did something wrong… then so be it and be honest to yourself! Simply accept it!

However, what about the quick after-work 9 holes or the relaxed weekend round with some buddies? Would you totally stick to the rules as well? Frankly, I’m not! When I go out and play, I want to have fun! Sure, I want to get better, increase my skill set, lower my handicap, absolutely, but in the end of the day I definitely want to enjoy myself. Life and work is tough enough, why making our lives even more miserable with over-ruling leisure rounds of golf?! See, I don’t believe there is a black and white view in this matter.

When I go out and play and I have to take a penalty for dropping out of water, do I use my driver to measure the exact distance? No. Do I throw the ball somewhere onto the fairway for an easy shot ? No… I drop the ball somewhere near the spot where I believe it went into the water and where I can hit a decent, ok-ish next shot. Is that fine with the official rules, no but it almost is and it saves so much time around the course! So there is something like a grey-area between rules and playing just for fun. Everybody obviously can interpret these ways differently but I’m sure the guy who takes golf the relaxed way has more fun in the end – and the score maybe differ by two strokes on 18 holes to the other guy who did stick to the proper rules.

Now the Golf Channel proposed a set of easy rules which could help the golfer to increase the fun around the course. Not being overly penalised by a huge rule book and at the same time not as anarchic as one could believe: Here are the proposed relaxed rules of golf:

  1. MAXIMUM SCORE: Double par (i.e. 6 on par 3s, 8 on par 4s…)
  2. PENALTIES: All are one stroke, including out of bounds, water and lateral hazards, lost ball and unplayable lie. Drop a ball near where the original was lost and play on.
  3. SEARCH TIME: Two minutes to look for your ball. If lost, proceed under Rule 2.
  4. UNFORTUNATE LIES: With your playing partners’ consent, balls may be dropped out of divots or footprints, away from tree roots and any other dangerous lies.
  5. CONCEDED PUTTS: Putts may be conceded with your playing partners’ consent.
  6. EQUIPMENT: No restrictions, including number of clubs.
  7. COMMON SENSE: When in doubt, use common sense and fairness.

Golf Channel personalities Matt Ginella and Charlie Rymer were on the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” to introduce those relaxed rules of golf, which you can check out here:

The idea behind these relaxed rules, Ginella and Rymer explained, is to make the game more fun for those already playing (and not at an elite level) and to also make the game less intimidating for those learning to play.

“We’re not suggesting that golfers ignore the official rules,” Ginella said. “They should continue to be used for any type of competitive play. But when it’s a match among friends, relaxed rules can make the game easier, faster and more fun. These simply are common sense practices for avid amateurs, and it’s how the majority of the game is being played anyway.”

And to be very frank here, personally I’m sort of sticking to these rules already for years now in private rounds!

  1. Double par is nothing I really aim for but it’s a nice thing to just pick up the ball when you reach that score. Will clearly speed up the game!
  2. When I in some instance decided not to play a provisional ball and would not be able to find the first, then obviously I play a second one from the spot I believe I lost the first one. Who on earth walks back 250 yards to the tee box in a private round?!
  3. I never looked for a ball for 5 minutes as stated in the official rules in my whole life.
  4. As this is in the interest of everybody’s game, I believe nobody would have reasons not to accept a playing partner’s wish to drop away from a cart path, tree roots or any other unfortunate or dangerous lie.
  5. Obviously not valid for tournaments, but when you are out there with your buddies and they leave themselves with a 5-inch tap-in, what do you do? Exactly, that’s simply a gimmie!
  6. I’m actually carrying more than 14 clubs currently – because I’m testing out some things with long irons and hybrids. Why shouldn’t I?
  7. I believe using brain and good manners is always a good idea… in all parts of life. And the golf course simply reflects a big part of my life.

Summing up, I do believe if everybody could commit to a quick and fair play, we all would have more fun on the course and would think more positive about all the bogeys we score. Who needs over-sized holes or weirdly slow balls?! Stick to the fundamentals, play at reasonable fast pace with common sense in regards to rules and etiquette and treat your playing partners with the exact manners as you wished to be treated.

Happy (golf) life… Period

Always find the right balance between golf and fitness

Some say golf is not even a sport, it’s just a game. Whether that’s true or not, I guess is for everybody out there to decide. Obviously it’s not a sport like tennis or football but there are definitely arguments for the fact that it’s more than just a simple game.

In every case golf is a great time to spend the day with, and yes, a 5-hour round of golf in 35°C can be quite exhausting and sweaty.

What you see here is the gym room in my golf club, the perfect way to combine the beauty and technique of golf with fitness exercises to cater for a comprehensive all-inclusive training session.

So next time you play a round, consider to get in your trainers later, do another 5K or so on the treadmill, lift some weights, do some crunches and sit-ups – your body will be very thankful one day, and your golf swing as well! The stronger you get, the less power you have to put in every shot, the less exhausted you get during the round, the more accurate you can play 18 holes.

If you compare that to the pro tours, yes obviously there are some older and fatter blokes who are able to win some tournaments but when you are serious about the game, you spend some time in the gym – just like Tiger, Rory and all the other young guns!

And why not end such beautiful day in the sauna followed by some fresh fruit drinks in the restaurant. Great training!

First round after becoming a member at Bachgrund Golf Club

You might have read it, since 1st May I’m member of Bachgrund Golf Club, outside of Frankfurt. On Friday I played my first 18 holes as a member – I played there before but that’s three years ago.

Bachgrund features 27-holes, a 18-hole links-style championship course and a 9-hole more parkland-style course. “Nessi”, the 18-hole course is a very interesting course with narrow fairways, lots of water, many bunkers in play and requires both intelligent course strategy and straight drives. It’s a tough one I’d say. Almost impossible to end the round with the very same ball you started with.

On Friday I was grouped together with three Korean gentlemen, all members of the club, apparently very knowledgeable in terms of course details – a shame they didn’t speak any German or English. So it was a rather quiet round…

I really like the course setting although I’m not a big links fan, but the course is tricky and challenging. I will report as regular as possible. Tomorrow I have a 9:20 tee time.

Playing one of the Leading Golf Courses of Germany at the 2011 Hanau Masters

The Frankfurt area is blessed with a lot of golf courses and there are two or three that stand even apart because they are not just fine courses, they are brilliant ones. Frankfurt Golf Club is one of them and Golf Club Hanau-Wilhelmsbad, just outside Frankfurt, is another.

Hanau is a small town located in Frankfurt’s east and the course is a beautiful parkland styled course. But in contrast to Frankfurt, there’s plenty of water coming into play. So there’s lots of woods and trees, water hazards and, if that’s not enough, for the Hanau Masters today we all had to play from the white tee boxes! My first time by the way!

The course is in perfect condition, the fairways are a bit lush after the recent rain period but the whole site with all its facilities makes a very nice impression. I really could imagine becoming a member and playing this course regularly. The layout isn’t easy at all, playing white tee boxes was tough and, another premiere, the tournament was played in stroke play. So there is this easiness lacking that you have with stableford! But the course was fair enough…

My game wasn’t that good today. I shot some nice drives with my new driver, shot some awful ones as well. Playing from the champions tees on a course that you see the first time, having a 3.1 and 4.1 handicapper in your group who really get pissed for every bogey they play, I can tell you, that’s not easy! I got frustrated too, got caught by the bad mood and my game was suffering from it as well. Needless to say that I wasn’t able to reach the buffer zone and that I worsened my handicap to 17.1… too bad! At least the 3-course dinner we had afterwards was an appropriate compensation.

Wwe had some drizzle during the play but it was mostly dry. Arrived at the 18th, I pulled my approach shot to the green into the woods and lost my first ball. Otherwise I’d finished with the same ball I started with – normally a good sign.

The Golf Club Hanau-Wilhelmsbad is member of the Leading Golf Courses of Germany; a certification label of the finest golf courses we have in Germany and a true  mark of quality. This is including the course, the arrangements next to the course, club house facilities, restaurants but as well things like etiquette, dress code, rules and so forth. So playing in a club that was honored with such label, is a pleasure for the most part. Only 34 German golf clubs can praise themselves with this emblem.

To sum up: This round today was definitely not the last! It’s an expensive course but worth every cent.

MLP golf journal trophy at G&CC leipzig [updated]

regular readers of this blog are aware of the fact that i’ve already tried to win a MLP golf journal trophy tournament this year. the lucky guy wins a ticket to belek, turkey’s golf eldorado and is in the middle of a world final and has quite some fun with all the golf buddies, so far as i heard. 40 tournaments are played this year and everybody is free to try it at several occasions… what makes it a bit easier, but far from simple. but one thing at a time:

last weekend i travelled with three golf buddies to the golf & country club leipzig. we all are quite crazy about the game and about the MLP trophy and therefore we thought it would be fun to dress-up with uniformed polo-shirts: “MLP golf journal trophy, team frankfurt, [name]”. we were the only guys with such well-chosen gear and got some laughs but as well some acknowledgement for our efforts. but it’s not about looking good for winning a tournament, it’s about playing well with the least possible number of strokes.

we arrived on thursday, had a nice evening in leipzig’s city center (tip: check out the barfußgässchen if you’d make it there one time), had the tournament on friday, partied till early morning and left on saturday.

all in all it was a really nice trip! the course was in good shape, the people were very friendly and the club management made everything happen to let everybody feel really comfy! have a look at some photos:

some additional words about the course: the golf & country club leipzig is situated in machern, a small village eastwards from leipzig. the club got through some time of unrest but seems to settle down quite nicely. the holes are beautifully shaped and offer some new water hazards, creeks, high rough and a beautiful 18th island green. the halfway house (yet a tent) is superbly placed at a spot where every golfer is coming along 4 times… as a result there was a lot of champagne and ramazotti in play!!

the tournament ended with a huge party at the sun terrace, with a tasty buffet, a live band, free beer and a stunning sunset over the 18th green… *sigh* where can i sign in for next year?!

BMW golf cup international… what a day!

today was a wonderful day! not only because i had a day off and we had the most beautiful weather ever, but because i had the rare chance to play the BMW golf cup international in the most famous and elite golf club in frankfurt.

i was looking forward to this day like months. and yes, the waiting was totally worth it. everything today was kinda perfect: the sun was shining all the time, the course is a real must-play, a gorgeous venue for this tournament, catering at the half-way-house or in the club house was delicious, the club with all its facilities is just amazing and the BMW organization was absolutely brilliant!!

the course and the club made such a good impression, that i really consider a membership. it’s very expensive, yes, but where in the region can you get such combination of perfect course, perfect organization, perfect member’s attitude and real nice club house facilities. just to give you an example, the free towels in the shower room have an embroidered FGC on them, same as all the dinner plates and cutlery that had the club logo printed or engraved. just marvelous! i like that. i don’t know why.

at 1pm we had a shotgun start and there were two gentlemen joining my group. we had real fun! not because of the good strokes but we just enjoyed the day and ourselves. we were getting along with each such good, that we exchanged email-addresses and planned to play some more rounds together in the near future.

after the game, some cool fresh-up in the shower room and some severe up-dressing, we enjoyed a perfect three-course dinner with the best roast beef i’ve ever tasted so far. the wine flowed freely and i had no reason to go back home really :)

to sum up: frankfurter golf club is a really nice course to play golf! it’s very upperclass, yes, but when you can cope with that, you’re in love with this place, i can assure you! you definitely should consider a round here. required minimum handicap is 28 and weekend play is only possible as a member’s registered guest; that’ the downside.

i made some photos for you, maybe you can grasp the beauty of the course, which is a huge parkland area in the woods of frankfurt-niederrad. have a look:

and not to forget: i wanna thank markus and his sister for… nah, they know what for! cheers mates!