Saturday, November 27, 2010

“Open your legs. Eyes on the balls.” By Peter Chan

If you had been thinking something naughty, you would have been forgiven. I can’t blame you. Same wise words told many times over by professional golfing coaches and friendly golfing mentors.

Photo 1: Watch the ball not the lady. Parkland Golf Driving Range (circa 1980). Behind the shrubs was the ECP and Parkway Parade. Can you see the metal safety net to the right of the golfer?

It was not too long ago that golf was the privy of a few; professionals like the doctors, lawyers and the super rich but in the late 1970s many aspiring golf enthusiast took up the game of golf largely encouraged by the opening of the Parkland Golf Driving Range at East Coast Parkway. Readers will recall that East Coast Park was the government’s initiative to reclaim land from the sea in the mid 1960s. The driving range was the project of the HUDC, the Singapore Sports Council, Intraco and the Shengli Holdings. Come rain or shine, night or day, budding golfers need not despair because the range was opened from 7 am to 10pm, 7 days a week including public holidays.

If not for Parkland Golf Driving Range, the public would not have picked up golf that easily since many golfing clubs were “out of bounds” to the public. There were many restrictions like you first needed to join a club and that in itself was not easy because the cost of joining was exorbitant (e.g. S$80,000 for a Tanah Merah Golf & Country Club membership in 1980), be strongly recommended by someone in an exclusive club (e.g. Singapore Island Country Club) or the scion of somebody from that golf club. Regular SAF officers were lucky because they automatically could use the Sembawang Golf Club.

Photo 2: You find there are so many improvements to Parkland Golf Driving Range (circa 2005) as compared to Photo 1.

Once you found a golf club you call your “home club”, you could not right away get down to the course. The club rules insist that one must have a proficiency card that indicated your standard of play. This was to ensure that rookie golfers do not damage the course with their wild swings, hold-up play because they needed to search for that lost ball or golf balls that ended hitting other golfers. Getting that proficiency card required many hours of practice before one took his handicap test. I was lucky, obtained an 18 before I earned the right to play on the actual course. Was it that easy? Let me tell you a bit more.

Photo 3: Parkland Golf Driving Range opened in 1978 and permanently shut in 2009. It was located between the Singapore Tennis Center and Big Splash. There was a pro-shop which sold clothing gears, balls and clubs. There was a Bill Fua a professional golf coach who offered golf lessons at S$10 hour.

Singa-Inn a well restaurant for fresh seafood operated at one end of the block.

I began my journey into the world of golf at Parkland Golf Driving Range. It was the only public driving range then. I assumed playing golf was a piece of cake. Watching safely behind the golf bay, it was just eyes on the white ball; legs open and take a swing. How could that be so difficult?

After purchasing a golf set from Pan West, I arrived at Parkland found an empty golf bay on the second level and packed 100 balls in a basket from a coin-operated dispenser. I did some bending exercises and before long took up a #7 iron. I was advised that beginners should always start with the easiest iron, then progressing to the difficult woods. What was the result? Next few months, I developed all types of injuries; painful wrist, sniff neck, hand blisters and backaches. My game didn’t seemed to see the daylight; one moment slicing the ball, next time hooking the ball and even balls hitting the ceiling, only to see them bounced on the metal safety net and rolling over to the ground.

Photo 4: Senayan Golf Club, a walking course, behind the Jakarta Hilton.

Thinking I was ready for the big time, the opportunity came when I went to try the Senayan Golf Club. I played solo with an experienced caddie. Everything looked so big and the greens so far from the tee-box. I was confused by the distance measurements - measured in yards instead of meters. I will be honest to say that I finished the game with untold number of balls that went floating in the streams (only to be later sold to me as second-hand Titlist golf balls by teenaged boys), several large turfs flying and needing extensive repairs, and of course who could forget the mulligans.

Today an empty piece of land is all that left of the driving range. What’s next?


stanley said...

Your wise words have put a smile on my face.

Lam Chun See said...

I think I have been to this golf driving range at East Coast Park that you mentioned. At one time, the sports and recreation society at NPB organised a series of training session for interested staff and I signed up. But I found the game too difficult and gave up shortly. Year was probably around '87-'89..

Dogcom said...

Yes Singa Inn, one of the better known seafood restaurant in those days. I didn't know that that's the first driving range outside of a golf club. Haha "Open your legs. Eyes on the balls" every beginner golfer ought to know by heart. I must confess that I am not cut out for any sports that require one hit something that is small. I remember the very first time I tried at Temasek Club golf driving range; after an awkward wild swing the ball was still resting there, just like when I first tried my hands at badminton when I was still little, a big smash missing the shuttle cork. Really embarrassing : (

yg said...

peter, cannot open too wide, otherwise the ball/s will end up somewhere else. when i started practising at the driving range, it was at the one near the old turf club. i think it is still there.

Unk Dicko said...

It was in the early 80's when some of my close friends then in the ECAC offered to teach me some golf. One such was the late Chan Kok Hung,himself a top S'pore basketball player.He used to practise a little on the corner of the Farrer park turf. Despite repeated urging by him, I politely demurred...fearing that if I should get 'hooked' by other sporting games will go into decline.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually keeping the eyes on the ball is a very common rule in racket sports. For example, in Squash, we were taught to never take our eyes of the ball, and to always go back to the 'T'.

Dogcom said...

Well, I must say I have benefited from the lesson of "Eyes on the ball" after my induction into hitting golf balls, giving me some "ball sense" which I didn't have previously haha.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Wow. I didn't even know this game exists. I thought it's only for tigers that roam the woods.