Be prepared to be bad

As the summer days take hold and it, hopefully, gets hotter, thoughts turn to how to improve at those once-a-year sporting pursuits. Otago Daily Times regional editor, and former sports editor, Steve Hepburn looks at ways to get better at two of the most popular sports — golf and bowls.


One has not played all year. So get out of the car, grab the clubs, pay the fees, stride right to the first tee and hit — badly.

From there it is a journey of criss-crossing the fairway, playing wildly-ambitious shots — "I think I can make it over that 15m-high tree, fly over that lake to land on that sloping green, surrounded by bunkers" — losing balls, searching through sheep paddocks and cursing endlessly. Real fun.

But remember Phil Mickelson has won less than 7% of the tournaments he has entered.

The thing about golf is it is an incredibly hard sport. No-one can master it.

Otago Golf Club general manager and long-time coach Shelley Duncan said playing with old clubs was a huge disadvantage.

"The technology has changed so much in the past 30 years. You should really hire new clubs.

"If you are playing with a small-headed driver then you are going to struggle."

Getting a lesson helped, going to the driving range, working on your grip on the club and learning how to stand properly when swinging, she said. Then perhaps — and this is a big perhaps — you will get better. Maybe.

"But it is a hard sport. If you only play once or twice a year it is going to be tough."



A game for old men, isn’t it?

Surely if some pensioner can do it well then someone a bit more sprightly in years can also bang it out.

It looks easy but them bowls are weighted and the greens do not always run smooth. It ain’t ten-pin bowling, that’s for sure.

One thing you will quickly realise is there is a ditch at the end of the green. You will get to know it quickly.

Former Black Jack and now high performance coach for Bowls NZ Mike Kernaghan said the first thing to do was to get someone, preferably a good bowler, to look at your bowling.

"You’ve got to understand the game. When to hit the right shots. When to go on the attack, on the defence, when to cut your losses when you are four down."

"It takes a while. After five to six years I started to think I could play this game."

It was hard for competitive people to try bowls — for many it used a completely different skill set.

"We had a couple of golf teams, pennants teams, down a while ago. They were highly competitive and really wanted to win. But they got so frustrated. They just could not work out the speed of the bowl."

Watching good players also helped.

But be prepared to be bad.

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