There was chaos. At least for the two of us— fishes out of water who do not exactly know what we are doing.
Inside our heads were anxiety and panic and it was the kind of mentality we can’t afford to have at that moment.
“Golf, after all”, as Divya Ahuja, Assets Manager for Al Nahda, our Yoda for the day, said “is a mental game”.
“You do not compete with anyone but yourself,” he said.
We came without bringing anything. While everyone around us came prepared like soldiers in a battle.
There were about a hundred players at the event, a mix of professionals and amateurs of different age and background. The youngest was a kid, maybe around 15 and the oldest, maybe 70ish.
It was a Friday, October 20 and we were at the lavish Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club for the 5th Al Nahda Golf Tournament.
‘This year, it has gotten bigger. We have gotten a lot of inquiries about this event. But we have to close it at a certain number,” said Niti Hamlai, managing director for Al Nahda Hotels and Resorts when we first met her.
The game that day was an 18-hole Texas Scramble tournament which meant nothing to us at first. We were like listening to an ancient inscription being read — nothing of which makes sense.
“Texas Scramble is a team format game that is popular amongst ProAm golfing tournaments. You play with two or four balls where a two ball game indicates two people teaming up or a four ball, the chosen format for the event, is when a team of four play at the same time and then move to the best shot of the four for their second hit,” Divya said.
“All four members take the same shot and then a ball is chosen for the next. It is a fun yet informative way for Pros and amateurs to play the game together. The winner of this format of golf is determined by the highest numbers of birdies a team can achieve,” he added.
The prizes for the day were: business class tickets to Europe courtesy of Swiss Air, Swiss watches from Nuhas, and full night stays at the luxurious Dunes by Al Nahda. The tournament has become the talk of the town with the golfing crowds eagerly awaiting the event, the high turn outs and the esteemed sponsorships showcase the interest and excitement of those in Muscat.
A crash course on golf
Golf, misconstrued often as an ‘old man’s game’, has now become one of the top viewed and played sports in the world. Names like Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas have revamped this game for retirees and changed it into a game of agility and power.
Golf has now become a sport for the young, with players as young as 18/19 are playing this game that has for years been known as an old man’s sport. The misconception about the game is highly rooted in the luxuriousness of the game and the ample free time needed to play the sport, something that was previously only available to rich retirees. Today, Tiger woods, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy have bulked up, strengthened themselves and the game by adding power into the mix of angles and swings.
“It isn’t uncommon to see 14 and 16 year olds playing golf or practicing at the driving range these days. Golf is a game that requires a lot of physical energy as it requires you to play and walk for over 7 to 8 kilometers, so definitely not an old man’s game,” Divya shared.
Oman has become well known for its state of the art golf courses and its manwy esteemed events including Challenge Tour finals, this is where semi-professionals compete to rank up and join the professionals at the European Tours.
While the professionals we see on TV make the game look easy, doing it on your own opens up your eyes to the reality.
“There are proper techniques on how to do this. The movement of your body, the positioning of your feet and knees, even the equipment you use all contribute to how well you play the game,” he said.
“One thing to remember is that you always have to keep your eyes on the ball,” Dr Mary Ann, Al Nahda Corporate Director for Marketing and Development, said.
The team we tagged along with is comprised of three other people from Al Nadha — Divya, Dr Mary Ann and Amit, all with previous experience in playing golf.
“For anyone interested in playing golf, learning it is easy as most of the clubs have professionals that can assist you. It’s just a matter of approaching the right people and properly communicating with the club’s staff,” Divya said.
Golf in Oman
In Oman today, golf has become the game of the ‘it’ crowds, whether corporate or casual, golf has become a common place for people to meet, play and have a good time.
Although most clubs have their faithful regulars, many golfers wait around for events like the Al Nahda annual tournament to experience and play in the other courses in the country.
Divya claims, “Anybody who plays two or three rounds easily fall in love with this exciting game. Every time a player makes contact with the ball, he feels the essence of the game. People often go out of their way, play in the extreme temperatures of the Middle Eastern summer or go early morning to avoid the heat and make time to practice before going to work, golf can truly become an exciting part of life.”
In Oman, there are several corporate and competitive tournaments hosted every year. Al Nahda Golf has started to generate its own following and regulars and has come a long way since its initial years, the event would have between 30 to 40 participants, who came to play a game they enjoyed and for the chance to win the prizes.
This year’s tournament was sponsored by Swiss International Airlines Ltd, BMW, Markaz Al Bahja, ID Design and Nuhas Oman. The team of Henry Huneberg, Nick Lewis, Pat O’Connor and James O’Reilly was this year’s winner.
Biggest take away
The tournament lasted for almost five hours and for these newbies, it was an eye-opening immersion into the world of golf.
Sometime during the first 8 holes, Divya always reminded everyone to be quite when he is taking his shot. It was when he made us understand that golf is not just a matter of hitting the ball.
“This is a gentleman’s game and you are on a timer. You cannot afford to make the people behind you wait,” he said.
“There are so much more that you have to know. But it all boils down to dedication, perseverance and love for the game,” he added.
“Whenever you swing and you hit the ball properly, you will feel it. You make a certain connection. Every time you do it right, you want to do it better the next time,” he said.
“This can definitely be learnt. Al Nahda is just one avenue of bringing people together to showcase and demonstrate their love for this game,” he added.