Golf: A sanctuary and a surprisingly good work out

Golf

Eyes on the ball.  Keep your left arm straight.  Eyes on the ball.  Do not swing too far back.  Stance should be shoulder-width.  Neither stand too close nor too far from the ball.  Eyes on the ball.

My sister brought a Callaway golf starter set when she visited a couple of weeks ago.  Buying a set from Amazon and a hard case to protect it on the airplane was nearly half the price of buying a quality starter set in Ghana.

Bok Nam Kim Golf Course

For the last week, I’ve been learning golf at the 9-hole Bok Nam Kim Golf Course at the Air Force Officers’ Mess in East Cantonments.  According to ModernGhana, Bok Nam Kim was the CEO for Afko Imex.  His company built the golf course.  Mr. Kim “single-handedly sponsored Ghana‘s contingent to the 1988 Olympic Games held in Seoul, South Korea.” Located on the flight path of planes from Kotoka International Airport, Bok Nam Kim blends the serenity of a golf course with the roar of ascending aircraft.  On any given day, you can see a mix of military cargo planes and commercial airliners such as Emirates.

It’s not a secret that Ghana’s armed forces receive substantially higher pay than any other civil servants outside of politics. The government pays them at least $1,000 (3,000 cedis) per month, provides them housing, and recreational facilities that include golf, tennis, gym, and swimming pools.   My understanding is that some of their wages derive from their work on UN peacekeeping missions. Any Ghanaian will tell you that the army is incorruptible.

Fortunately, these recreation centers are open to the public.  Daily greens fees are 25 cedis ($8), hiring a caddy to carry your bag and a boy to fetch your balls costs 20 cedis.  I’m taking lessons from the caddy for 20 cedis per day.  A day of golf with lessons costs about 65 cedis or $20.  I believe a year membership costs 1,000 cedis + 200 cedis for registration or about $400.

According to No Worries Ghana, Bok Nam Kim is “a narrow, short 9-hole course, with rudimentary tee boxes, and “browns” rather than greens. Good practice course, easy to get to. Good for beginners.”  Sure, the course may not meet international standards but for a beginner it suits me fine.

Surprisingly Challenging

My sister and I played the first four holes without a serious idea of how to swing.  Nonetheless, we had a great time.  Beyond the game, I was impressed by how quiet and GREEN the course was.  I usually hide in my apartment to avoid the noise, dust, and smell of sewage that is synonymous with Accra daily life; visiting the golf course suggested there is another place I can look forward to in the city.

For the past week, I’ve visited the course almost every other day.  Many of the caddies have worked on the courses for years; they play on weekends and several are pretty good players.  I’ve tried out three different caddies to help me with my swing. I’ve been working with a 20-year old guy named Prosper.  He’s been working at Bok Nam Kim for 6 years.  His main strength is the ability to identify what I’m doing wrong and clearly explain what I should do to change it.

Over the course of four lessons, I’ve gone from erratically hitting balls in various directions to hitting balls — with great concentration — in the desired direction.  I’ve also learned a bit about pitching and putting.  I’m surprised by how tired I get after 90 minutes on the driving range and an hour on the course.  I believe concentrating on form contributes to making the game such a great work out.

My goals are to continue improving my swing, learn how to swing with the various types of clubs, and develop a rudimentary golf game.  I recognize that golf is substantially more expensive in the US than in Ghana so I better make the most of this time to build a foundation for the game.

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