• Padmja Sopori

Teeing Off

Ask any golf player, and he or she will tell you that golf is a game that everyone ought to play. You may take action on this interest as a hobby and soon find that you want to play like a pro. The game of golf can be quite addictive and transform your weekends and holidays into fun-filled breaks. The rules are strict but simple and once you learn the basics and develop skills, it is the practice that will take you ahead. When you step on that attractive expanse of green, you need to know which club to use and have the ability to hit the ball. Hobbyist World caught up with Rehan Poncha to talk about his new sports obsession, golf.

How and when did you get started?

Making the Olympics is every elite athlete’s dream, and I had worked with a single-minded focus towards this goal since I was 7 years old. It involves a lot of hard work and lots of sacrifices. After being named India’s Best Athlete at two national games, being national champion six times and several national records later I made the Olympics, and all the hard work, the sacrifices seemed worth it. Each athlete has their own goal, for me, this felt like a great culmination point for my competitive swimming career. So, I took a break. But the extensively spacious days felt very strange to me, I missed the routine and discipline, so I decided to try a new sport for fitness. However, playing a sport just for fun doesn’t come to me naturally, and I do compete at golf now too! But that’s how golf began, and it’s a game I’m enjoying very much.

What has been your favourite golfing experience so far?

Training for golf is like meditation and there’s a zen-like pleasure in hearing the sound of a golf ball connecting with the club and watching a perfect flight. So a lot of happy memories are on the course in the everyday. But I also love to travel, and golf when I travel. In fact, I blog about my travel on travelwithrehan.com. Some of my favourite golfing memories are from travel to resorts like those in Antalya, Turkey and Bali. Played facing the setting sun,

with the ocean on one side, all serene and beautiful feels like heaven on earth!

What is your favourite thing about golf?

I think the process of training to be better. Every day presents a new challenge. Your body works differently on each day, so adapting to that challenge and trying to stay consistent in practice has to be my favourite part. I am sure this will be superseded by the joy of winning once I get there

What is your handicap? What has been your best score?

I play to a 6 handicap, and am quite proud of that fact, as my first goal when I started golf, was to be a single handicap player. My best score is a one-over-par on the Pune Golf Club Course at the Independence Cup.

Have you ever hit a hole in one?

Yes! I have one to my name at the Par 3, 2nd hole at the Willingdon Sports Club in Mumbai.

What has been the toughest course you’ve played on? Why?

Any course can be both easy and hard to play based on how well you can control the golf ball on that day. The hardest courses seem easy on a day your game is flowing. Having said that, I believe the Jumeirah Golf Estates’ “Earth“ course is quite tough to play. It plays long, the greens are fast and challenging as well.

What has been the most scenic course you’ve played on?

The Wick Golf Club in Scotland. It’s this gorgeous and old, links course founded in the 1800s. You get a beautiful view of Scottish Highlands on the front 9 and a scenic elevated ocean view on the back. Has to be one of my favourite courses to play on.

Does one require any training for golf?

Depends how good you want to be! For me, I always want to be the best, so yes, more than you can imagine! I put in five to six hours of golf on the course every day working on different aspects of my game, followed with an hour or so of fitness work in the gym.

Can you tell us something that people may not know about Golf?

Before I played golf, I didn’t realise how tremendously fit you need to be to play it at a high level. The long hours of training take a huge toll on your body and add to the amount of power and stability you need to play consistently and well. Golf is also one of the most mentally challenging sports simply because of the length of a match and golf tournament. One tournament is four rounds of four hours each, which demands a player to be very mentally strong in addition to being physically very fit.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give budding golfers?

In this world of instant gratification, golf teaches you patience! You have to stay patient and trust your process of learning and getting better. Golf doesn’t pay huge dividends instantly. You often crave instant success, and golf doesn’t work that way! So, stay patient, work meticulously and trust that with time, results will come.

Rehan Poncha's images are courtesy Gitika Taraporewala