Sunday, February 13, 2011


Last Sunday, I played my first round of golf in 4 months—and my first round ever on this continent.  Benee is a member of the Royal Golf Club in Kumasi, which seems to be paying off, as he has placed highly in many tournaments here in Ghana.  The course website linked above has a virtual tour for anyone who might be interested in seeing the course, but the link I find most interesting is the local club rules.  Strangely enough, they don’t list the one local rule that really impacted me during the round. 

Hole #9
Upon arriving at the course, Benee got me set up with a fantastic, almost-brand-new set of women’s Callaway golf clubs on a nice pullcart.  He borrowed them from the course professional.  Given that my set of clubs at home are over 10 years old and happen to be men’s clubs, I was interested to see how I would play with these clubs.  Nela came with us to have a nice walk on a beautiful day and to report back to her dad on what the course was like. (Many thanks to Nela for providing the pictures that are posted here.)

Practice area
Before starting, we did a little bit of chipping and putting practice.  Since I generally do okay with the drives and fairway shots, I was okay with the fact that the course did not have a driving range.  I’m glad that I took the chance to practice putting because the practice green was like putting on a mini-golf course.  Since it’s the dry season, the ground is hard as concrete, making the greens extremely fast, as my caddie told me. (The first time in my life I play a course that requires a caddie and it’s in Africa.  Go figure.)  We decided not to hire “the” golf cart—as in the one golf cart that the course owns for the occasional obruni who can’t play without one.  With a caddie carrying my clubs for me, it’s not like walking the course would be all that hard.

The course was reasonably well laid out with fairways that had space but weren’t completely open.  If I were in practice and used to the dry season conditions, I probably could have done better.  The new-course jitters got me on the first hole, as I wound up for the drive and completely shanked one to the left.  Luckily my caddie told me to take another shot (without penalty, at least in my mind), which ended up being a pretty respectable drive.

Putting as Benee and his caddy watch
At the end of the first hole, Benee asked me what I had shot, which is when I realized that we had not picked up score cards, nor had I even seen a place to do so.  Benee’s typical round is good enough that he’s able to keep track of his score as the plus/minus of the course par.  I quickly realized on the first hole that I would need to write mine down if I wanted to have any chance of remembering it and started scribbling down my score on the sticky-note pad that I had in my shoulder bag.  A picture of my “scorecard” is shown below.  Calculating the actual score is an exercise left to the reader (but I’m hoping you won’t since it’s not all that good).  In looking at the website later on, I realized that I could have printed out a scorecard to use, which would have made it much easier.

My toughest challenge on this course was trying to figure out what club to use.  Between the new clubs and the hard ground, I had a terrible time with figuring out how far the ball would travel and ended up overshooting the green a few times from the fairway.  My caddie tried to help, but he sometimes gave the wrong recommendation, probably because it isn’t often that a woman of my age is found on a golf course in Africa.  For example, on hole #13, a 150-yard par 3, he handed me the driver.  Seriously?  A driver?  I would have hit the ball 30 yards past the hole, or more like 50 yards once it stopped rolling.  I corrected his error and requested the 5-wood, which put me up next to the green.   

Driving on the Hole #9 towards the clubhouse
Overall, my playing was adequate, with the exception of the complete and total golfing meltdown that I had on the 18th hole.  Anyone who has played a round of golf with me knows that when I get hungry, I sometimes get cranky and always lose my ability to play the game.  This round of golf was no exception, with the 9 I scored on the final par 3, which was helped along by the only lost ball of the round. 

Being a caddie on that course seems to be a pretty good job.  While tips are not expected in restaurants in Ghana, they are expected for most other service-industry jobs, including caddying.  But he did the hard work of dragging my clubs all over the course and trying to suggest clubs to a younger obruni woman than he’s probably ever seen out there, so he earned his money.   

Speaking of obrunis, the golf club was one of the rare places in Kumasi where none of the locals seemed to notice or care about the obrunis there.  It was both refreshing and a little sad.  I’ve gotten pretty used to the unbelievably excited reception I get from the little children, who all shout “obruni” and want to touch my arm or talk to me or otherwise get as close to me as possible, with huge smiles on their face as they jockey for position around me.  Where else, other than Ghana, can my mere presence make that many little children so happy?

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