May The Course Be With You

Jackie Pinto | September 29, 2023 | Life

Ace golfer Shiv Kapur explains why golf is not such geeky game after all, as he tees off at the Marriott Bonvoy Golf Tournament 2023.

A British sports survey declared golf as Britains dullest sport when 70% of those surveyed found it “incredibly dull to watch”. However, the same survey admitted that an estimated 60 million people, across 85% of the world, still played it. To understand this dichotomy, we caught up with celebrity golfer Shiv Kapur who enjoys demystifying the game for newbies and sharing pro-tips with those who already know their nine irons from their blades. As a Marriott Bonvoy ambassador he often engages with members who sign up for exclusive ‘Marriott Moments’.

“Golfers come in all shapes and sizes without discrimination in terms of age or gender,” says Shiv Kapur. “Tiger Woods appeared on television practicing his golf swing at the age of two and there are golfers still out on the course at 92. Through the handicapping system, players with different abilities can play each other and even play in all kinds of settings besides the golf course – like the garden, the driving range, an office or evem living room. And just one hole of golf, never mind a complete round, can deliver both ecstasy and agony in equal measure. A great shot can be immediately followed by one of the worst ones you have ever hit – and that is one of the reasons why it can become such an addictive game. You can never really master it.”

In India, where cricket is a national obsession, most people still think of golf as a “dorky” game – played by retirees in strange clothes who use befuddling terms only to make it even more confusing to the average Joe than it already was.

Kapur himself could not escape the cricket religion and grew up loving the sport – in fact he still does, and is an unabashed Tendulkar fan. “I am a hardcore cricket enthusiast. If golf and cricket are on the television at the same time, I’m definitely watching the latter,” he smiles, describing how he first started playing golf at the age of nine at the Delhi Golf Club, trailing behind his dad who was a regular.

Despite his parents’ skepticism, he developed a serious interest in the game, winning the Malaysian Amateur Open and Indian Amateur Golf Circuit in 2000. He then moved to Purdue University in the US to integrate his golf training with academics, unfortunately crushing his investment-banker father’s hopes for Harvard in the process.

However, it was a move that paid off and he played in the U.S. Amateur Circuit and then went on to win the gold at the Busan Asian Games 2002 at the mere age of 20.

Now based out of Dubai at the invitation of the Sultanate of the UAE, Kapur balances a tough training and tournament schedule, with family time and trips to some of the most beautiful golf destinations in the world – he even has a bar named after him at the Lighthouse Golf & Spa Resort in Bulgaria, set on a picturesque cliff overlooking the Black Sea called ‘Shivs Sky Bar’.

But while the celebrated and lauded golfer might be a force to be reckoned with now, he acknowledges that golf needs to become less elitist, more democratic and accessible if it is to grow and flourish.

“To play golf in the first place, most people have to invest in a club membership, expensive gear and a bunch of add-on expenses. But fortunately we live in an age where a new kind of golfer is emerging thanks to the number of lifestyle gizmos, products, podcasts, publications, courses, clubs and shows that are out there redefining the sport for the next generation. So golf is gradually becoming a much cooler sport than it was, thanks in a large part to players like Tiger Woods, who gave golf its first great impetus and showed the world that it was not limited to retired old dudes, ambling around the greens, killing time or making business deals.” says Kapur.

According to him, it’s now time for serious public-private partnerships to build golf facilities that are accessible and affordable to more people, so that the talent pool becomes much wider and golf becomes a game that the whole family can enjoy.

“Golf simulators are a good way to get newbies started and provide practice facilities as they need less space and can function even in extreme weather conditions. I would also like to see the game become more spectator friendly, with music, fun, family entertainment and relaxed dress codes introduced into tournaments.”

As he tees off at the Marriott Bonvoy Golf Tournament 2023, the ace golfer signs off with an amusing anecdote:

“When I was brand ambassador for Hugo Boss, we were meticulously styled from head to toe in the brand’s newest line of clothes and accessories. As we walked jauntily toward the 18th hole and I bent to take a swing at the ball, we all heard a loud rip as my trousers split wide open – right there in the middle of the fairway with cameras popping and flashing a mile a minute!”

Guess it’s safe to assume, golf isn’t all that serious and dry after all!

Words by Jackie Pinto.
Image courtesy Shiv Kapur.

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