Golf's foreign allure has grabbed me

July 6, 2008 | Terry Ward Original article Link

For all my years living in Florida, I have never been tempted to pick up a golf club. It took a trip to Kauai a few months ago to finally spark my interest in the game. Maybe those tourism posters had worked their way into my subconscious, with their pretty pictures of plush green holes atop black lava rocks overhanging a peeling beach break.

Ryan, my instructor at the Makai Golf Course in Princeville, was a former college player who used his skills to take him as far from his Ohio hometown as possible. And while he taught me the basics of swinging a 7-iron, Ryan told me how fabulous it was living in Kauai. "It's not that easy to find a girlfriend out here," Ryan said. "But I have mangoes and pineapples growing in my garden, and I get to surf and play golf every day." Hey, that sounded a lot like Florida. But at home, the two sports seemed incongruous - one cool and freewheeling, the other all buttoned up and law abiding. In seductive Kauai, however, everything seemed possible.

But last week in Germany, when I felt myself again thinking birdies and eagles, I knew my addiction was growing. People come to Germany for many things, among them beer gardens, castles, Berlin and Bavaria. They don't typically come for golf. And if you think the sport has an elitist edge in America, you can't even imagine how it's perceived in Germany. And seeing golf from a foreign perspective is precisely what made it so interesting. "In Germany, golf is all about the image," said Dylan Bawden, my instructor at Treudelberg Golf & Country Club in Hamburg, where I took a lesson last week. "Shortly after I first moved here," said Bawden, "I got into the S-bahn [the metro] in my golf clothes to go to an event we were sponsoring in the city, and people looked at me like I was from another planet."

"Especially when I asked if they'd seen my ball," he said with a laugh.
Bawden, a Londoner, said that being a golf pro was his passport to living and working all over Europe.

"I realized I'd sort of seen everything there was to see in England, so first I headed to Spain to work as a golf pro. But the scene was all about laying on the beach and drinking beer."

So Bawden took a job in Munich, then another in DM-|sseldorf before finally landing in Hamburg, where he says he has the best of both worlds - good golf and access to a big city.

"It just takes a while to get used to the way they think about golf in Germany," Bawden said. "People think it's just for old rich people. There's a saying in Germany that goes something like this: 'Are you still having sex, or do you play golf already?"

Hailing from a land where surfers thought golf was cool, it was hard to relate to. And as I took in Bawden's tips, I realized I liked it that he and I represented two of golf's most important countries, where you didn't have to be wary of the upper-crust image to pick up a club and try to play. Then later, as I sat drinking a German lager on the clubhouse's terrace in a sun-worshiping atmosphere that can only happen in Northern Europe, I realized another thing:

It wasn't so bad having to leave Florida to learn that golf is pretty fun.

Terry Ward is a freelance writer in Orlando.