[Seoul Lounge] Golf ? the same, but different
There is no doubt that Koreans are crazy about golf. And golf is an integral part of life here.
In my Mexican club, we had 750 members of 51 nationalities. Ten were Korean. The other 740 members always thought the Koreans were unfriendly.
The Koreans arrived together, played together, did not welcome another member to join their foursome if they were short by one player, ate together and left together.
Having seen golf played in Korea, I now understand that customs and culture dictate their behavior. They are just as friendly as any other nationals. It made me think that a guide of differences between golf in and outside of Korea may be worthwhile.
Before getting here, I was not aware of just how much golf would form part of my life. And when I did start to play, it was striking how different it is to the golf I have played in Europe, the U.S. or Latin America. Same game, different concept.
First, the club: In Korea, the club gives me a place to make a booking so one can invite upto three guests. I do not know any other members here, and I do not play with them.
Elsewhere, the golf club is a focal point for sporting and social life. In other clubs, I have joined a community with a sense of belonging. You have your own locker where you leave your things. Your children learn the game on the club’s grass driving range and pitching and putting practice area and play with their parents in the afternoon.
One makes friends by turning up alone and joining a group with a spare place or playing in club tournaments.
And after the round, everyone has a drink and sometimes plays a game of cards or dominoes in the (usually male only) 18th-hole bar, after which we usually rush home or to the club restaurant to meet up with our families.
Second, the game: In Korea, business golf seems designed to help everyone feel good with mulligans, hazard tees, free drops and generous “gimmies.” I carry a rule book in my bag, which I often consult when playing abroad.
Betting usually has the same concept. The amount I win or lose in other countries is directly related to how well I played and how badly my opponents played. And we take great pleasure in ribbing the loser at the end of the game.
In Korea, winning depends far more on the chance of selecting the correct club and how early someone wins money (after which they pay back for three puts, hazards and triple bogeys). Its a very egalitarian system ? like Korea itself.
The caddy and cart systems were what surprised me the most. Most foreigners shout warnings to the caddies when they see the cart begin to move away with no driver.
I am sure I did too! And we are most impressed that all four players can fit in the cart, which is usually superbly kitted out with drinks, heaters, coolers, balls, tees, markers and first-aid kits.
In most countries, people carry their golf bag and find the ball themselves. As a traditionalist, I rather enjoy walking. But I do appreciate the cart on a hot day.
And I have to mention the caddies. It is unusual to have female caddies ? at least outside of Asia. And I had never seen one caddy attend to all four players before arriving in Korea.
Finally, the cost: A good club outside of Korea can cost from $5,000 to $100,000 to join. In Korea, the cost of the club can easily be as much as a house.
And each time you play, the cost is $1,000. The Scottish did not invent the game with the intention it would be only available to the richest people.
I do love golf in Korea. The courses are well kept and usually beautiful. But I would like it more if it were more family-oriented and affordable!
*I do love golf in Korea. But I would like it a lot more if it were more family-oriented and affordable!
by Matthew J. Deakin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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