I have always wanted to play golf. To me, it’s the sport of the ambitious and successful. I often imagined myself on the green, networking with someone important. Trouble is, I have no idea how play! I am also completely intimidated by golf clubs. They have this air of impenetrable exclusivity about them. When I confided this to my friend, he suggested The River Club.
Determined, I arranged a lesson. On the day of my lesson, I had a mild freak out. I realised that I had no golf shirts or khakis (I googled what I should wear), and found out that many clubs have a strict dress code. I found the closest thing to a golf shirt, packed a different pair of trousers and shoes in my bag, in case what I had on was a no-go, and hastily grabbed a peak cap, because everyone who golfs on TV wears one.
When I walked into The River Club, I immediately relaxed. Everyone was so chilled and casual. I even saw a guy rocking out with headphones and flip flops as he hit his balls. I knew this was the right place for me to begin my golfing journey. I met up with golf manager, Darryn van Zyl who confirmed this for me.
‘I like to think of us as the T20 of golf. It’s more about coming out, hitting a few balls and having fun. We have an undercover driving range which is quite nice because we are open in winter too. You never know what conditions you are going to play in, so the fact that we are open in winter is really beneficial. We have the mashie golf course, so people can work on their short game, and there are the restaurant and bar, so you can relax and have a drink when you are done.’
The South African Golf Institute (SAGI) reside at the River club and have great coaches you can book to help you learn. My coach was Keagan Beyer, a pro who came up through SAGI. For him, River Club is the perfect place for anyone who wants to work on their game, whether you are a beginner or pro.
‘Just to give you an idea, I coached a four-year-old and then a pro straight after. The pro has entered and won many golf tournaments and the kid was still learning. That’s the range of people who come here.’
The moment of truth had arrived. I was in the VIP box where, fortunately, no one could witness my shame. I stalled by asking how many golf balls they have (40,000 at any given time) how bad some of the lessons were (Keagan got a club in the knee) and commented on the view (it’s spectacular). When I couldn’t stall anymore, Keagan handed me a club, showed me how to hold it, and placed a ball in front of me.
My first swing missed. My second made contact and the most satisfying feeling came over me. Soon I was hitting one ball after the other with Keagan and Darryn cheering me on. Keagan would help me adjust my swing and I was off again. The SAGI have a cool app that shows you how you swing compared to a pro. Keagan filmed me and then played it back in comparison to the great Ernie Els. They even have a cool gadget called FightScope that monitors the distance and path your ball takes.
There is so much that sets The River Club apart. They have great membership deals that are tailored to your needs. Their prices are unbelievable, even if you are not a member. SAGI offer great coaching no matter what your age or level. It’s family friendly, with a special play area supervised by caregivers for the kids. You can go smash some balls to work off your frustration, or focus on the technicalities of your game to improve. You can also just hang out with your friends.
And for beginners like me, well Darryn says it best: ‘We are the perfect place for you. You can come, learn and perfect your game and when you are ready, we are a gateway to the other clubs. Everyone is welcome here.’
Photography courtesy The River Club