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Learning Golf the Sandals WayJanuary 15, 2009 By: Michael Browne
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at playing golf, but for some reason or another I never got around to it. So when Sandals invited me to its new golf-training facility, Sandals Golf School Powered by Nike Golf at Sandals Golf & Country Club in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, I was excited about finally hitting the links— and more than a little apprehensive. Other than a few rounds of miniature golf, I had zero experience. But I was assured that the object of the school was to teach and train, and novices were more than welcome.
The putting green for practice at Sandals Golf & Country Club
That assurance came to fruition the first morning our group of travel agents and media arrived on the beautiful 18-hole, 120-acre course. We were broken into groups of four based on skill level, and we would be taken through three separate training areas, each with its own instructor. Although the other members of my group had considerably more experience, everyone was patient and supportive, as were the Sandals trainers, led by Tony Ebanks, general manager of Sandals Golf & Country Club.
Tony was our first instructor, taking us through the basics of putting at a specially designed putting station. I did pretty well in this session, and my confidence was rising. That may have been a little premature, however, as I struggled through the chipping and full-swing segments of the training. The instructors were incredibly helpful, though, and I learned a lot about the basics of the game from them and my fellow group members.
Sandals Golf School instructors ready the course for students
For me, one of the highlights of the day was lunch at Jamaica’s only on-course Jerk Shack. After a plate of delicious assorted jerk meats and a couple of Red Stripes, I was ready to go back out there for some on-course training. Our group of four was led out onto the course with one of the instructors to play a few holes in a scramble format. This was much more relaxed, and I really started to get a feel for the sport.
On day two, I woke up feeling sore in places I’d never felt pain before. Don’t let anyone tell you that golf isn’t a physical sport; for me, the grip and the swing motion were totally unnatural movements and my body didn’t react kindly. But I was more than game to head out and polish up some of my new-found skills.
The second day featured pitching, sand shots and specialty shots. I don’t know if it was my aching body or the difficulty of the shots, but I found myself a little more frustrated than the first day. Once again, with the patience of the Sandals instructors, I began to feel more relaxed and confident.
At the conclusion of the two-day training program, each of the golfers was videotaped and the strengths and weaknesses of their swings analyzed. I had been dreading this moment, but I actually did okay for a first-timer. The 1,000-square-foot teaching center features the latest motion analysis technology, designed to digitally capture, compare and analyze each player’s performance, frame by frame.
All in all, this was a great first-time golf experience for me. And, judging from the reactions of other members of the entire group—ranging from hackers to seasoned veterans—everybody learned a little something about their game that they would be taking home to their local course.
For more information on Sandals Golf School, contact [email protected].