x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Early starters catch the birdies

Hitting the links young is reckoned to be the ideal way to learn, when it comes to introducing sport to youngsters.

ABU DHABI // When it comes to introducing children to sport, golf is ahead of the game in the UAE, where senior players are well served by several new courses and where European PGA tour championships attract some of the biggest names in the sport. Several academies and clubs around the country have junior programmes, including Etihad Airways' "My First Golf Swing", launched in February soon after the Abu Dhabi Championship.

The free class offers children aged seven to 14 the chance to take part in a year-long programme with two sessions per month. It is designed to introduce the game to as many youngsters as possible; if participants wish, they can pay for additional, more advanced lessons. On Monday, a dozen girls from Raha International School got a chance to hone their skills. "The idea is to expose the children to the sport," said Esmond Clouthier, Abu Dhabi Golf Club's director of instruction, who oversees the programme.

"They are nervous at the beginning, but once they get the idea, and when an interest is created in the child's mind, they come back. "We already have a performance programme called the step-level, similar to a grading system in karate. This is a six- to seven-level course so that the kids can progress through certain levels, like tests on their skills, etiquette and rules." He said that there was no age limit for golfing, but that starting young was a good idea. "It all depends on each individual," he added. "Obviously, an early start would help the kids to develop quicker. We want to try and get golf into the school's curriculum as part of their physical training programme, and this is great way to achieve some of the goals."