We hit the greens with the Royal Golf Club’s new instructor Gavin Campbell
Time Out Bahrain staff
A new golf instructor has reached our shores and he’s taking the Royal Golf Club’s academy in a fresh direction. We sit down with Gavin Campbell on the green to talk teeing off.
Fresh from the icy cold depths of Rostov in south Russia, British golf instructor Gavin Campbell has recently arrived in Bahrain at the Royal Golf Club to really focus on the academy and instruction. He spent the last five years introducing this ‘brand new sport’ to the inhabitants of one of Russia’s oldest towns, gradually growing their membership network from three to 300.
So coming to a country where there is a far more golf-savvy market is a refreshing change of pace for Gavin. ‘I want to give existing players some new fresh alternatives on how they learn and experience the game while getting people who have a little interest into playing,’ he says.
While the Royal Golf Club is certainly not short of members, it’s Gavin’s ultimate aim to get as many people as possible on the island into the sport. When we meet him, he’s only been in Bahrain for six short weeks, but he’s already been involved with the brand new initiative ‘Learn to play golf in one day’ which allows amateurs to spend five hours with him on the green to learn the basics for just BD59. ‘That’s a fantastic offer,’ he says. ‘We want to carry it on every month as the first course was already so successful.’
Five hours might not sound like much but it’s certainly enough to get a real feel for the sport. After all, it only took Gavin himself two weeks on a golf course at age 13 to realise his life’s career direction. ‘We went on a family holiday to Cornwall in the southwest of England and we stayed on a golf course,’ he tells us. ‘It was a matter of either I play a bit of golf or have a pretty boring holiday. So I played golf, I quite enjoyed it… I managed to get okay fairly quickly and so I chose golf as a direction.’
Following plenty of training from such a young age, Gavin eventually turned professional and played in tournaments and competitions all over the UK. Then he decided to get involved in the operations and management side of golf courses following a car accident that left him with whiplash for a year which slowed his career somewhat.
Since then, he’s spent ten years in and around the south of England on some really busy courses so he could get a good understanding of all aspects of the golf business. ‘In the playing side of [golf] you can be a lot more focused on yourself because it’s your game, your shots, your control,’ he explains. ‘But with the business side of it there are a lot of facets in making the product good for all the people who come whether that’s new golfers or established players.’
It’s obvious how enthusiastic Gavin is about the game when he starts explaining its benefits such as strength, flexibility and even patience. ‘Golf has a lot of skills but you don’t have to be a super professional to access most of those,’ he says. ‘It’s a good challenge.
‘Literally anybody can play and it’s a game you can play all your life. Last week I even had the pleasure of teaching a 79-year-old.’ He’s also seen blind and disabled players develop their games, he tells us. ‘The only restriction that stops someone from playing is themselves – their mindset and not their physical ability.’
In Bahrain, alongside their new short course, Gavin tells us they’re planning to roll out others initiatives to introduce more and more people to golf. This includes going into local and international schools, developing the structured programmes they run for kids and appealing to more adults and families. ‘We want to get as many adults in whether it’s just them coming and hitting a few shots on the range or if they want this as part of their lifestyle and play golf anywhere around the world.’
Gavin also hosts group sessions for beginners and one-on-one training for more established players with a range of packages people can choose from in order to develop their practice even if it’s just for fun. But if it is a career you’re looking at then, Gavin tells us, the only way in is to develop your ability. At the Royal Golf Club this means progressing through three main stages starting on the driving range learning ball hitting skills and improving your swing, followed by training on the nine-hole Wee Monty Course where the holes are 60 to 100 yards apart. Then you graduate to playing on the main Montgomerie Course where you can develop a high speed game and get given a handicap.
But it all starts with that first step onto the green.
‘Once you start you never know what might happen,’ Gavin says. ‘Learning golf should be fun. It connects people and breaks barriers.’
Gavin’s top tips for amateurs
• ‘First thing, just turn up. Sometimes people are not always sure what golf is. It can be a little like going to a gym – you think everybody is going to be super fit or a super golfer. That’s not the case. As a professional I still have good shots and bad shots.’
• ‘Learn the basics like how to hold the club properly and how to position yourself properly.’
• ‘If you’re going to hit the ball – start off at a gentle speed. It’s like driving a car: if you get into the car for the first time and you drive at 200mph you might crash and it’s not fun. But if you drive at a gentle speed you learn how to control the car, it’s just as enjoyable and you can gradually develop.’