Kazakhstan Introductory Rules School Blog
After a long flight via Frankfurt I arrive at my accommodation at the Alatau Sanatorium in Almaty at 3am. It is pitch black and there is only a dim light on at reception. It is a little eerie.
After a few hours sleep I step out onto the balcony. It’s cool, drizzly and a little misty, not what I expected. However, I can see Nurtau Golf Club – venue for our on-course practical demonstration - right next to the hotel, nice and handy.
The Sanatorium is an imposing building. Built as a place for Communist officials to relax at during the Soviet era, it is very imposing and it certainly betrays its Soviet roots. Huge in size, completely functional in nature, and it looks as if it could withstand an armed assault.
Alan Holmes (who has just finished his four year stint as Chairman of The R&A Rules of Golf Committee) and his wife arrived the previous day and we meet up late morning with Alexey Polozhenstev, Vice Chairman of the Kazakhstan Golf Federation (KGF). We head out to the Tian Shan mountain range that overlooks the city visiting Zhaijau Golf Club enroute – an Arnold Palmer course opened in 2006.
Almaty co-hosted the Asian Winter Games (with Astana) earlier in the year and the Tian Shan mountains were the scene of the Alpine events. The mountains are breath-taking, literally. We get to over 4,000 metres, my ears popping twice and I can feel a difference in my breathing. Alexey is un-phased. He spent years in the mountains as the Kazakhstan state Alpine coach, and travelled all over the world in that capacity. He’s now a successful business man and has discovered golf.
Lunch, quick tour of Almaty and then back to the Sanatorium to look over our proposed school programme and do some preparation. We then enjoyed dinner with Victor Motchalov (General Secretary of the Russian Golf Association) who had flown in from Moscow to help us with the school. His help is invaluable and it is also a good opportunity to find out a little more about golf in Russia.
Alan, Victor and myself check out the area of Nurtau GC where we will be conducting the practical demonstration of the rules. Teeing ground, out of bounds, putting green, bunker, water hazard, immovable obstructions and ground under repair – these are some of the topics that we will explore. The area is good and we spend some time working out what we can demonstrate and where.
The Director of Golf at the club is Konstantin Lifanov; he’s also General Secretary of the KGF. Originally from Moscow, he’s been at Nurtau for eight years. We chat about golf in Kazakhstan, finalise all the arrangements for the School and have an interview with Golf KZ golf magazine. Back to the Sanatorium, check the room where we will be conducting the “inside” part of the Level One Introductory School and make sure all the equipment is working – always the most stressful part of each school!
After dinner with Konstantin and his wife there’s time for a quick review of the presentation materials we are using.
First day of the School. We’ve got delegates from a number of countries: Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Many of the delegates are quite young which reflects the fact that golf is quite new in this part of the world. We are delighted with the turnout.
Victor and Konstantin work hard translating for Alan and I. The Level One School focuses on the Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf, the summary booklet of the Rules. It covers the basics, all that you will ever need to get round a golf course…most of the time. Using lots of video, we take a very general look at etiquette and the Rules, before discussing in more detail those Definitions (in the Rules) that we consider to be most important and the Rules that are covered in the Quick Guide.
The morning session runs smoothly (no technical hitches) and after lunch we conduct the on-course practical demonstration – it’s always the most popular session as delegates can see the Rules in action. The two-hour session goes well and we’re really pleased by the level of knowledge of the delegates – they ask good questions, give good answers and seem keen to learn.
Instructors and delegates round off the day together with some well-earned food and drink.
We start with a look at lots of video clips featuring players from the professional tours. The clips are really useful for illustrating certain points and for stimulating debate. The debate then continues into a general Q&A session before the Level One Exam!
The exam lasts one hour and is not that difficult, our Level Two and Level Three exams are a little harder mind you! Most people finish well ahead of the hour mark – a good sign (which the exam marks subsequently prove).
We then have some closing speeches and that’s it. Well, not quite…
The KGF has kindly arranged golf for delegates at Nurtau – a great way to end the School. The course has held the Kazakhstan Open, the most lucrative event on the European Challenge Tour, many times. Alan and I play with Alexey, and although he may have taken up golf relatively late in life, I’m glad we’re not playing for any money as Alexey is on fire. The course is good, the rough is not that long but balls sit down in it and sometimes you just have to take your medicine and get it out.
It is a clear day though and the snow-capped Tian Shan mountains in the background are truly stunning. It gives Alan and I something to look at as Alexey holes from a bunker for another birdie.
All in all, it was a very successful School and not just from the Rules Education side of things. Each School is also a good opportunity to speak to people, to tell them about The R&A and what we do, and to find out what is happening in other countries and how we can possibly be of assistance.
Hopefully some of the delegates from the School in Almaty will share their knowledge of the Rules with others, and hopefully we’ll see some of the delegates at future Level Two and Three courses somewhere in the world.
Read Dariga Kozhakhmetova's blog here. Dariga, a Rules School delegate and Kazakhstan Open volunteer, shares her experiences and growing obseesion with golf.