Four years ago when Robert Burale occasionally golfed with his buddies (mostly pastors), he would, at best, shoot in the 120s. He didn’t care much about the sport as long as he spent time with them.
RB, as his friends refer to him, thought golfing was for boring people.
“I thought golf wasn’t for me. The first time I tried, I only did one walk with my buddies and was bored stiff,” he says.
But when Covid-19 struck, and movement restrictions soon followed, he missed those leisurely walks on the golf course. When the State eventually eased restrictions, RB jumped at the first opportunity to go back to golfing.
“I wasn’t consistent. I remember my bishop, David Muriithi, telling me, ‘The day that bug bites you, you will never stop.”
Bishop Muriithi’s words have since come true. Since the beginning of the year, RB has played more golf than before and can not stop thinking about the holes.
“Now I have the bug. Whenever I travel, I have to carry my golf clubs with me. The other day, I was in Uganda attending a friend’s wedding, and thankfully, where I was residing was the beautiful Serena Kigo Golf Course. I have also played in Seattle, US.”
Even with his busy schedule of public speaking gigs and hosting a radio show, RB always finds time to hit the golf course.
While in Kenya, he is always at the course by 6:30 am and ready to tee off by 6:45 am because playing in the morning is soothing and therapeutic. By mid-day, he approximates, he has covered 10 kilometres, which keeps his cardiovascular fitness in tip-top shape.
“I rarely play in the afternoon. I love it in the morning because of the weather. It’s nice and cool and refreshing. Besides, it allows you to go do other things,” RB says.
“You know, walking for four to five hours, swinging the club and engaging your mind, planning how you will play the field because golf is not just about a sport; it requires a lot of strategy. You don’t play your opponent; you play against the field. If it’s a dogleg (hole), do I hit it fast, should I go low here or go high there and things like that,” he explains.
This engagement of the mind is why RB says he quit the gym.
However, since he had a fracture on his lower back after a bad swing, he plans to combine golf and strength training as recommended by his physiotherapist.
“The walking, the swinging has improved my fitness level,” he vaunts.
The author of The Three Hearts of a Man believes golfing is the best way to stay physically and mentally fit well into old age.
“I have been told that swimming is the most complete sport regarding physical fitness. Golf is not too far away from that. Just like swimming, it engages the whole body. I have seen men in their 60s, 70s and even 80s on course, and they say they have been playing for 30 years. What does that tell you about the fitness of the sport? Rare will you see an 80-year-old swimming,” he notes.
Locally, RB and his friends have played in Karen, Muthaiga, Limuru, and Nyeri golf clubs. And his consistency has started paying off. He just got his handicap cut to 26.5 and plans to shave it to a single digit.
But RB knows it will take a lot of work and time.
“I am determined because the course is my go-to place. It’s where I shut the world. Besides the physical fitness, the beautiful scenery at the golf course relaxes my mind, and for a moment, I forget about my busy schedule and work pressures.”
At this point, RB takes a pose and looks at me. “I can tell you workout, but you should start playing golf because you may not be able to lift those weights like you are now when you hit your 70s,” he advises.
But I tell him that the sport is best at attracting corporate connoisseurs, retired hobbyists, nature aficionados or social mavens with hefty perks.
“Expensive is relative. I think people see golf as excessively expensive because of the hefty sums paid as registrations at golf clubs. I mean, to get a handicap, you must be a club member.
Golf clubs and kits are also expensive, but it’s better to spend on them than on booze. The downside of golf is that you always keep on buying these props. I have a friend with more golf t-shirts than the golf clubs.”
This is why, when RB started taking golf seriously last year, he decided to repurpose one of the bedrooms in his Karen home. He had the room redesigned, and the bed removed. It is today his golf cubicle.
“For me, it’s the golf clubs that I can’t seemingly stop buying. In fact, what I’m about to say is crazy. When you enter that room, it has nothing else but golf trousers, t-shirts, belts, shoes, golf balls, and all that. Now, I want to frame some of the nice golf shots taken and hang them there. I know I’m not Tiger Woods, but I enjoy the thrill of this game.”
This thrill now has RB setting goals. One is to participate in Open championships, and the other is to witness how the greatest golfers do it.
“I would love to see Tiger Woods and Rory Mcllroy play because these people have taken the sport to a new level. It’s an experience, an encounter. I watched Tiger on TV going for his last hole, and as he was walking, there were about 20,000 people following him and the screams when he putt the ball to win the tournament. We haven’t seen that before,” he says.
RB says one of the lessons he painfully learned from the course was when he hurt his left lower back from a swing.
“I never used to stretch. I would assume and swing the club until I shuttered a bone on my lower right back one day. The injury was so painful that I couldn’t sit properly or use the washrooms effectively for six weeks. Now I am guided; there are basic warm-up exercises I never skip before I tee off, and I think it is important to any golfer not to assume this,” he says.