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Illustration by Tom Abi Samra

Golf at NYUAD: An Exercise in Networking

Golf is relatively unique in its barriers to entry, both in terms of time and money required; NYUAD’s golf classes attempt to solve this.

Nov 25, 2018

One of the most important roles for an educational institution is its ability to leverage seemingly different topics and activities together. In a liberal arts institution, this usually takes the form of knowledge bases from extremely different topics harmonizing in unexpected ways, but this type of process can transcend the classroom as well. Athletics is often cited as an activity which can contribute to personal growth in ways both complementary and different to academics, teaching values like teamwork, persistence and concentration. This semester, the Athletics Department at NYU Abu Dhabi reopened its non-credit beginner golf class, which provides students a valuable platform to showcase and add to what they learn in the classroom.
Students enrolled in the NYUAD golf course receive lessons from professionals at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, introducing them to the fundamentals of the game. The class is composed of 12 students who meet twice a week. In addition to professional guidance, students gain free access to the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club driving range and their own selection of NYUAD golf clubs whenever they please.
Golf as a sport often has a steep learning curve; getting professional guidance from the beginning of the process is expensive but can help new golfers avoid pitfalls that plague many self-taught players. In previous years, the Athletics Department offered higher level golf courses, but the current focus is on offering an introduction to the game to new players.
Beginners golf is taught at many U.S. institutions because of golf’s relatively unique value as a sport for professional development. Golf carries a large value, with business deals and networking opportunities often taking place on the golf course. As a particularly individual sport, golf is also valuable for teaching discipline, strategy and focus.
“Golf is a sport you can play throughout your life, it’s a very social sport, it’s a sport that transcends gender boundaries. From practicing law, it’s a sport that can facilitate business … With sport ultimately about building community, this is another community or a subset of a community within the athletic department,” said Peter Dicce, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Athletics.
Golf is relatively unique in its barriers to entry, both in terms of time and money required, especially when starting at an older age. Because of these barriers, NYUAD can be a significant help for students who would like to equip themselves with skills for later in life.
“The challenge that I think students have with golf is it requires time and money, and generally students don’t have time and certainly in this region it can be quite expensive to play,” said Dicce.
Because of its cost, golf can still carry the stigma of being perceived as a very elite activity in many parts of the world. Especially as a vestige of exclusion from previous eras, some might caution against embracing golf as a helpful tool for students to acquire.
In Dicce’s view, even with that perception, it is still valuable to expose students to the game. “What better way to gain understanding than to get some exposure to it, and maybe that demystifies it to a large extent,” responded Dicce.
For students coming from environments where the costs of golf are prohibitively high, programs by the school to offer an introduction to the game can serve as a leveler for students who did not otherwise have the opportunity to learn. On a basic level, that demystification may come simply by helping students see golf as an activity that can and should be enjoyed by everyone in society.
“The value [of the course] is have we exposed some students to golf, at least so they feel comfortable to go to the clubhouse and know basic etiquette skills if they wanted to go to the driving range or the putting green. Maybe that is enough of a foundation where they can start in the future thinking about spending more time on the course … and they will feel confident enough to hop in and spend an afternoon socializing and connecting with other people,” said Dicce.
From students’ perspectives, the course has also been enjoyable, both in terms of learning a new skill and finding a respite from campus.
“I found the golf classes to be an amazing way to actively relax during the semester. I also see its extreme social value — I think it will be definitely useful in the future in terms of making lasting connections,” commented Tomasz Bachosz, Class of 2019.
Carlos Riofrio, Class of 2021, added that he believes learning how to play might be useful in advancing his career in the future. “I feel the golf class has been a really useful experience for NYUAD students because it gives you the opportunity to understand the sport. Golf is often used in the diplomatic arena, and I believe this course will come in handy if I work as a policy maker or politician in the future.”
“The class is also a great opportunity to get a break from campus. We are able to go to a beautiful setting on a weekday and we are able to free our brains from the hectic environment of campus,” noted Riofrio.
Beyond the long-term opportunities that golf enables, perhaps the best incentive for students to enroll in the class in the future is the ability to enjoy an afternoon clearing your mind at the range.
Herbert Crowther is Features Editor. Email him at
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