A good round of golf might seem straightforward, but it is harder than it looks. Three CPA golfers tell Jeremy Chan about their goal of mastering the perfect swing, and how practicing at golf simulators benefits both casual and professional players
Photography by Anthony Tung
Karen Yip regularly trains at Kau Sai Chau Golf Club in Sai Kung.
In golf, one in every 12,500 tee offs from a casual player will be a hole-in-one, and only a handful of professional golfers have been able to achieve such a feat during tournaments. So when Jeffrey Wang pocketed his first ever hole in one, he was understandably ecstatic.
Out of the round’s 18 holes, he scored a hole in one on the 17th hole from 169 metres away on the second day of the Tasmania Open Amateur Golf Tournament in 2012. “It might have been the cleanest shot I ever hit,” says Wang, Manager at Fung (1937) Management, and a Hong Kong Institute of CPAs member. But that excitement, however, was quickly eclipsed by disappointment.
Wang wrote down what he thought was his correct score, but out of excitement, forgot to cross-check it with his partner – who had written down Wang’s actual score. Upon submitting the wrong score, he was subsequently disqualified from the tournament. Crestfallen as he was that day, Wang says it was a learning experience. “Never celebrate until scorecards are official,” he says. Such mishaps are bound to happen on the golf course, according to Wang – who now painstakingly checks his scorecard at every game, and reminds amateur players to do the same.
People have been playing golf in Hong Kong for well over a century. In addition to Hong Kong Golf Club, which first opened in 1889, golfers can also tee off at the city’s four other courses – Kau Sai Chau Golf Club, Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club, Discovery Bay Golf Club and Shek O Country Club. But with long waiting lists and often pricey memberships, many hone their skills at indoor golf simulators, or practice at Kau Sai Chau Golf Club, the only one open to the public. Even this can be challenging. It is located on an island west of Hong Kong’s Sai Kung district, and is only reachable by ferry.
But the golf course’s remote yet scenic location, makes it Karen Yip’s favourite place to practice.
“The surrounding scenery is absolutely beautiful, the East course in particular, with great views of the sea interspersed with stretches of small islands,” says Yip, who used to work at UBS Bank as Head of Finance, and is an Institute member. Her first brush with golf came during the last day of an overseas business trip in London back in 1998, when a few of her colleagues taught her a few basic swings, and then invited her to play a round of nine holes. “I had never set foot on a golf course, nor had I held a golf club in my hands,” she says. “I just loved hitting the ball and walking on the golf course.” She continued to practice with family members and colleagues in Hong Kong during the years after, and joined the Institute’s Golf Interest Group (GIG) in 2011.
Yip is now part of the group’s organizing committee, which helps to arrange training events for both current and new members. After regularly taking part in the GIG’s non-tournament groups, which focuses on friendly games, she decided to try her luck and represent the Institute at the Recreation and Sports Club for Hong Kong Professional Bodies’ (RSCP) Joint Professional Golf Tournament 2019. The tournament took place at the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club in March, and Yip achieved the best net score. Unlike a gross score, net score is determined after handicap strokes have been deducted.
Her secret to victory, she says, is consistency. “There is a bit of luck involved,” she explains. “Out of the 18 holes we play, several holes are picked randomly to determine our handicap in order to calculate the total net score of the round. As I played that round quite consistently, it didn’t matter which holes were picked.”
“Since I started playing 18 years ago, I have maintained a spreadsheet to keep a record of every round played, including where, with whom, the total score and the score of every single hole.”
Yip carefully keeps track of her golf progress – using a spreadsheet. “Since I started playing 18 years ago, I have maintained a spreadsheet to keep a record of every round played, including where, with whom, the total score and the score of every single hole,” she says with a beaming smile. “I played my 1,500th round last month.” By recording her progress, she clearly sees how her game progressed over the years. “I improved the most during the first few years but reached a plateau after about five years. My retirement a year ago let me pursue my passion for golf even further. I’m totally enjoying the journey, but I still have a long way to go.”
To maintain her skills, she has been training at local indoor golf simulators for the past two years. “I have a very good coach who has been helping me in the last two years to improve my swing,” she says. “I also need to make sure that my body remains flexible. So I do a lot of stretching at home and have recently started taking yoga lessons. This helps to improve my golf swing and prevent injury too.” Yip hopes to continue playing golf with her family and friends at the GIG, and hopes newly-qualified CPAs will consider joining the group’s weekend practice sessions, where committee members are happy to teach newcomers basic moves. “Golfers of all levels can play together in the same round. If you love the great outdoors and the open, natural scenery, you will really enjoy golf.”
When it comes to the drive, hitting a golf ball from the tee box down to the fairway, Clement Chow knows exactly what he is doing. He began playing golf soon after qualifying as a chartered accountant in the United Kingdom. After returning to work in Hong Kong he was looking to try out his swing at one of the city’s golf courses, but couldn’t find the time until he joined the GIG in 2005. Chow, an Institute member, is now a regular at the Institute’s golf tournaments.
He won the prize for achieving the longest drive during the 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2018 CPA golf tournaments, and seems to do especially well on one particular hole. He achieved the longest drive at the 2013 CPA golf tournament and other tournaments such as the 2016 American Cup and RSCP’s Joint Professional Golf Tournament 2018 – all on hole four. “Local or club tournaments, I always seem to get the longest drive on that hole. It’s very kind to me,” he laughs.
Chow’s key to keeping his swing ready for a powerful drive is vigorous practice. Like Yip, he practices at local golf simulators such as GOLFTEC up to twice a week with a coach, and explains how motion tracking technology has helped him the most to improve. “Ten years ago, we would analyse our swing by watching videos of ourselves, but nowadays we can obtain real-time swing analysis data with the assistance of launch monitors and motion measuring devices,” says Chow, referring to monitors that use numbers to display how much a golfer is turning, tilting or bending and whether the ball is hit in the right spot, all in real time. “So if you have a good shot, you know exactly what you did right,” he adds.
He shares the secret behind his swing. “In golf, you’re hitting a stationary object. Because of this, you need rotational mobility and core stability to store and release energy efficiently. Your upper body needs to work with lower body to generate torque before initiating a downswing,” he says. “To hit a good shot, a golfer has to create and keep body angles to achieve optimal swing metrics including clubhead speed, path and attack angles at impact.”
By training with a simulator and coach, he is also able to gradually correct issues relating to body posture or angle of swing. “You need to address problems early on, otherwise these mistakes can become part of your muscle memory,” he says. “Practicing mistakes must be avoided at all cost if you wish to improve your game – that’s why you need feedback from modern equipment.”
Eager to win the title of longest drive again, Chow looks forward to taking part in future CPA, RSCP and international golf tournaments. But above all he wants to keep improving. “I’ve been playing golf for 30 years, but I never stopped taking lessons.”
Jeffrey Wang practices on simulated golf courses at GOLFZON.
“Many professionals train and improve using simulators. Beginners can also perfect their swing at simulators before heading out to a golf course.”
After trying a round of golf at age 10 with his father, Wang fell in love with the sport and stuck with it since then, all through his secondary school and university years. “I loved hitting golf balls and seeing it fly high into the air, regardless of whether it was struck well,” he remembers. Shortly after gaining his CPA qualification while working at PwC, he decided to chase his dreams of becoming a professional golfer, and took three years off work from 2011 to 2014. “There are a lot of good golfers on tour, and I wanted to see whether I was at tour level,” he says.
He took part in training camps in Switzerland and Australia and competed in amateur tournaments in China. Unmoved by his disqualification in early 2012, he ended up winning a golf tournament at Shenzhen’s Mission Hills – the largest golf course in the world – a few months later, which he considers to be one of his greatest accomplishments. “I felt quite comfortable playing there, and without much expectation I won that tournament.”
Wang joined the GIG and CPA golf team that same year and has since participated in the RSCP golf tournaments four times. He achieved the best gross score of 72 during the RSCP’s Joint Professional Golf Tournament 2018. In his years of experience playing multiple tournaments against amateur and professional players, he says that golf requires a careful interplay between one’s physical and mental strengths. “The most difficult thing about playing a tournament is staying focused for five consecutive hours,” he says. During competitions, golfers often face fatigue and stress during long games, especially when it comes to the last few holes. “I start to get nervous and start thinking about the score too much – so I pretend that the last three holes are the first three holes, or just another day of golf.”
But he loves the game, and adds how playing the sport in various weather conditions makes it even more exciting, yet challenging. “Golf is about the elements – it can change how you play a game,” he says. “On a rainy day, you need the right gear – rain gloves, a raincoat, the right pants – and all that clothing can affect your swing, so you need to make adjustments.” With rain can come wind, which adds another level of difficulty for a golfer to master. “If the wind is coming from the right, aim in that direction and let the wind guide the ball towards the target,” says Wang.
Also a fan of golf simulators, Wang trains at GOLFZON, another local indoor practice venue, capable of simulating real golf courses located around the world. This gives him a chance to practice his swing on a wide variety of holes – and as many times as he feels necessary. Two sensors capture his movements every time he swings a golf ball towards a projector screen, and the flooring adjusts its gradient depending on which part of the simulator’s course he is playing from.
Because of this accuracy, it is a convenient way to practice before heading out to the actual course on game day, notes Wang. “Many professionals train and improve using simulators. Beginners can also perfect their swing at simulators before heading out to a golf course.” It is also a way he introduces the sport to his friends. “It’s a great place to relax on the weekends, have a few beers and teach golf to friends who haven’t tried it before.”
Though busy with his job, Wang is practicing diligently with the aim of turning professional within the next few years. “My dream is to compete at the Hong Kong Open.”
Members interested in joining or learning more about the Institute’s Golf Interest Group can find more details on www.hkicpa.org.hk.