Golf is a great game: sometimes rewarding, sometimes frustrating but highly addictive. As the joke goes, “The man who takes up golf to get his mind off his work soon takes up work to get his mind off golf.” Interview with Tamás Révész, Managing Director of Budapest Highland Golf Club.
“Getting started in it is actually not so difficult, and our club’s aim is to point members in the direction of a lifetime of fun,” says Tamás Révész, Managing Director of Budapest Highland Golf Club, a 36-hectare estate that feels like a secluded oasis on the outskirts of the busy city centre. Barely twenty minutes away from downtown, this place offers a sumptuous and relaxing environment, fresh air and green grounds, manicured to the highest of standards. The golf course itself is more than 3,000 meters long and comprises nine holes with a spectacular panorama. “Our goal is to popularize the game of golf in Hungary,” Révész tells Diplomacy and Trade. “Between 1952 and 1970, golf became the subject of political discrimination in Hungary, being considered an undesirable sport, a ‘bourgeois’ past-time, and unfortunately, all golf courses went busted,” he explains. “However, this country has quite a rich and long tradition of golf, longer than 100 years, and these days, the popularity of the game is growing, following global trends.”
According to the Managing Director, golf has undergone a transformation from elitist “country club” game to something for everyone. “We’d like to see that people will look at golf as an available, family sport,” he continues. “Sweden, where almost six percent of the citizens play golf (which is the highest percentage in the world), is a good example. The country, with its 456 courses and a number of internships, attracts families in general and juniors in particular to the game of golf. With our Golf Academy, an exciting initiative that provides the perfect pathway for those aspiring to learn the game of golf, we try to do the same.”
Play and stay
The Junior Section, now the Junior Golf Academy, has always been a thriving section of the club. It was specially set up to encourage young people to take up the game, providing a supportive, encouraging learning environment to develop the qualities of commitment, goal setting and diligence. “Due to a co-operation with the municipality of District 22, entire school classes are able to try the game for free. Additionally, as part of our Junior Program, we organize a Grand Tour to prepare the kids for major competitions like European Young Masters or Hungarian Junior and Open Championship.” Someone has said once that if you really want to get better at golf, go back and take it up at a much earlier age. I wouldn’t say this appeal to all players, but being able to start the game at a young age is a big advantage. Tiger Woods, for instance, was introduced to golf before the age of two.” According to Révész, the club currently has over 50 young golfers, and it’s due to their talents and outstanding performances on national tournaments that the club was awarded ‘Golf Club of the Year’ last year. “Also, it often happens that the kids who participate in our junior program, bring their parents, who also fall in love with the game.” With a number of cultural and social programs, such as wine tastings, yoga and zumba classes, pony-riding, Easter egg-hunting, the club shows a true dedication to bring the whole family on board. “From toddlers to grandparents, we have something for all the family. This is a perfect place to spend precious time together.”
On and off the golf course
In partnership with Hungarian Ladies Golf Association, the club also launched the First Ladies Golf Tour. “The increasing number of ladies golfers was the major reason to start this,” Révész explains, adding that 30% of their total 400 registered members are women, which is good but can be further improved. “Golfing is of course, popular among businessmen, too. It is hard to say how much truth there is to the myth that more deals are cut on the golf course than in the boardroom, but one thing is sure: golf puts everyone in a relaxing, natural setting and lets them talk freely, without pressure. People, in the end of the day, are social creatures and spending several hours with others on a golf course is often a very rewarding experience,” he continues. If club members and visitors want to combine business with pleasure, Budapest Highland Golf Club offers a conference room with all the necessary equipment and facilities. Ideal for corporate golf, parties, formal and informal dinners, weddings and gatherings, the 36-hectare complex also provides full bar and catering facilities through its La Fiesta restaurant.
Golf for health
“Playing golf regularly can help you stay fit and improve muscle tone and endurance,” notes Révész. “A round of golf burns about 400 calories. Walking is good for health and pulling or carrying clubs can improve fitness and strength. The golf swing requires a great deal of athleticism. Strength, power, flexibility, balance, core stability, body awareness... they're all physical traits that every consistent golfer must possess. That’s why I suggest that ideally, the right age to take up golf is about 8,” he explains. “But I must say I was over the moon when I sold a membership for a newborn baby,” the Managing Director laughs, adding that he has also known a 93 year old club member. “One of the greatest things about golf is that you can play the game your whole life,” he concludes. At least, during its season, which, in Hungary, starts in April and ends in October. Révész considers golf as a relatively affordable sport. “Comparing to sailing or skiing, our annual membership (HUF 250,000) that enables anyone to play as much as he wants through seven months, is not expensive. Not to mentions smokers, who, instead of buying one pack of cigarette a day, could quit smoking, take up golf and live a healthy life, for the same price.”
There is general agreement that the Scots were the earliest of golf addicts, but who actually invented the game is open to debate. We know that golf has existed for at least 500 years because James II of Scotland, in an Act of Parliament dated March 6, 1457, had golf and football banned because these sports were interfering too much with archery practice sorely needed by the loyal defenders of the Scottish realm. It has been suggested that bored shepherds tending flocks of sheep near St. Andrews became adept at hitting rounded stones into rabbit holes with their wooden crooks. Various forms of games resembling golf were played as early as the fourteenth century by sportsmen in Holland, Belgium and France too. But it was a keen Scottish Baron, James VI, who brought the game to England when he succeeded to the English throne in 1603. For many years the game was played on rough terrain without proper greens, just crude holes cut into the ground where the surface was reasonably flat. Early golfers played at the game for many years without any thought of forming a society or club until finally a group of Edinburgh golfers in 1744 formed a club called the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. At this time, the first rules of golf, 13 in all, were drawn up for an annual competition between sportsmen from any part of Great Britain and Ireland. A few years later the Society of St. Andrews Golfers was formed and in 1834, when King William IV became the Society's patron. The premiere of golf in Hungary was organized by NOB-member (International Olympic Committee) Count Geza Andrassy, at the racecourse, in 1902. The first golf course was built in Tatralomnic, and the first tournament took place there, in 1909. Hungarian golf went through a huge development process in the '20s, and played a decisive role in European golf between 1926 and 1936. After the world wars, agricultural engineer Dr. Ferenc Gati tried to accomplish the almost impossible in 1974 - he started to organize the rebirth of Hungarian golf. In 1979, he founded the Blue Danube Golf Club, and started to build a course at Kisoroszi. Conditions were right again for golf after the Communism, and for founding the Hungarian Golf Association in 1989. The Association immediately became a member of the European Golf Association and the World Amateur Golf Council (now the International Golf Federation). Hungary has mounted official tournaments since 1921.