South Africa’s world-ranked long jumper Ruswahl Samaai tells us why he’s such a golf fan and why he feels the sport needs more par-three courses. By Gary Lemke
Firstly, Covid-19 ruined the athletics schedule this year. How did it affect your golf?
I can count the number of times I played golf this year on one hand. Ideally, I’d love to play at least once a week, but lockdown didn’t allow for that this year and also my athletics training doesn’t give me the time to play that often. But I often go down to the driving range.
What is your driving range experience like?
Oh, I hit a lot of balls with all the clubs in my bag with the exception of the putter. I go from driver to irons to wedges and really enjoy hitting driver, but I don’t practise putting enough, which I know is where the men are separated from the boys!
Which are your favourite golf courses?
I actually don’t have an official handicap and I know I should get one, so I don’t have a ‘home club’ as such. But I play at Randpark and Ruimsig. I shot my lowest score, a 79, at Ruimsig.
Given that normally you spend a lot of time away from home, training and travelling on the international circuit with the likes of Wayde van Niekerk, what do you think golf should do to get more people on the course?
Definitely more of those par-three courses, like Serengeti’s Par 3 Championship course. So many people don’t have the time to spend nearly five hours playing a par-72 18-hole course, but more nine-hole courses and more par-three courses makes a lot of sense.
Considering that, as a world-class athlete you use different muscle groups, do you get stiff after a round of golf?
That’s a very interesting question. I actually used to be ‘dead’ for about two days after playing a round, really taking strain in my back and hamstrings. But lately I haven’t felt anything and I think it’s because I have been spending time on the driving range.
If you could tag along with a pick-up fourball, who would be in the group?
I’d have to say Tiger Woods, because of what he is achieved and who is is, and I’d also like to play with Brooks Koepka. He’s a big strong guy who hits the ball a mile – the best part of my game is driving off the tee so I’d like to test myself against him – and then I’d include AB de Villiers. I’ve played with AB before and believe me, he is one of those absolute talents I have no doubt could have become a professional golfer had he chosen that route instead of cricket. Oh, and I’d have Wayde tag along for a bit of conversation and banter.
What are your favourite Majors to watch?
The Masters at Augusta is No 1 for me. It comes down to the history of the course and the event and I’m big into respecting its history. It also looks to be such a perfect week in terms of the course conditions and the media coverage. I also enjoy watching the US Open. I suppose it’s because the courses are always set up so tough. This year, as an example, Bryson DeChambeau was the only player under par.
Do you think the attraction of the US Open is that ‘ordinary golfers’ can appreciate how good the top pros are?
That’s one thing. The other is that it shows the vulnerability of the pro. They make mistakes and aren’t birdie machines in situations like the US Open. It tells me that even the pros are human and I think we can relate to that as ordinary golfers. When a top pro hits it off line and pays for his mistake, or is unable to get up and down in regulation because he’s found the rough, it makes it easier to identify with them.
He is a 29-year-old long jumper who has won medals for Team South Africa at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2017 World Championships. He also reached the final in the long jump at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He has a personal best of 8.48m in the long jump and 16.10m in the triple jump. He is ranked No 4 in the world after reaching a career high of No 2.
This article appears in the December issue of Compleat Golfer