Ted's teaching tips

Millions of pounds are spent by enthusiasts who gladly walk for miles hitting, or sometimes missing, a little hard ball. The golf industry is huge in the United States and Japan. This unusual picture makes us think not only about sport and leisure in general, and golf in particular, but about what people do with their spare time.

Golf

How and where did golf originate (people have probably hit a round stone with a stick since primitive times, but 15th-century Scotland was the birthplace of the modern game; St Andrews was founded in 1754)? How does the game work (a set of up to 14 clubs; play 18 holes, most from 150 to 550 yards long, three to four miles in total; in "stroke play" you count the total shots - about 72 for experts, average four per hole - in "match play" you count the number of holes in which you beat your opponent)? Look at newspaper accounts to see who are the best players in the world (Tiger Woods currently the most successful, won all four major world tournaments last year). Have you ever played pitch and putt, or mini-golf? Did you enjoy it? How could you start to play the full game (buy small set of second-hand clubs, practise in a field, go to a driving range; snag - it can be an expensive sport)?

Leisure

Do a class survey of what children do in their spare time in a typical week (sport, television, go out with friends or family, music, dance); draw up a data sheet recording how many hours are spent on what; produce histograms and pie charts showing the breakdown, using ICT if possible. What types of activity are involved and which are healthy, expensive, free, enjoyable? How do boys compare with girls? Are there any surprises, such as how much television people watch (national average 25 hours per week)? How many people take part in competitive sports? Are you a competitive person? What are the arguments for and against competitive pastimes (leads to improvement, can be exciting, gives purpose and fun; may demoralise if you lose, introduces stress)?

Writing

(a) Describe how you feel when you hit a cracking straight drive, your best ever, from the top deck of this golf range; (b) find out what you can about Tiger Woods, the world's best and one of the youngest players, or another top golfer, and write a piece about them; (c) tell a story about what happens when you find a magical golf club that helps you play golf better than anyone else.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

TALKING POINTS

Is playing a game like golf utterly pointless?

For

Why spend time and money hitting a little ball with a stick? Walking slowly around a golf course is no more healthy than strolling in the park, and is much more expensive. Some golfers go mad with frustration when they miss shots. A great deal of snobbery is attached to golf and golf clubs. There are cheaper and more effective ways of staying fit.

Against

Golf courses are usually in beautiful locations, so they offer fresh air and relaxation. Golf develops our positive features, such as concentration, determination, co-ordination. It offers a challenge, because you always try to improve on your previous best score. You can play it at almost any time and any age.

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