This month Compleat Golfer’s playing editor Brandon Stone reveals that he’s moved to England and the reasons behind the decision.
After a couple of years of weighing up the pros and cons, my wife and I have decided to move to London.
It is certainly not a knee-jerk decision and we’re not about to go ‘Full English’.
We have not emigrated, but rather see it as being a place to call home from home for the next few years.
Moving away from family and friends has given me countless sleepless nights, but we weighed up every possible variable and the potential outcomes, in the short and long term. And then, in late May, we pulled the trigger and found a small apartment to rent in London.
Yes, I know there might be a negative reaction. ‘He’s leaving South Africa because of the crime.’ ‘Look at how weak the rand is.’ ‘The country is going downhill, look at the levels of unemployment.’ Don’t worry, I’ve heard all these comments before, and a few more. But, I’d like to assure you: the decision isn’t based on any political or economic factors. That’s why I don’t regard the move as ‘emigrating’. I love South Africa and it will always be our home.
Hand on heart, there were two driving factors which contributed to us deciding to set up home in England, and I want to be transparent with you readers, because we are one big extended golfing family.
I have always found myself wondering why some South African pro golfers ‘make it’ and others don’t. Amid all the permutations I came across one common denominator – almost all of those who have ‘made it’ moved away from South Africa. Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace … surely it’s no coincidence. These are the players I look up to, the careers I wish to emulate and even surpass.
That was what got me thinking. Why is this a common factor?
One simple reason is all the travel time. Geographically, South Africa is thousands of kilometres away from where most of the action happens in the world. Ask any business person who travels abroad. On average it would take me 16 hours to reach a European Tour event from OR Tambo International. Yes, business class does help on those long-haul flights, but that doesn’t make one immune to the effects of the good ol’ ‘red eye’.
This would often leave me tired and a long way from being ‘100%’ for at least a couple of days. That put me (and other South Africans doing the same ‘commute’) at a distinct disadvantage against a Europe-based golfer, who would rarely have a flight longer than a couple of hours and therefore be able to hit the ground running on arrival. It makes perfect sense to live ‘closer to the office’ if you want an advantage.
A perfect example was the GolfSixes event in Portugal in June. If I had travelled from South Africa it would have taken me 17 hours (via Dubai) to reach Lisbon. But, it took me only two hours from London.
The travel factor and fatigue component apart, another compelling reason for our move was the facilities.
While we are blessed with incredible weather in South Africa, there is a lack of accessibility to facilities that emulate European Tour conditions. This ranges from the difference in climate, to grass types, to the courses themselves. When it comes to grass and courses, South Africa is unique to the rest of the world. I would always find myself taking a few days to adjust my technique and style of play to match European conditions.
This would leave me playing catch-up, to ‘acclimatise’ to the course conditions. Small things like this play a huge role at the end of the week, and in a sport where you’re fighting for every shot on a daily basis it seems only logical to give yourself the best opportunity to do so.
This relocation doesn’t mean I’ve turned my back on South Africa and the Sunshine Tour. In fact, far from it. I will definitely be back for the co-sanctioned events at the end of the year and we will probably spend most of December and January in the country, so don’t think you are getting rid of me that easily!
– Stone is the playing editor of Compleat Golfer, and this column first appeared in the July issue