In times gone by, the exquisite sport of fencing and horseback riding used to be reserved only for nobility and members of royalty. Golf also had the reputation for being a rich man’s leisure activity that was elitist and reserved only for wealthy bankers in the upper echelons of high society who could afford the hefty price tags of owning an exclusive country club membership.
Much has changed and shifted over the years, and now these three sports are more affordable and accessible to all than ever before. Many are unaware that you are no longer required to join or be a member of an expensive private club in order to partake and enjoy playing golf or ride on a horse. I decided to put on a jockey cap and fencing glove in order to personally test-drive the sport of fencing, horseback riding, and golf for the very first time.
Fencing is a noble sport with a rich heritage of chivalry, aristocracy and heroism. Modern-day fencing consists of three different styles and disciplines; namely the Foil, the Épée and the Sabre. Fencing is a sport that develops good ethical character and morality. Each match starts with an honourary salute and ends with a gallant handshake. Through the graceful sport of fencing, one can also develop rapid reflexes as they nurture the values of being virtuous and chivalrous.
Founded in 1993 with a deep passion for the sport by an Olympian and three of the best national fencers in Singapore, Z Fencing was the very first private fencing academy in Singapore. At present, Z Fencing’s flagship “Elite Fencers Academy” which is located at SAFRA Toa Payoh boasts over 6,000 sq ft of training space with 10 electrical fencing pistes complete with impact protection flooring, making Z Fencing the largest dedicated fencing facility in Singapore, as well as the rest of the region. Today, Z fencing is an international brand name with branches in Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and even Los Angeles. Not bad for something that started from humble beginnings in a tiny shophouse along Beach Road.
Z Fencing’s mission is to nurture men & women of honour, grace and chivalry through the fine sport of fencing. Their comprehensive adult’s beginner course is a structured four sessions introductory programme that covers all the basics that one needs to know about the sport from its history to safety procedures. Coordination, focus, balance, and fencing footwork are being cultivated through the training process of learning to attack, parry and defend oneself. The course fees are a mere S$214 per person with a one-time registration fee of S$69.55 that includes a club T-Shirt. All weapons, equipment and training gear are provided for during the training sessions.
Hold Onto Your Horses
Horses are such regal and dignified looking creatures. As a young kid, I recalled being taken by my parents to go on pony rides at the children’s zoo at least once a year. Just being around the horses and ponies would instantly put a smile on my face and make my day. When the opportunity presented itself for me to interact with horses once again through the refined sport of professional horseback riding over at the beautifully maintained Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre, I instantly knew that I had to seize this chance. I was so excited about the experience that I decided to ask a close friend who adores horses to come along with me to share the joy. We both simply could not wait to have close contact with the horses and to learn how to properly ride one.
Located right next to the Singapore racecourse at Kranji, the STCRC is the country’s premier equestrian club with modern state-of-the-art facilities, and is the only horse-riding club here that boasts a sheltered training space, as well as a horse veterinary surgery centre. Sprawled over 3 hectares of abundantly lush greenery, the STCRC also has 21 stables that houses over 40 imported well groomed horses, a casual dining café, a 50m x 100m open arena and a 50m x 80m sheltered arena with a large viewing gallery that seats up to 250 persons. The vision of the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre is to introduce the noble sport of horseback riding to everybody. Thereby, making horseback riding fun, accessible and affordable for the masses, and especially for young children. The STCRC seeks to grow a sustainable riding community here in Singapore through educating youths and the public about horses and horse care.
The sport of horseback riding develops and cultivates the three physical elements of balance, flexibility and strength. I noticed that my spine and posture instantly straightened itself up as I was riding. A lot of affection and care are given to the horses over at STCRC. They are all visibly healthy with clear bright eyes, thick manes and shiny coats of hair. The price for a 20 minutes beginner trial lesson is only S$60. An assessment session can be undertaken for those with prior riding experience to ascertain their level of riding competency so as to better place them at the right training levels. Safety is the number priority over at STCRC. Every rider regardless of his or her level of expertise is required to purchase affordable personal injury insurance coverage that is priced at just S$16.05 and that is valid for an entire year.
A golf enthusiast once told me that G.O.L.F is an acronym for “Go On Learning Forever”. He enjoyed the game as it constantly challenged him to improve himself, as well as to think on his feet to come up with new techniques and strategies in order to hone his skills. To be completely honest, the game of golf never quite peaked my interest. I always likened it to being a boring and unsexy old businessman’s game, but that all changed when I tried my hand at golf for the very first time.
Understanding that every person is unique, The Golfing Lab golf academy created a flexible curriculum that is being tailored to the individual golfer and does not enforce strict methods of teaching or coaching. As such, highly qualified SPGA recognized coaches under The Golfing Lab allow new and novice golfers to fully enjoy themselves while developing refinement of the game along the way. The personable and friendly programme director of The Golfing Lab, Marc Kawasoe patiently analyzed and corrected my swing as he spotted my personal inclinations and habitual mistakes with his discerning and experienced eye. Ever the positive motivator, Marc encouraged me by saying that I was a complete natural at the game and even joked, “Are you sure that this is your first time playing golf?”
Beginners learning the game from ground zero will be equipped with all the fundamentals of the sport from the grip, posture, swing shapes and bodily movements. Every newbie will go through a comprehensive syllabus of understanding the rules, etiquette and mechanics of golfing. After completing two cycles of lessons and passing a basic skills proficiency test, beginners can then graduate onto the next level. Adult beginners’ classes by an experienced senior SPGA licensed coach costs S$120 for a one-hour private lesson. All golf clubs and training venue are provided in the price. Practice range golf balls are S$3 for 50 balls.
Contributed by Luke Elijah
Photos: Luke Elijah