Tbilisi Hills Golf Course Director on the Development of Golf Culture in Georgia

Today, the popularity of golf worldwide is rapidly increasing, with more and more people looking for a healthy lifestyle and choosing golf as a perfect opportunity to achieve it. In Georgia, this sport has been growing only in recent years, thanks to professionals of the field entering the country and bringing golf culture with them.

One of the most distinguished facilities and biggest contributors in this direction in Georgia is Tbilisi Hills Golf course, which is already a favorite destination among golf enthusiasts. The Tbilisi Hills Golf course is ranked 34th among the 100 best golf courses in Continental Europe and offers various opportunities for both professionals and beginners. Children are also welcome and can learn through special school programs.

As it turns out, Tbilisi Hills has a lot of novelties planned to develop golf in Georgia and motivate both adults and the younger generations to get involved.

GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Paul Pohi, Tbilisi Hills Golf Course Director and professional golf player, who elaborated on these and other interesting details about golf as a game and lifestyle, its development in Georgia, and the contribution of Tbilisi Hills Golf Course to this process.

The popularity of golf worldwide is increasing. What makes this sport so popular and distinguished from others?

There are many good sides of golf. One is that you get good moderate exercise. For example, if you play 18 holes, you will walk more than 10 kilometers. It’s played outdoors, in fresh air. This summer especially, golf has grown both in Georgia and worldwide because of COVID, as it is an ideal means to get some exercise and at the same time, keep good social distancing. In Europe, it experienced a boom. After lockdown, when golf courses opened again, and gyms and indoor tennis courts were still closed, everyone turned to golf. Why is golf so popular? It’s ideal for networking, meeting new people, finding new friends. Also, practice shows that it opens a lot of business opportunities. Golf can be played by anyone, so advanced players and beginners can play together. If you want to play tennis and you want to have a good match, then you and your partner’s abilities must be roughly at the same level. But here, father, son and grandson can go to the golf course, play from different starting points, and they can have a different amount of strokes, but still enjoy a good round of golf together.

How well-developed is golf in Georgia? Are there other suitable golf courses and conditions?

Looking at the big picture, golf is still starting here in Georgia, but it’s good to see that there are very good courses and the number of golfers is growing. For instance, here at Tbilisi Hills, we have a very well-structured beginners’ program which shows really good results. There are currently two golf courses, two venues where you can play golf and in one year, a third will be opened. Tbilisi Hills is the only professional full-size golf course, a lot of people have discovered it and fallen in love with golf.

You used to be a professional golf player. Tell about your experience, about the advantages of the game, how you got involved in this sport, and what helped you to become a part of the golfing elite.

I started to play golf when I was 12 years old when my father took me to a golf course, and I pretty quickly got hooked. I used to play tennis and basketball, that was a good sort of base for me, and quite soon I made it to the national team, which give me a chance to travel the world, play in many different countries. Golf took me to the US, where I studied Golf Management. Afterwards, I went to another school in the UK. I would say golf is the best thing that happened to me, and it set me on the right track. I’m very grateful to my dad and actually, I always encourage other parents to get their children involved in golf because they’re going to meet a lot of new people, learn new skills that are necessary not just in business, but in life.

How did golf lead you to become part of the Tbilisi Hills team?

I was a head professional at the Golf Academy, which was the busiest in Estonia. And we developed programs for beginners that worked really well. A friend of mine, who was a shareholder of Tbilisi Hills at that time, brought me here to start golf development. In Estonia, in the first 20 years, I would say we did not a good job getting people into golf, and we made a lot of mistakes, but in order to start well, that experience and know-how was required and that’s how I ended up here.

How would you evaluate the Georgian National Championship of Golf? Is it notable that the sport is gaining popularity among locals? What is the contribution of the Tbilisi Hills golf course to this process?

It’s good to see that the number of Georgians who take part in the tournament has grown. The level of playing has improved a lot. And why I’m especially glad is that we saw ladies participating, we saw youth taking part: it’s a mix of different people playing. Currently, Tbilisi Hills is the only golf course which actively gets new golfers involved in the game, and if we have a look at the conversion rate from beginners’ program to memberships, and those who start to play golf, we’re doing an extremely good job. Actually, this is very good number and not just for Georgia, it’s in general in Europe, and we are doing an excellent job.

Tell us more about the Tbilisi Hills Golf Course. What activities does it offer for adults and children?

Tbilisi Hills Golf is a part of the European Tour Destination network, and we are currently ranked 34th in the top 100 golf courses in Continental Europe. This shows the level of the facilities here. We have a very wide range of different activities, from complete beginners to advanced players. We have junior lessons and beginner programs, so anyone can become a golfer. We have different introduction lessons for those who just want to have a little more knowledge on what the game is about, and of course we have different types of membership for different players, so there’s something for everyone.

Tell us about the school programs.

Tbilisi Hills golf got support from the Ryder Cup European Development Trust, to create a program to get school kids into golf. Initially, we were planning to start that project in spring, but due to COVID-19, we had to postpone it. The plan is to get 500+ schoolchildren to the golf course. We have a program, we have a good coach, this is something I also did in Estonia, it was very successful and we’re planning to repeat it here. Initially, we will have introduction to golf, part of their physical education class, and then they can go on to learn to become golfers. I already know that there are schools that are interested in taking that to the next level.

What novelties are planned for the next season? What novelties will Tbilisi Hills Golf course be promoting?

We’re going to start the school program this year, but we’re going to focus on it even more next year; reaching out to kids and going to schools. We’re also going to have a lot of tournaments, both local tournaments for our members and also international tournaments. Currently, we’re looking to have 40+ tournaments in 2021. We also have a lot of different activities for non-golfers who are our potential members, with offers like golf and dinner. The golf course is open for everyone: you can come here any day and rent a club, or take a lesson; we have an European cousine restaurant, and a very relaxing atmosphere here, so it doesn’t have to be an event to come here, as we’re open all year around, every day.

So see you in our events – Golf&Dinner on Wednesdays or Golf&Brunch on Sundays – more information www.tbilisihills.com/golf/

22 October 2020 15:55