Naga Munchetty interview

BBC Breakfast presenter and avid golfer, Naga Munchetty, talks to Kaye Holland about her life on the links

When did you start playing golf and where?
My husband James and I were on holiday in South Africa six and a half years ago and seeing him playing on these beautiful courses in the sunshine, made me decide to give golf a go.

On our return to the UK, James bought me a cheap set of clubs and booked me in for a course of lessons. I had lessons once a week for 15 weeks and would practice afterwards for an hour - it took three lessons just to get to a full swing. I was very diligent and precise about it all. After 15 weeks of lessons, I went out on a 9-hole course and shot 47 and was very, very upset. I expected to par every hole and that attitude hasn’t left me! 

My husband and I then joined Nizels Golf & Country Club in Kent where we met some lovely people who taught us the etiquette and rules. They also showed us how great club golf is and how sociable it can be. We made some fabulous friends at Nizels who we still see.

Did you have any preconceptions about golf?
Yes! I thought it was posh, stuffy, sexist... I had this view of golf as an old man’s game and believed that there would be too many rules. And I hated the clothes - chinos and polo shirts. I hadn’t worn a polo shirt since school PE classes! Thankfully the clothes have got a lot better now... Basically I just had this image of golf as being removed from reality. I thought it was elitist and, while there are some clubs that are like that, most aren’t.

How did you improve your game?
Through practice, practice, practice... I still have a lesson every six weeks.

Can you recommend any academies to train at?
I think lessons are really personal. For me, it’s more about finding the right person. Having someone teach you the game you love is an intimate thing, so you have to trust your instructor.

Where have you played in the world?
Three months after first picking up a club, I played at Chateau Des Sept Tours in France - and got a hole-in-one! Not bad for a beginner... France is a favourite golf destination for me, because I love the food. After a good game of golf, you want a decent glass of wine and nosh and France is perfect for that. Aside from France, I’ve played in South Africa, New Zealand, Bermuda... Whenever I travel abroad, my clubs usually go with me.

Who do you enjoy playing with?
I like playing with my husband but the great thing about golf is that you can play with absolutely anyone. Your handicap or age doesn’t matter: there are no barriers. 

What are your five favourite courses in the world to play and why?
Castle Stewart in Scotland for the rugged landscape and amazing views. Bearwood Lakes in Berkshire because it’s very peaceful, plus you have to be quite smart to plot your way around the course. In Bermuda, Turtle Hill is fantastic. I never thought I would include a par three course in a top five but Turtle Hill is so varied. The Arabella Golf Club in South Africa also stands out - this was the first place that I played golf by the sea. And my home courses in Hertfordshire - you can’t beat what’s on your doorstep.

As a lady golfer, do you have any tips to encourage more women to play in what is seen as a male dominated sport?
Yes! Get involved. Try to join a club which has a big ladies section and don’t just stick to your own clique. Meet as many people as you can (mixed golf is fantastic for this) because this is how you’ll realise who you really enjoy playing with.

Which golfers do you admire most?
Laura Davies for her longevity and fighting spirit. She’s one of the pioneers of the modern game and sets a great example with her charity work too. And Liselotte Neumann: I was lucky enough to play with Liselotte at St Andrews. She has a real calmness about her when she plays. 
If I had to have a dream golf date, it would be [Miguel Ángel] Jiménez: someone who smokes a cigar and enjoys a glass of red wine, can’t be anything but fun.

What are your three top tips to get started as a golfer?
Have lessons as there is nothing more painful than not knowing why you aren’t hitting the ball well. 2. Play with friends and like minded people. 3. Accept that golf is a very frustrating game but there will always be one sweet shot during a round, that will keep you coming back for more.

About Naga
London- born Naga Munchetty, 39, presents BBC Breakfast and BBC World News. Naga studied English Literature & Language at Leeds University before returning to London to embark on City University’s prestigious postgraduate degree in Newspaper Journalism. Post City, Naga kick-started her career as a financial journalist on the London Evening Standard and The Observer, before moving into television. 

A self confessed “obsessive golfer,” Naga has a handicap of 9 and last year won Celebrity Mastermind, with her specialist subject The Ryder Cup 1979-Present.