By Israel Dagg's reckoning a round of golf of with Lydia Ko was a good test as he prepares to make his rugby return following surgery on his dislocated shoulder.

Dagg swung the club freely during the New Zealand Women's Open pro-am, where was in a team with Ko, tournament sponsor Dr Haruhisa Handa and Ian Kennedy at Clearwater Resort in Christchurch.

"It's been tough the past few months watching all the boys training," Dagg said. "I've been doing all the training but I just haven't been able to get out on the field. Now I can swing a club I'm sure I can play some footy."

Dagg, who dislocated his shoulder playing for Hawkes Bay in the national provincial championship, left Clearwater after five hours on the fairways to head to the gym for more fitness work as he eyed a return to the field with the Crusaders in April. Before then he will continue to build up his strength so he's ready for contact "and the falling over where you brace yourself and which you can't plan for".


Dagg famously starred alongside Ko in the video she used to announce she was turning pro but this was the first full round he'd played with the world No 1.

"The last time I played with her was for the Ko goes Pro video and we did one hole which took seven hours filming and I always said I wanted to play a proper round with her.

"It was an amazing experience. It's always a great experience catching up with my good mate Lyds and it's awesome to see how the pros do it, they don't even try to hit it and us big boys get up there and try to smash it."

He said Ko's advice to him was to focus on his rhythm. "I tried to do that and go nice and slow and it wasn't working so I went back to just trying to smash it."

And smash it he did, blasting at least one drive 300m and making a birdie on the 10th hole.

For a once-a-week player Dagg said he occasionally struggled with playing in front of the big audience Ko accumulated in the course of her round.

"I was quite nervous hitting a ball with 50-odd people behind you - but it's like footy when you get a bit of a crowd behind you and you try to put on a bit of a show."

He was super-impressed with Ko's form. "I think she birdied the first six holes ... I said `save some for tomorrow'."

Ko opens the defence of her New Zealand Open title on Friday morning at Clearwater.