Spencer Henderson has always enjoyed a challenge. Creating a golfing culture in nations where there isn’t one requires the kind of formidable feat of construction that used to be the reserve of the hardy heavers who built the pyramids.

Over the last decade or so, the intrepid Henderson has been something of a trailblazer with posts as the first ever national coach in both Turkey and Azerbaijan. Now, the 46-year-old Scot is looking to spread his pearls of golfing wisdom to the good folk of Serbia.

On top of his job as senior instructor at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre in Aberdeen, Henderson is settling in – remotely for the time being due to covid restrictions – to a new role with the Golf Association of Serbia.

In a country where football, tennis, basketball, volleyball, water polo and handball reign supreme, Serbian golf remains in its infancy. With just a couple of nine-hole courses and barely 700 registered players, bolstering the game in this neck of the woods will be a sizeable task akin to a social member at the Titwood Tennis Club trying to break Novak Djokovic’s serve.

It’s an opportunity Henderson is relishing, though, but in this game of patience and perseverance, there’s no fast-track to growth and glory.

“The Federations in Turkey and Azerbaijan really wanted instant success,” he reflected of stints that were challenging, eye-opening and rewarding. “It was like being a football manager. If you don’t perform you’re quickly out and, in Turkey, they pretty much took the same view with golf. Seeing out my contract was quite an achievement.

“They weren’t really looking for long term programmes or sustainability. I went there with an idealistic view about creating a pathway that would take someone from a beginner right through to some form of professional tour but it wasn’t really a shared vision.

“That’s probably one of the drawbacks of a country where golf is not at the forefront. It’s short term. Turkey held the Eisenhower Trophy (World Amateur Team Championship) in 2012 and I think they genuinely thought they would win it. I knew getting into the top-40 would be a phenomenal achievement. And we managed that.

“I don’t think I would have been equipped for Azerbaijan had I not been to Turkey first. I met the president of the Federation when I went there in 2014 and he said he wanted a golfer in the Olympics. I said ‘that’s really aspirational and something we can work to over 10 years or so’ and he said, ‘no, we want someone in the next Olympics’. I was like, ‘wow, we have nobody playing golf in Azerbaijan yet but you want an Olympian?’ I think there’s more realism with the Serbian approach.”

The highest ranked Serb on the men’s world amateur standings is 1278th. Henderson’s national squad is a mixed bag of around 14 players and that is made up of boys, girls, men and women. Like the rest of the planet, Henderson’s getting-to-know-you sessions and squad gatherings have had to take place on Zoom calls.

Despite not being able to get up close and personal, the Scot is encouraged by what he has encountered. “They don’t have the historical way of doing things so they are open to new ideas and very hungry to learn,” noted the former Scotland boys’ national coach. “You look at someone like Djokovic and his single-mindedness and drive. I speak to these golfers and the one thing they tell me is that they all have a great determination to succeed.

“The players are at a reasonable level but they now want to take it further. I’m trying to take a holistic view and encourage more focused practice, the use of statistics and better preparation for events. It’s things we are used to over here but it’s quite a new approach for them.”

Henderson has plenty to keep him occupied. He will be Lawrie’s vice-captain and part of the selection committee for this year’s Junior Ryder Cup as well as aiding the former Open champion in a new performance programme for Scottish Golf. “I seem to be Paul’s right-hand man in everything just now,” Henderson said.

Djokovic’s right-handed tennis thumps, meanwhile, continue to stir Serbia. “If I mention that Scotland’s football team beat Serbia in the European Championship play-offs they just say that Djokovic beat Andy Murray most of the time,” Henderson said with a chuckle.