The Hacker: Chewed balls, and other hazards

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The Independent Online

Driven off the courses by the foul weather, most golfers are faced with the dilemma of what to do to satisfy their cravings for the game. They could try going cold turkey and leave golf completely alone. The theory is that you return to pick up your clubs again with a refreshed vigour and eagerness.

Driven off the courses by the foul weather, most golfers are faced with the dilemma of what to do to satisfy their cravings for the game. They could try going cold turkey and leave golf completely alone. The theory is that you return to pick up your clubs again with a refreshed vigour and eagerness.

Some say their game benefits from a break. Others, like me, find they've forgotten what little technique they had in the first place. In any case, abstinence would be difficult for me. I can't even stand still without practising my grip and stance. I get some very funny looks in the pub, but it is compulsive.

Besides, hackers have to persevere if they want to improve, and much can be done when the courses are closed. Your home is full of game-improvement opportunities. For instance, your carpet is a useful surface for putting practice unless it is shag-pile.

A little rearrangement of the furniture may be necessary, and if you take the mirror off the wall and place it where you can check to see if the face of your putter is square throughout the putting action, you will have created an excellent practice facility.

Co-operation from other members of the household may be hard to obtain, but golfers should be mindful of the needs of others, so try not to lose your temper when someone comes into the room and breaks your concentration. It also helps if the dog is confined to another part of the house. Chewed balls are of no more assistance to the perfection of a smooth putting stroke than they would be to most other activities.

If you are fortunate enough to have a spare room big enough to hold a driving net, you can practise all your shots without any worries about ricochets and lampshades, but it is likely that space is restricted, which means that full-blooded swinging is out.

However, that still leaves the wedge for practising those tricky little shots around the green. Chipping into a bucket on the other side of the room is a good exercise, but people can get ultra-fussy over bits of china and stuff, so yet another compromise is called for.

Whereas proper golf balls need to be used for putting, it is possible to hone your chipping stroke by using plastic balls into which holes have been bored to make them lighter. Even in a room stuffed with priceless antiques and objets d'art, these air-balls are not going to cause much damage. I find it ideal to practise chipping a dozen or so into an armchair.

If someone is sitting in it, they can return the balls to you, unless they are reading a book or watching television, in which case you have to decide whose priority comes first.

Once you can delicately deposit these balls into the chair you pass to the advanced stage of trying to flick coins into it. This requires the greatest precision with the wedge and will take a long time to master. Once you do, they say, chipping golf balls will never daunt you.

I'm finding it impossible to get the hang of it. The other drawback is that when it's time to go to the local it takes half an hour to recover enough cash from around the room for a couple of pints.

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