The Hacker: Hit a grave slice - and raise the dead

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The Independent Online

A cemetery runs along the left-hand side of the 16th hole at our course, but we try not to notice and concentrate instead on the view beyond the green which overlooks the Bristol Channel.

A cemetery runs along the left-hand side of the 16th hole at our course, but we try not to notice and concentrate instead on the view beyond the green which overlooks the Bristol Channel.

The panorama stretches from the Severn bridges, 30 miles to the left, and down the Somerset coast towards Minehead on the right. The view is breathtaking and is enough to make even the most wretched hack feel good to be alive. In some ways, the cemetery performs a similar service.

I was once playing in our winter league against a pair who were even worse than me. One of them was a local optician who goes by the name of Deadeye and who can be seen every morning feeling his way to his shop.

Deadeye had hooked their second shot into the trees and brambles that lead up to the high metal railings erected to prevent the golfers desecrating the graves in search of lost balls.

After threshing around in vain for their ball, Deadeye looked thoughtfully through the fence and said: "D'you know, as bad as we're playing, that lot in there wouldn't mind swapping places with us." It was a philosophical utterance that typifies the look-on-the-bright-side attitude of hackers everywhere. Sadly, in the bar later, I had to inform him that in a poll conducted in the graveyard, 95 per cent said they'd rather stay where they were.

The presence of the cemetery highlights a horror for hackers and for all levels of golfers. Any player can fluff a shot, but when it flies over the perimeter of the course it can be dangerous.

We have a stand of poplars and other trees running almost the entire length of our boundary with the cemetery; nevertheless, it is possible for an errant stroke to penetrate the protective screen.

There is no record of an interment being interrupted by a golf ball arriving at the graveside, yet it is a fear we live with. There is a time-honoured way of warning folk that a ball is on its way – still, shouting "fore" in a respectful way is not easy.

Thankfully, the mourners are usually unaware of the danger – but the clergymen involved keep a wary eye out and even the stone angels have learned to duck.

Most golf clubs have problems with neighbours. When first established, they tended to be in isolated places but urbanisation now hems them in with housing estates and roads.

We have an estate bordering another part of the course and the tallest of trees and the highest wire-netting fences could not prevent the wilder hackers bombarding the back-gardens. I had an embarrassing confrontation with one angry man complaining that my ball was in the middle of his lounge, and he was not at all amused when I asked him if it was playable.

Over the years, much bad feeling was aroused. When one of our members sliced his shot into the gardens, he was skulking guiltily when he was surprised to hear a pleasant voice calling: "Would you like your ball back?" Offering profuse thanks, he took the ball and found that a hole had been neatly drilled through it.

In the end, we had no option but to reorganise the course and redirect that hole away from the boundary. Even then, we had a complaint – but that was from the local glazier.

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