The Hacker: Hit your head and earn a fiver

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The Independent Online

By the middle of last week, I had played seven rounds in 11 days on five different courses, three in Scotland and two in South Wales. They were a series of battles against fierce, biting winds and tricky terrain that made you wonder why golf isn't in the Winter Olympics.

By the middle of last week, I had played seven rounds in 11 days on five different courses, three in Scotland and two in South Wales. They were a series of battles against fierce, biting winds and tricky terrain that made you wonder why golf isn't in the Winter Olympics.

Lack of snow is probably the answer, but I received detailslast week of the World Ice Golf Championships, to be held in Greenland next month. The event is sponsored by Drambuie, which is presumably delivered around the neck of a St Bernard dog, and is played among freezing glaciers and icebergs in temperatures as low as -50C.

It won't be as daft as some of the activities in Salt Lake City, but I digress from the point that, even in these dismal wintry days, golf can be thoroughly enjoyable, and there is certainly no shortage of golfers willing to brave the elements. And it supports my theory that hackers are at their best, or their least worst, in foul conditions that take the shine off better players. Apart from the occasional atrocity with the wedge, my play continues to encourage optimism that this could be a year of progress.

This even expressed itself in tangible form. During our three-day visit to St Andrews I didn't manage to figure among the prizes, although I did win £5 for a "champagne moment". This was a daily prize given for the most amusing incident. I achieved mine when, getting into our minibus, I hit my head, causing it too bleed freely and, apparently, very funnily.

More rewarding was last weekend, when I featured in a team of four which came second in a Texas Scramble. We each won a £6 voucher to spend in the pro's shop. I shall probably get mine framed.

More satisfaction came on Tuesday when I played with my colleague Jonathan Davies who, since he stopped playing rugby, has continued his professional sporting career by taking money off me on the golf course.

We were joined by Peter Manning, the former Cardiff RFC manager and now a consultant to Bath, and we had a very interesting chat about Wales' chances against England at Twickenham next month. On the second hole, we talked about something else.

Jonathan hasn't been playing very long but is down to a 12 handicap and plays a lot on the pro-celebrity circuit, which houses more bandits per square yard than any other form of golf.

Unlike most of them, he reports any low scores he gets elsewhere to his home club so they can reduce his handicap. This is a commendable attitude, and owes nothing to the fact that if he doesn't tell them, I will. He was feeling expansive last week and offered to play our better-ball and give us our full handicap allowance. This meant Peter received 12 shots and I had 11.

Jonathan won the first hole ominously easily, but from then on it was a highly competitive battle in which he dropped only nine shots. Fortunately, Peter and I dovetailed well and one of us, usually him, managed to get a net shot in front. We won 3 and 2 and finished just as the rainclouds came scudding down the valley. By the time the rain came we were in the clubhouse eating bacon-and-egg sandwiches. Bliss.

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