The Hacker | Peter Corrigan

Keep your head down, bum out, and avoid Excessive Advice Syndrome
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One of the long-serving hackers at our club was busy carving his crooked route around the course in the company of a friend who was a much better golfer but didn't have the heart to refuse to play an occasional round with him.

Displaying the generosity of spirit typical of those who inhabit this great game, the friend remained patient despite the heaving and grunting that went into shifting the ball a few scuttling yards at a time. Restraining himself from making any comment, apart from a few expressions of sympathy,the friend suffered in silence until the drone of a small aircraft caused the hacker to pause and look up from his labours. The plane was trawling one of those advertisements behind it.

"What does that say?" asked the hacker, peering at the sky.

"It says: 'Keep your f****** head down,' " answered his friend. That is a true story and the point is that, try as they may, good golfers find it extremely difficult to resist telling the hacker where he is going wrong.

Just like clergymen trying to reform fallen women, they have an evangelical streak that drives them to try to persuade you to give up your golfing sins. Fallen women may find it easy but sinning golfers are, in the main, incurable. And there's nothing more infuriating than being told to keep your head down, because no one is more aware than the perpetrator that his failure to keep his head from jerking up at the moment of contact has just cocked up another shot.

Everyone comes into the game as a hacker. It is part of the humbling process. Golf is a series of unnatural movements and is an acquired talent. Even Tiger Woods used to mess up a few shots when he was three years old.

Some take to it quicker than others, while some never take to it at all. If you lack balance, don't have good hand-to-eye co-ordination and haven't the faintest idea what happens to the clubhead after it passes out of your sight and before it comes swishing down in the general direction of the ball, you are going to find progress hard to maintain.

In many ways, the longer you remain a high-handicap golfer the harder it is to improve your game. Excessive Advice Syndrome is a big part of the problem. When you step on to a tee with your mind buzzing with instructions about flexing your knees, sticking your bum out, getting your grip right, taking the club back inside the line, cocking your wrists, turning your shoulders and hips, starting the downswing slowly, hitting against your left side and, of course, keeping your head down, there is a grave danger of internal body- communication problems.

And it certainly doesn't help when, after you hit the ball, one of your playing partners says helpfully: "I think you've got the ball too far back in your stance." They all mean well, but they don't know what damage they do.

Then there are the unscrupulous, who are fully aware of the trouble they cause. You're playing someone for money and he casually says: "I think I can see where you are going wrong."

"Where?" you ask anxiously.

"I'll tell you after the game," he says.