The Hacker | Peter Corrigan

Barmy army on Boxing Day parade
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The Independent Online

Most golf clubs close down for Christmas Day. The bar may be open for a short festive burst before lunch but the course is deserted apart from sad cases desperate to try out their presents.

Well, why not? If other kids can play with their train sets and doll's houses, why can't golfers get excited at what Santa has brought? It's not their fault. If you unwrap a shiny new club, the central nervous system immediately reacts with a series of muscle spasms that can be stilled only by launching into a swing. For the sake of lamp-shades in the lounge, the only thing to do is go to the course for half an hour of wild flailing.

Those more in control wait until Boxing Day, when clubs tend to organise a congenial competition. Traditionally at our club, we hold a cross-country event in which the usual 18 holes are transformed into nine, some of them over half a mile long, which traverse the course.

They do say that it favours us hackers because we meander all over the place normally, but it's one thing playing tangentially accidentally and another trying to do it by design.

By dint of stealthy generosity in the bar, I had secured myself a former club champion as my partner. Simon also possesses another valuable quality – patience. He needed it.

It was a beautiful morning. The sun gleamed from an ice-blue sky on to a course white with frost. It was also bloody freezing, which meant that the mats we use as winter tees were iced-up solid.

Stupidly, I was wearing shoes with soft plastic studs instead of metal spikes and my feet kept slipping on the downswing, sending my drives even more cross-country than the organisers had intended.

We were playing greensome foursomes, in which both partners drive before selecting the better one and then playing alternately. Needless to say, we took all Simon's.

This was much to the amusement of our opposing pair, Darren and Chris. Darren has a very low hysterics threshold when it comes to playing golf with me, and this turned out to be a dangerous affliction.

Playing the second hole, I had a shot from a difficult lie in the rough and succeeded only in hitting the top of the ball, which sprang 10 feet vertically from the frozen turf before dropping to its previous position. Meanwhile, I was in the perfect finishing position, looking down the fairway in search of what I'd thought was a half-decent shot.

While this drama was going on, Darren was having a crafty swig from his hip flask and had a mouthful of some fiery liquid at the split second I enquired: "Did anyone see where that went?" He had a choking fit that I hope will convince him never to guffaw and swallow at the same time.

I fared no better on the next hole, even having an air shot. With commendable restraint, Simon said encouragingly: "Come on, Pete, we've got to start playing the percentages now." I said, mournfully: "There's one percentage we can't overcome."

"What's that?" he asked.

"I've got to hit 50 per cent of the shots." Actually, it did get better. Darren went on to execute a shot as bizarre as mine, and I sank a 60-foot putt on the last to win our little contest.

We may be barmy, but we do enjoy Boxing Days.