The Hacker: How to make a spectacle of yourself as an armchair player

How to make a spectacle of yourself as an armchair player
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The Independent Online

No matter how many times you've been beaten back from the ramparts, the desire to achieve even a small conquest over the game of golf is a powerful motivation.

Strangely, that desire seems stronger in the week after the Open. You would have thought that watching the heroes of Birkdale in action would make your own efforts seem so pathetic you'd pack it in and take up something easier like pole vaulting.

On the contrary, the sight of Padraig Harrington's brilliance on his magical charge over the final four holes last Sunday emboldened the ambitions of the most wretched of hackers.

But that's only partly the reason I spent much of last week practising. I am on a mission to improve my short game, and constant practice is the only way.

Unfortunately, I have the added problem of getting used to a pair of spectacles that have been specifically designed for players like me – ie an ageing golfer who is finding it difficult,if not impossible, to pick out his ball on the odd occasions he gets it airborne.

Having never needed glasses, apart from for close-up reading, wearing a pair outdoors is a new experience, and I am having difficulty focusing on the ball when I'm lining up to hit it.

I have yet to discover if they are going to work because there's fat chance of seeing it in the air if I can't see it properly when it's at my feet.

But I am determined to persevere, and at least my chipping is showing a distinct improvement thanks to the advice I had at the new Dave Pelz short-game school in Ireland the other week.

You have to practise his method as often as you can and I am adding some indoor work once recommended by the late, great Peter Dobereiner, who maintained that trying to chip a 50p piece from the carpet on to an armchair is the best way of developing your finesse around the green. It is best to wait until the person occupying the chair goes to bed but I can thoroughly recommend it as an exercise.

We all have our funny ways of depositing the ball on to the green. My friend Mike puts his left hand in his pocket and chips one-handed quite competently. Sadly, he has just developed tennis elbow in his right arm and he needs a rethink.

Derek Hutchison was one of those who responded to last week's column about this subject and described how he and his regular partners tackle the "chipping devils".

One of them chips with an open stance with his feet together and is "iron-phobic", using a wood from 130 yards. Another uses a "silly flicky chip with a too open stance even when just a foot off the green".

Derek, who plays off 20.2 and is hoping to get below 20, has simplified his chipping: "Up to five paces from the green I play a straight-armed putt using anything from a sand wedge to a seven-iron. It removes so many variables and helps to keep the head down.

"In last week's Stableford I tried to be clever and play the shot a bit wristier and fluffier – and shanked it into the bunker.

"I forgot that old KISS acronym: keep it simple, stupid."