The Hacker: A hail of abuse, then I go cold turkey

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The Independent Online

While the more refined club golfers carefully fold their cashmere sweaters and put them away for the winter, the more intrepid prepare to face up to the dark, stormy months regardless of the discomfort ahead.

The discomfort wasn't long in coming. We can't complain at the way autumn prolonged the summer but the swiftness of the change caught us unawares.

Last Saturday we were hit by a sequence of cold and fierce showers and we certainly weren't expecting the hailstorm that battered the course halfway through our round.

I was lining up a long putt on a green that was rapidly turning white with hailstones when one of our four-ball opponents suggested we took shelter. "Play shall be continuous," I shouted pompously before hitting a putt that pulled up well short of the pin. I eventually took four putts to get the ball through the hailstones and into the hole.

"Serves you bloody right," said the man I shouted at.

At least I had the pleasure later of drawing his attention to Rule 6:8 which states that players shall not discontinue play unless the committee has suspended it, there is a danger from lightning, they are seeking a decision on a disputed point or there is some other good reason such as sudden illness.

"Bad weather is not of itself a good reason for discontinuing play," states the law, which goes on to say that disqualification can result.

The competition we were in was a turkey trot, so named because back in the dim distant we actually played for a turkey each Saturday in the lead-up to Christmas. There was something oddly appealing about going out to battle for the family's Christmas dinner. It brought out the hunter instinct in you.

Needless to say, the kids would have never tasted turkey had my golf been the only provider. Even the second prize of a tin of corned beef would have been out of the question.

It was a singles competition then, but with the need to accommodate more players as the hours of daylight decrease, it is now a four-ball better ball with a sordid cash prize.

Our four-ball was Mike and Max, who each play off 19 and normally play together, and me and Andy, who are both off 27 and normally play with anyone who'll have us.

But when we collected the cards an error had me down to play with Max and Andy with Mike. While Andy and I were quite happy with that, the others threw a hissy fit and insisted on playing together. It was an insult that looked like rebounding on them when after nine holes Andy and I had a nett 35 and they were 38.

Despite the weather, Andy and I played better than we had done for ages but the excitement proved too much and we took 38 on the back nine. They scored 27, giving them a total of 65, five off the winning score but a good effort nonetheless.

I had a birdie on the par-three 14th which won us six balls in the twos sweep, and Andy and I each had the satisfaction of breaking 100. It doesn't count off winter tees but at least nobody could give us the bird.

Tip of the week

No 27: know your yardages

When it comes to how far you hit the ball, there is only one yardage you need to know – carry. How far a ball runs is irrelevant; it's how far you fly it through the air that counts.

At my home club the first hole is a par three, 160 yards long. Most members hit a six-iron and therefore assume they hit all their six-irons 160 yards. In reality the hole is 30 feet downhill, and to the front of the green is only 140 yards and it normally plays downwind. Most members pitch it on the front and run the ball to the middle of the green.

Taking all these factors into consideration they actually only carry their six-iron 120-130 yards. Unfortunately they don't like to hear the reality!

To find out how far you hit the ball, find a flat shot where you know the yardage to the middle of the green, and see how far your ball flies. There should be 10-12 yards between each club. You may find this gap increases with the short irons and decreases with the long irons. If so, see your professional and get them to check your lofts or maybe suggest a hybrid or extra wedge to fill in the gaps.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC Surrey.