The Hacker: Advice proved tip of the iceberg despite all my titanic efforts
Sunday 27 September 2009
Those who manage to finish this column would have noticed that underneath it we are carrying weekly golf hints, and very sound they are too. But I must warn against introducing them into your game without practising first.
I frightened some innocent bystanders outside our clubhouse last weekend by following the advice and producing a prodigiously wild shot that only just dropped short of them.
What made it worse is that I was playing in a special competition contested at no other club in the world and which marks one of the proudest parts of our history.
There can't be a golfer in the world, hacker or otherwise, who is not familiar with the scoring system invented by the legendary Dr Frank Stableford.
What is not generally known is that his first stab at the system took place long before he perfected it at Wallasey in the early 1930s.
It was at our club, The Glamorganshire, in September 1898 that the good doctor asked his fellow members to try out a scoring method he had devised.
The points were awarded as they are today – one for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie and four for an eagle – but the difference was that everyone played off scratch and added one third of his handicap at the end.
The event was won by a W. Hastings Watson, but we have no record of what they all made of it. It couldn't have been very encouraging, because it was 34 years later before Stableford tried his system again.
He was a member at Wallasey by then, and this time he made a slight change to the format. They still played off scratch, but instead of adding just a third of their handicap they added it all.
But the weather was so bad and the scoring so low that the high-handicappers, with the points already in the bag, had a field day.
It was only when he used the stroke index to apply his method hole by hole that the Stableford system that we all know and love came into being.
Dutiful disciples that we are, The Glamorganshire play his original system every year in his honour. Actually, we play the first two versions – the one in which a third of your handicap is added and the other where the whole handicap is added.
Unfortunately, they place a maximum of 18 on the second. Had I been able to play to my full handicap of 27, I would have had my highest Stableford score of the year before I'd hit a ball.
On the first tee I recalled the advice that I had read in these pages a week or so ago about aiming slightly to the left of the target. I'm afraid I overdid it and hit it straight at the clubhouse, way to the left.
Another few yards and it would have been in the lounge, but it ended on the back slope of the bunker alongside the 18th green.
Red-faced, I took two to get back to the first fairway and that set the seal on a sad day in which I proceeded to add just five points to the 18 that I started with.
I don't think I did all that badly, but playing off scratch is a daunting prospect for a high-handicapper.
Without the comfort of a shot or two on each hole you have to try a lot harder.
Perhaps, in his undoubted wisdom, that's what Dr Frank had in mind.
Tip of the week
No 20: the draw of your life
To hit a draw shot, the ball must start right of the target and spin from right to left under control (for right-handers). Most amateurs struggle to hit a draw. They try to throw their whole right side over the ball on the downswing to get that right-to-left ball flight, which only encourages a more over-the-top swing path and creates more slice spin. Aim your feet, hips and shoulders right of the target where you want your ball to start. Then set your clubface at the end target. Swing normally along the line of your feet, but through impact feel your right forearm fully cross over your left. Remember this is done only with the arms, not the hands or shoulders. Don't be afraid to overdo it at the beginning, then ease up if the ball starts to hook too much. Soon you'll be drawing the ball easily.
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey www.theshortgame.co.uk
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