The Hacker: After losing eight balls, why didn't I play the seven-iron?

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The Independent Online

At the moment, I am treating it as an aberration, a mere blip on my way to salvation. Playing at Cardigan last Sunday I lost seven balls in a frenzy of faulty ball-striking.

My playing partner, Mike, also lost one – but only because he lent it to me.

The previous day, on the same course but in cold and windy weather, I kept the same ball throughout the round and scored a modest but passable 26 points.

What happened overnight – which was relatively unriotous – to cause me to send eight balls vanishing into the gorse on a lovely sunny day? Perhaps it was the culmination of the strain induced by a four-week golfing odyssey which saw me play 12 courses in 28 days.

In chronological order I played the Old Course and the Jubilee at St Andrews; Royal Porthcawl; the 2010 Ryder Cup course at Celtic Manor; Oake Manor near Taunton; Radyr in Cardiff; Royal Dornoch; Nairn and Nairn Dunbar, in the Scottish Highlands; Glamorganshire; and Cardigan.

It has all been very enjoyable. Even with my dodgy eyes I saw the most wonderful scenery, played superb holes and did copious amounts of high living. But to face such a variety of big challenges and conditions with a game plan still in its infancy was asking too much.

Obviously, the tougher lay-outs caused me problems but you would have expected that. My new plan to slow down my swing and aim for straightness rather than distance proved difficult to follow when faced with dauntingly long holes.

As it turned out, I would have been better off having more faith in the new lease of life enjoyed by my seven-iron after a tip from John Kelly at St Andrews. I've had requests to pass on this advice. Marigold Dann wrote in to say she played a similar game to mine, poor dear. "I would like to know the tip given to you about your seven-iron play if you are willing to share it."

I'm more than willing, Marigold, once I understand it properly myself. It involves a slight rotation of the wrists through the ball but it's a very visual tip which Kelly likened to shaking hands with someone on your right on the backswing and someone on your left on the follow through. It has been working but because of all this dashing around I have had no time to practise it.

New moves you fail to practise can soon lose their effectiveness. But I was quite content when 28 of us made our annual trip to Cardigan, which is always a joy, and the first round confirmed my progress.

At the start of the calamitous second round I had hit a good drive straight up the 401-yard first hole and instead of sticking to the plan and playing my new best friend, the seven-iron, I stupidly reached for the three-wood.

We never saw the ball again and from that moment on, disaster dogged my steps. When I carved my drive on the 17th hole into the wilderness, Mike said: "You'd better play another."

I said I didn't have another and he kindly offered to lend me one. He spent so long fumbling in his bag it was obvious he was looking for the oldest ball he had.

Eventually he was forced to give me a newish Top-Flite which, two shots later, I shanked into the gorse.

He waved away my apology. "I'd already written it off," he admitted.

Tip of the week

No 49: feel the weight of the club

Whenever you are playing shots that do not require a full swing, it is so important to keep relaxed to use the club to its optimum. If the club feels light in your hands, you're gripping too hard, so ease up and feel the weight of the club.

The swing-weight of your wedges is heavier than the other irons in the bag, and they are designed so that you don't have to hit them hard. Distance control is the key to playing these shots well, so take an appropriate length of backswing and let the club "fall" back to the ball.

Keep relaxed, swing freely and let the club do the work. The more relaxed you remain, the more control you will gain, and the more you can trust those half- and quarter-length shots.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley Golf Club, Surrey.