The Hacker: Against the odds I sink my par putt – I bet you didn't expect that
Sunday 20 September 2009
Gambling is a sin I happily embrace occasionally but I draw the line at my golf being the subject of a bet. I have enough trouble hitting the ball without extra pressures.
However, with no prompting from me, my golfing prowess was the cause of a wager when playing on Le Touquet's La Mer course last week. I was sizing up my tee shot on a 175-yard par-three during a four-ball needle match when my partner Bob pointedly reminded me: "You've got two shots here so a par will get us four points." One of our opponents, Mitchell, snapped: "I bet you 5-1 he doesn't get it."
There was a slight hesitation before Bob replied: "I'll have a euro on that." I stepped indignantly back from the ball not knowing which was the bigger insult – the odds against me hitting a decent shot or the fact that my partner was venturing only one lousy euro on me. He smiled apologetically and admitted afterwards that his first thought was half a euro.
I can't say I blamed him because it wasn't an easy shot. The raised green had a wicked slope and was surrounded by steep, thickly roughed sides and I don't know who was more shocked, me or my companions, when my superbly struck ball landed what seemed to be comfortably close to the flag.
Since the other three proceeded to knock theirs nowhere near the green, I must confess to a slight swagger as I walked up to the hole. But what looked a cinch from the tee was anything but when I reached my ball.
It had rolled 30 feet past the pin and I was faced with a treacherous putt across the slope. A touch too hard would take the ball miles past the hole. A touch too soft would still leave a nasty putt.
I chose the timid route and the ball dribbled three-quarters of the way to leave a dodgy left-to-right eight-footer which, I am proud to say, I sank with aplomb.
Not only did Bob win his five euros, we collected 15 euros for winning the match and my modest 23 points was the fourth best of the day.
When you are a bad player it doesn't take much to cheer you up and it helped me to enjoy a cracking trip.
Our little society has been visiting Le Touquet for some years now. We are a collection of veteran golf writers who are called the Dregs because there's not much left in the bottom of our glasses.
We stay at the Hotel Westminster, which used to be a haunt of Europe's high-fliers before and after the war and still retains its old grandeur.
Thanks to the easy passage via the Eurotunnel, Le Touquet is very popular with British golfers. There's a good choice of courses. We played Le Pins at Hardelot as well as La Mer and both are excellent.
The area is experiencing a 20 per cent drop in business this year – at 45 euros to hire a buggy I'm not surprised – but it is still a great place for golfers with a lively eating and drinking scene.
Needless to say, I was still banging on about my bet-winning par late into the night.
"I can't understand why you didn't have a bet yourself," said Mitchell finally.
He must think I'm barmy.
Tip of the week
No 19: escape cleanly from a fairway bunker
Just because you have ended up in a fairway bunker, it does not necessarily mean that you need to take a sand wedge. Most fairway bunkers are designed with low lips so a longer, less-lofted club can be used. However, to make the most of the situation, you need to make sure of a clean strike. Firstly, select a club with enough loft to clear the bunker lip. Then address the ball, don't shuffle your feet in too far, just take a firm stance, hold down a little on the club and grip the club firmer than usual. Now make a three-quarter-length arm swing, aiming to hit just below the equator of the ball. You should see the ball fly out with plenty of loft, ample distance and a good clean strike.
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey.
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