The Hacker: Alexander the great helps me to conquer my greatest fears

There's little worse than being jilted at the last minute. It's bad enough for a bridegroom – although it could well be a future blessing for him – but nothing compensates for your golfing partner not turning up for a four-ball competition.

That's why I cut such a lonely figure at the club last Saturday morning. Usually there are one or two hovering around looking for a game but not last week; unless they saw me and were hiding.

Had I known the previous day that my friend Andy couldn't play, I would have had time to winkle out a reluctant replacement.

But he didn't tell me. We have a computerised entry system for competitions and he just deleted his name on Friday evening. His excuse was a heavy cold, although he managed to play on Sunday.

I must say he didn't look too clever when I saw him but, then again, he never does. During my admonishment of him I told him of the chance he missed to join my game plan.

Andy is also a 28-handicapper desperate to improve and he would benefit from my new unadventurous, risk-reduced approach.

Although as a singleton I couldn't be in the competition, I played in order to mark the card of the pair we regularly play with, Mike and Max.

The event was a four-ball aggregate Stableford, which meant the points total of each of the pair would be added together.

With typical generosity they offered to share their place in the competition with me and do a permutation of any two from three – the best two scores would be put forward as their entry.

I'm not sure it was legal but it didn't matter. Our best score was 64 points and it was won by the staggering score of 86 points. At least my new approach received another airing but the trauma of the morning caused me early grief when, after a good start of seven points from three holes, I scored back-to-back nines.

I drove into the woods at the fourth hole, and at the fifth I took three trying to hack my way out from the back of a leylandii tree.

Normally, this would have sent me into a rage from which the round would never have recovered but I settled down to a steady, safety-first plod that, with 20 points on the back nine, brought me a fairly respectable 32 points.

I almost had back-to-back birdies but I had to settle for one. The point was that I felt more in control and less prone to panic after a bad shot. More practice is needed but progress is being maintained.

Much of the improvement is due to a slower swing during which I repeat the name Alexander Cadogan. Mike asked whether this bloke I kept mentioning was a new member.

When I explained this to Mike, he looked oddly at me and therefore I said it under my breath. I've had a few emails assuring me I am not the only one who regulates my swing in this way.

Most of them say something like "Up 1-2, down 1-2" but Tony Chesterman of Northumberland writes to say that he prefers repeating the name Severiano Ballesteros.

Tony has been playing for six years since he retired at the age of 66 and finds my struggles a comfort to a newcomer.

But, if he and Seve don't mind, I will stick to Alexander. As Shakespeare would have surely said had he been a golfer, a slow swing by any other name is just as sweet.

Tip of the week

No 41: don't rush the downswing

It will come as no surprise that most of us want to hit the ball further. But we can do that only if we remain relaxed and free-swinging.

Too often I see guys rushing to hit "at" the ball when they will produce more power hitting through it. Try this tip to learn when to accelerate the clubhead better: hold your club by the clubhead and swing the shaft with your normal swing. You will hear the shaft swish as you swing down and through the ball.

Try to make as little noise as possible on the backswing, and save the swish until as late as possible. If you hear a loud swish well before impact you know you are going at it too quickly. Slow down and wait until nearer impact before you accelerate the clubhead.

Once you've got the feel, try and emulate the same feel in your normal golf swing.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey.

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