The Hacker: An injured little Sparrow told me that I should watch the birdies

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Damage caused by hackers is usually confined to shrubs, bushes and wild flowers and, if there's a road nearby, to the odd passing car but there are regrettable occasions when their fellow players are endangered.

I'm still shuddering about the serious injury I nearly inflicted on a playing companion on Thursday while on a trip with a lively section of Royal Porthcawl Golf Club called the Sparrows.

We were playing at that excellent links course, Burnham and Berrow in Somerset, and my partners were Ian Price and Cenfyn Hopkin, neither of whom I had played with before.

Imagine my embarrassment on the first when I took a nine-iron approach to the green and shanked it viciously in the direction of Ian, who was standing only a couple of yards in front of me.

The ball hit him solidly on the big toe of his right foot. Had it been a few inches to the right it would have struck his ankle and we would have been spending the rest of the day in the local A & E.

I showered him with apologies but he waved away my solicitations. "It's my fault for standing in front of you," he said, forgivingly.

I noticed that Ian stayed well behind me for the rest of the round, and in the bar later he confessed that his big toe hurt like hell at the time.

It is a very impressive course and, with the wind whipping in from the adjacent beach, the views from most tees are formidable.

When you are playing a course as tough as that, the thought that a lethal shank is lurking up your sleeve is an intimidating influence among the sand dunes.

That's my excuse for my paltry 18-point contribution to our team total but Ian and Cenfyn were very patient and encouraging – and typical of the Sparrows, who are dedicated to the pursuance of golfing pleasure both on and off the course.

They play at Porthcawl every Wednesday afternoon, followed by a noisy supper, and I was delighted to join their ranks earlier in the year because they have a very relaxed attitude to hackers.

If you come in with a bad score you just whisper it to the chief sparrow and he records a more respectable number against your name.

This year's chief sparrow, Bryan Marsh, stood up well to the difficult task of organising this boisterous group of golfers and the final act of his year was to arrange the annual migration for two or three days.

This year we ventured to the other side of the Bristol Channel to play Worlebury at Weston-super-Mare and then Burnham and Berrow.

Worlebury is perched at the top of a steep hill and, unfortunately, I failed to understand the directions, got totally lost and arrived after they had all started.

Luckily I was in the last three-ball and managed to catch up with David de Lloyd and Ian Newton before they teed off on the second.

Considering I'd missed the first hole, I didn't have a bad round with 26 points. For the first time in my golf career, I found the greens more easily than I'd found the golf course. It was worth finding. A tight but attractive layout, it has staggering views across the Severn estuary and provided a sharp contrast to the much longer and narrower Burnham links.

Cenfyn, a steady 16 handicapper, won the overall prize and I managed to avoid the bottom prize which, I am sure he won't mind me mentioning, went to John Roberts.

Not used to having a journalist on tour, some Sparrows were a little worried that lurid revelations about the trip might appear.

This is nonsense, of course, and I am happy to confirm that everyone went to bed early every night with a cup of Horlicks and a copy of Golf Monthly.