The Hacker: Anyone would think our club pro fell off the back of a lorry

Click to follow
The Independent Online

This weekend we are in St Andrews for our annual pilgrimage to the home of golf, and even as you read this I may still be lingering over a breakfast of smoked haddock with a poached egg on top and gazing upon golf's most awe-inspiring sight.

The view from the dining room of the Rusacks Hotel is fit to humble any golfer, let alone a lowly hacker. Not that it has any scenic grandeur to commend it; just a flat, wide expanse of close-mown greenery that contains both the first and 18th fairways of the Old Course and upon which golf has been played for 600 years.

It's the aura that gets you. The place has a presence not unlike a cathedral and, no matter how many times you return, the magic does not diminish whatever the weather.

This is the 10th annual visit for our group of 12 and, at midday, we will tackle the New Course, which was new when Old Tom Morris designed it in 1895 and which runs alongside the sacred Old Course.

We play the Old tomorrow and will each have to carry a foot-long strip of plastic grass, which you must play off during the winter to protect the hallowed turf.

It is a pain, especially if it's windy, but pilgrims are supposed to suffer.

And what, you are entitled to ask, is the state of the game which I will lay upon this golfing altar?

I fear the worst. On some visits I have found myself uplifted by the surroundings but on others I have proved an unworthy worshipper, and my form lately has been even more erratic than usual due to my new policy of trying to keep a blank mind when addressing a shot.

I am following the doctrine of Timothy Gallwey, whose book 'The Inner Game of Golf' suggests that a part of you knows how to play the game but another part keeps distracting you with confusing advice and anxieties.

It is a little like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but instead of urging you to pinch an apple, it exhorts you at the top of your backswing to "give it a bloody great whack".

The answer is to keep your mind free of all thoughts and trust your inner self to do the right thing. And it wouldn't hurt if the auld gods of St Andrews gave me a hand over the next two days.

The saga of our club pro's adventure in the winter league came to a sorry end last Sunday. Andrew and his partner, Alf, had lost all their games and they had one last chance to redeem Andrew's reputation.

He played much better against that day's opponents, Jeremy, an estate agent, and Dave, a financial adviser, but he and Alf were still one down playing the 17th.

Alf gave them a chance with a good drive, but Andrew's approach shot not only cleared the green but crashed through the trees, flew over the boundary fence and reached the road where, reputedly, it landed in the back of a lorry going north.

Now he has to step up to receive the wooden spoon at Friday's presentation dinner amid much mockery. There's not many club pros brave enough to risk that sort of fate.