The Hacker: Clubmate hits a mushroom and proves he's a fun guy to play with

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The Independent Online

No matter how downcast you get about the state of your golf, you can always rely on someone to prove himself even more inept. So we were much cheered last Sunday morning when a player in our winter league hit a mushroom he thought was his ball.

In fairness to our much-mocked friend, if you are playing on a murky, dank morning, your eyes aren't too clever and you see a roundish white object lying in thick grass, roughly where you expect the ball to be, you could be forgiven for coming to the wrong conclusion.

A golfer should always identify his ball before hitting it, because there is a penalty for playing the wrong one. But hitting a mushroom?

Once they'd finished having hysterics at the sight of bits of fungus flying about, his opponents were asking the same question, and it was still being debated in the bar hours later.

Most were inclined to ruleit as a practice swing, but others felt that if you take a purposeful swipe at what you think is a ball it should still count as a stroke.

I consulted my friends at the Welsh Golfing Union, and after having a good laugh they were inclined to the view that hitting a mushroom shouldn't incur a penalty. Then they got to thinking, as administrators do, about what would happen if you hit the wrong ball and it turned out to be a ball that did not conform to R & A standards. Could you be penalised for hitting a ball that isn't officially recognised as such?

I happily leave that question for them to debate while I reflect on the aftermath of the calamitous 122 I scored in the final club medal round of the year. Since writing about it last week I have been overwhelmed with offers of help – some from commercial sources and some fromfriends – to help me break100, which has become sucha psychological barrier.

Others have encouraged me to find some other pursuit to waste my time on, but my determination not to give in to my demons was reinforced last Wednesday when I played at Royal Porthcawl on a beautiful autumnal day, with the surf crashing on the adjacent beach.

It was the sort of day to revive the most mangled spirit. My companion was my dentist, Geoff, and it made a change to play with someone who was struggling even more than me. Since he hadn't played since March, his rustiness was hardly surprising.

Playing badly is harder for him because he used to play off eight. My lowest handicap was 19, so I don't have many better days to mourn.

But I did start hitting the ball straighter and further than I have for weeks. I only narrowly missed holing a 12-foot birdie putt on thepar-five eighth, so I washighly encouraged.

I will never know if my improvement would have been maintained because Geoff was thirsty.

After soliciting the promise that he would play more regularly, and play more holes in the future, I joined him in heading for the bar.

Sometimes I think there's a lot to be said for his ideal golf course, which would consist of just two holes with a fully licensed halfway house.