The Hacker: Course of action is required as we share in Tiger's falling stock

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The Independent Online

The world is waiting for Tiger Woods to return to the golf course but never mind him, when are we hackers going to get a chance to swing a club?

Thanks to the freeze-up, golf life in this country has been in a state of suspension for weeks now and, unlike Tiger, we're suffering despite not having done anything wrong.

Not that we would dare compare ourselves to him. We are in fact the direct opposites; we don't do anything wrong until we get on the course.

But remove golfers of any standard from their regular games and the withdrawal symptoms are not pretty. I am continually bumping into fellow players dragooned into pushing trolleys around supermarkets.

Their hang-dog expressions betray their unwillingness to be anywhere but a golf course. It's like being sentenced to community service.

One desperate character cornered me in the vegetable section and couldn't believe how empty his life had become: "I didn't realise how big a part golf plays in my life. I spend hours and hours not knowing what the hell to do. Imagine how horrible it would be if it was permanent."

The trouble is that the devil makes work for idle hands, and so do wives. But there is nothing wrong with visiting the club, even if the course is under a foot of snow.

You still want to be there, particularly at our club since Christmas because they are cutting down some of the dreaded leylandii trees and the sight of those toppling would gladden any heart.

On Tuesday I was amazed to see the car park was so full. I thought they had opened the course but no, it was Ladies Day and the girls had turned up in strength to have lunch.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays the men who play in the midweek swindles turn up for a drink and endless games of snooker. I suspect they haven't told their wives the course has been closed.

One thing we mortal golfers do have in common with Tiger is that our absence is doing the golf industry no good at all.

It is calculated that a prolonged Tiger lay-off could cost the sport £200 million this year. An incredible $13 billion (£8bn) has been wiped off the stock-market value of his nine main sponsors in 13 days of trading this year.

Despite our large numbers, we hackers can't match that financial devastation by our absence. But we do contribute more than is realised, and without us paying a healthy whack for our devotion to being bad golfers, even Tiger wouldn't be as rich as he is.

When we are not playing we don't lose any balls, develop extra faults that need remedial lessons from the club pro, buy new clubs, invest in warmer clothing or drink copious amounts at the bar and have a quick sausage, egg and chips before we go home for a diet-conscious dinner.

Don't worry, we'll be back in force once the courses are declared fit for play. The long lay-off will have done nothing to stifle our enthusiasm.

Thousands of resolutions made by desperate hackers who are determined to improve during 2010 have yet to be put into action.

All we've managed to do is chip air-balls on to the sofa and convince ourselves that it is all going to be different once they release us from this captivity. The reality is bound to hurt, but anything is better than all this inaction.

Tip of the week

No 36: the importance of ball position

Many golfers get confused as to where the ball should be positioned between their feet for different clubs. To keep it simple, the further forward the ball is placed (towards the left foot for right-handers), the more a sweeping, upward strike will be created. This is good for drivers and long irons as it keeps loft on the club, encouraging the ball into the air. With the ball positioned further back, a more downward and descending blow creates low launch but with high spin; good for wedge shots and short irons. The ball should never be placed further back than the middle of the stance for normal iron shots, and always towards the front foot with longer, less lofted clubs. Play a seven-iron towards your front foot and it will act more like an eight. Take a half-set with you and try varying the ball position to change the playing characteristics of the clubs.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey