The Hacker: Deadly Derek thought he had won but will have to start from Scratch

A A Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh and many other smelly animals, once said that golf is so popular "because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad".

Milne was a keen golfer and probably wasn't a hacker but at least he understood the hacker philosophy, that we benefit from being part of a game that embraces the widest variances of skills and application.

I can think of no other in which the ungifted can have a role which, however menial, still makes a contribution to the game as a whole (in financial terms if little else).

It has to be a strength that so many of golf's participants are fired by no visions of glory but by the chance of playing a half-decent game once in a while. There must be millions of us and my recent disclosure of yet another failure to break 100 in a medal brought a sad story from Russel Matthews of Hinksey Heights golf club in Oxfordshire.

One of the stalwarts at his club is Derek, formerly of the RAF and the long-serving secretary of their members committee. Derek, now in his mid-seventies, faithfully enters every competition but in 10 years has never came close to winning anything.

His handicap has been stuck on 28 since he started and he has been desperate to come down. The handicap secretary once cut him to 27 out of sympathy but within a short time he had worked his way back up to 28.

The only thing he has ever won was the wooden spoon in the winter league and he would proudly lift up his grandchildren so that they could see his name engraved on the spoon.

Last week, Derek entered the monthly midweek medal with his usual high hopes and low expectations and suddenly broke through the 100 barrier for the first time.

His scintillating 98 (nett 70) saw him win the medal from a four-handicapper by one shot. But to his horror he was told that although his 70 was two under the par for the course, the Competition Scratch Score came in at 70 so there was no handicap reduction.

"Such is the sympathy throughout the club for Derek," says Russel, "a special meeting of the handicap committee is being convened to remedy this wrong."

I look forward to Derek breaking 100 regularly because I have a theory that once you've broken the barrier it ceases to become an obsession. Unfortunately, that has not been the experience of Richard Taylor, who wrote to me a few weeks ago to ask if he was still a hacker.

Richard had reduced his handicap over the summer from 24 to 20 and wondered if this elevated him out of hacker status. He provided his own answer last week. "The golfing Gods obviously thought I was getting up myself. I played with my son at the weekend and went round in 110, my worst since April," he wrote.

Even ex-hackers are allowed a slip or two and, coincidentally, 110 was also my score in the medal last weekend. I blame the obnoxious leylandii that disfigure our course. I lost two balls stuck up them.

Strangely enough, when I was looking for a ball stuck in a bush I noticed a profusion of blackberries. I went back at 8.30 the following morning without my clubs and picked three pounds. I also found two field mushrooms for my breakfast and two balls.

Golf is also the best game at which to be a good blackberry picker.

p.corrigan@independent.co.uk

Tip of the week

No 21: control the fade

Shots into the green need distance control and the best method for this is the fade. To play it, left-to-right spin must be used. The ball needs to start left of the target, so open your stance to the left. Position the ball a little further toward your left foot (forward in the stance) and aim the club at your target. Swing normally along the line of your feet but feel as though your hands finish higher in the follow-through. This will stop your right arm releasing. The art is to practise how much you need to open your stance and how high your hands need to finish in the swing.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey. www.theshortgame.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Manchester City's Etihad Stadium
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own