The Hacker: Drinking too much of the black stuff keeps me off the greens

My golfing ambitions for the spring, if it should ever come, depend mainly on the acquisition of a steady, rhythmic swing that will maintain consistency under the pressures of a series of torrid rounds. At the moment, I am taking my timing from slowly repeating the name Alexander Cadogan during the swing, and it is working well.

It is not uncommon for golfers to mutter something under their breath to set up an even tempo and avoid those sudden, scything lunges at the ball that damage our games.

To many, a simple "Up 1-2, down 1-2" will suffice. I am finding that Alexander's name provides the balance I need but my emails reveal a vast discrepancy in the names we call upon to help us.

One reader said that Seve Ballesteros did the trick for him but there's too many letters in his name for me.

This week Bob Evans of Cannock suggests I try saying Annika Sorenstam for the "right tempo and mental image". The problem with thinking of Annika at the top of my backswing is the effect on my composure.

So I will stick with Alexander, who came recommended by Geoff, my regular partner at Royal Porthcawl. He has used it since it was suggested to him by the pro at Dinas Powys golf club years ago.

This brought a shocked response from another Porthcawl member, Roger, who has been secretly using the same name since he was advised to do so by the pro at Redditch 40 years ago.

Since neither of them knew where the name came from, I looked it up and discovered that Sir Alexander George Montagu Cadogan, KCB, Eton and Balliol College, was one of our top civil servants up to and including the war. He was the UK representative at the United Nations from 1946-50 and the chairman of the BBC Governors from 1952-57.

Solid, reliable, impeccably bred... that's the sort of man you want behind your swing. If only he'd known how handy he was going to become to hackers through the years.

Unfortunately, I was unable to take advantage of his influence last weekend because of a four-day trip to Dublin with a dozen club members to watch Wales and Ireland play rugby.

As upsetting as the game was, the Guinness was even more so and my digestive system rebelled so violently that I haven't been able to venture on to the course.

My comeback is aimed at a Texas Scramble this weekend and, here again, I have been hard done by. I have made it up with Andy, who jilted me at the last minute in a four-ball better ball two weeks ago.

He wrote in to complain bitterly of my cruel criticism of him in last week's column but I've decided to ignore it and we are due to be reunited this weekend – but not with our normal four-ball.

The other two, Mike and Max, with whom we have battled many a dark winter day, have opted to go for glory and join up with two players who they consider to be a distinct improvement on us, leaving Andy and I to find our own partners.

Thankfully, two young hot-shots, probably not aware of what they were doing, have put their names down to play with us, while Mike and Max have lost one of their team.

He came with us to Dublin, met a girl, fell in love and is going back to see her this weekend. God moves in mysterious ways.

Tip of the week

No 42: putting – achieving good pace

The most common problem I see with putting is the players worrying so much about their line, they forget about the pace of the putt.

Pace varies from course to course, season to season, even morning to afternoon, with the cut of the mower and the firmness of the green. Here is a simple tip to learn good pace. Take three golf balls and find a flat area on the practice green. Don't aim at a hole, simply let yourself swing the putter with a one-foot back swing and a one-foot through swing.

Strike each ball with the same stroke, not aiming to hit the other balls, just freely swing. If you have good pace, all three balls should end up close together. Learn to swing more from the shoulders, and trust the stroke to do the work. This exercise will teach you how fast the greens are on the day.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey

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