Winter is the happiest time for hackers. If the course is closed, as many have been over the past few weeks, you can't make a fool of yourself; if it's open you can blame the wind or the rain for your shortcomings. More importantly, they don't play medals from November to March so you are spared that ritual humiliation of failing to break 100.
And there's fun to be had whether it is in the winter league, where mud is a great leveller, or in one of those weird and wonderful formats designed to cheer the coldest day. They've been playing one at Hinksey Heights in Oxfordshire which I've never heard of before. It's called A Kick, A Throw and A Mulligan, and the Royal & Ancient would certainly not approve.
The first two illegalities are self-explanatory. A mulligan, which I believe originated in America, is retaking a bad shot without penalty.
It is played as a Stableford competition for teams of three and each player is allowed a kick, a throw and a mulligan on both the front and back nines.
There are no restrictions. You can kick the ball out of the rough – or kick a putt if you so wish. You can throw the ball out of a bunker or back into bounds or even out of a water hazard if you can find it. The mulligan just lets you replay a rubbish shot. There's another twist to the game. The scores on each hole are not added up, they are placed alongside each other in descending order.
If one player scores three points, the next gets two and the third, one, the score on that hole is 321. Blobs don't count so if the poor mutt putting for the one point had missed, the team score would have been 32 not 321. No shortage of pressure there then. Russel, who wrote to tell me about the game, says a score approaching 5,000 points won in the end.
One thing they learned was how hard it is to kick a ball when it is lying on the ground. Countless kicked putts from less than a foot were missed – two from around four inches.
I know a few golfers whose adeptness at kicking a golf ball is long established but I can't imagine why you would kick a short putt.
Russel writes: "Not only did we come in tired from the round of golf, we were knackered from having to think tactically as when was the most profitable time to take the kicks, throws and mulligans."
But the game proved so popular they are going to play it in one of their turkey trots before Christmas.
Another new slant to golf featured in Sue Montgomery's Hacker column last Sunday. This one has a practical side in that it has proved beneficial to the games of many golfers.
Called GolfMission, it consists simply of a set of cards each outlining six different tasks to be accomplished during the round. One task could be to take no more than six putts on three nominated holes, or stay out of bunkers on three holes or hit three successive fairways.
By giving you something else to focus on other than the normal demands of a round, the tasks are said to help develop concentration and thereby improve your scoring.
Sue is going to spend some time using this system and will report back. Since I have the attention span of a gnat I shall give it a go myself.
Tip Of The Week
No 30: it started with a grip
The most important part of the player's set-up in golf is the way they hold the club. It has often been commented that if a player's grip is wrong, they'll need to swing it poorly to compensate. For the right-hand golfer the power and pull of the club into impact comes from the left arm and hand. Stand tall and let your arms hang by your side, look at the way the left hand lies, exactly as it should be placed on the club. Two to three knuckles showing and relaxed from the elbow down. Place your left hand on the club like this, with the thumb sitting on top of the grip, and to the right. Place your right hand below the left with the left thumb securely fitting in the palm of the right hand. Interlocking or overlapping the little finger of the right hand and forefinger of the left hand is down to individual preference; however, your grip pressure should be firm but with little tension. A natural grip will give you the freedom to generate power and full release of the club.
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey.