The Hacker: Everyone is getting wet but we have time to drown our sorrows
Sunday 21 June 2009
Hidden behind the cheery countenance of every hacker lies a cruel streak that delights in the misfortune of others, and the floods and frustrations that have been gripping Tiger Woods and the lads in the US Open would not have gone unrewarded by a sly smile or two in clubhouses around the country.
We've all been there and, certainly, we've had our fair share of rain over here recently too. Our course resembled Bethpage Black a fortnight ago when the June medal was abandoned.
It was raining so hard that I didn't want to start but the lunatics I play with insisted and we were on the second hole and already soaked when the recall hooter sounded.
That was the start of a hectic 14 days that would not make me sympathetic to any golfer. The following day I drove to the re-opening of St Mellion in Cornwall and struggled around that magnificent but mean course with a putter that lost a screw and began to self-dismantle.
Three days later, I played in a company golf day in which I was with three other mid-20 handicappers sent off in the final group. We were caught up by a series of two-balls demanding to be let through and we had a round that was as long as it was unsuccessful.
Next day was the annual trip of the Matelots, a society who for more than 80 years have been crossing the Bristol Channel by paddle steamer to play courses on the opposite coast. This year it was Minehead and because of the tides we had to be on board the wonderful Waverley at Penarth pier by 7.30am. Some were drinking their first pint by 7.55am but not me. It was 9am before I joined them.
For some reason Minehead have allowed the rough to run amok, which is a little harsh on those who don't play the course often.
But at least we had five hours to drown our sorrows before embarking for home. It proved to be longer than was good for us and when we reached Penarth at 10.15pm we staggered down the pier like sailors coming off a whaler after five years at sea.
One of the highlights of my year is the Bears golf day. I am president of this fine organisation which raises money for the Penarth Youth rugby club. In 21 years we have donated over £30,000.
I was in the first winning team but since then I have sponsored my own team without success. Ten years ago I assembled a dream team that I was sure would regularly put me among the prizes. All we have ever won is a pair of socks each for finishing fourth.
My team includes three single-figure handicappers; Simon off 2, Paul 6 and John 9 plus me. With the best three scorers to count on each hole I don't expect to have to come in often. Sadly, on Thursday we managed 109 points, which was slightly adrift of the winning total of 122.
In the bar later I spoke sternly about our pathetic record. Do you think Roman Abramovich would put up with this persistent under-performing from Chelsea, I asked demandingly.
I pretended not to hear when one of them muttered: "At least Abramovich doesn't insist on playing himself."
Tip of the week
No 6: the bump 'n' run
It's that time of year when fairways are drying and greens are getting faster, and a short game becomes even more important to improve your score. Why not arm yourself with a secure bump-and-run shot that's safe and can be used on many occasions? With an eight-iron, aim the clubface at the target.
Position the ball in the centre of a narrowed and open stance. Place the hands a little forward of the ball and down on the grip. With a smooth putting-style action, sweep the ball off the grass. Make sure not to strike down on the ball, as this will impart unwanted backspin. You should see 25 per cent of the shot in the air, 75 per cent along the ground.
Once you've mastered it with the eight-iron, use other clubs to vary the loft and run.
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey. www.theshortgame.co.uk
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