The Hacker: First date with my custom-fitted irons was a reality check

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The Independent Online

Relationships, eh? Great when they're going well. But when they go wrong, oh dear. Worst of all, maybe, is the disappointment of shattered hope. When you think you've finally identified that match made in heaven and it turns out to be something infinitely more down to earth.

It is commonly held that the nearest and dearest should not get involved in anything either competitive or instructional and the same may apply to those who wish to become significant others. And a golf course is the one place that is guaranteed to throw any shortcomings, on either side it has to be said, into sharp relief.

Picture the scene. Your first game and the mood on the tee is one of happy and relaxed anticipation, as yet unclouded. The drive goes well, or as well as it ever does. Ditto the fairway wood. Now the shot to the green. What do you think? A nine iron? Fine. Well, it would have been had you not shanked it into the trees.

But hey, early days together. That approach work is always tricky and, given the circumstances of really wanting it to go well, there's bound to be a bit of tension. Think kind and generous thoughts.

Second hole. Again, we're all right until the green gets within range. Try a bump and run with a seven iron but darn it, bit of a hurried swish there, and the ball seems to have thinned itself past the pin like an Exocet and off the other side into the soggy rough. Keep calm and carry on smiling, though; say nothing at this stage.

But a couple of Hunter Mahan moments follow, another horrendous shank, and you start realising that there is possibly a bit of a theme of incompetence developing here, one you could do without. The holes pass, the round progresses, lips become thinner, eyes narrow more frequently. And after several shots so heavy and unsubtle that they might be considered worthy of an entry in the Andy Gray Bumper Book Of Wit And Humour, comment becomes superfluous and your playing companions look slightly embarrassed by your choice.

These days, there are so many ways to find your heart's desire, some riskier than others. I'm old-fashioned enough to think that you don't commit seriously until after a period of getting-to-know-you, even if not all about you. But, swayed by modern mores, I went not so long ago to the equivalent of a speed-dating session; arranged marriages sometimes work, after all.

Before any sort of set-up or contact there was a questionnaire about what I wanted from the prospective new togetherness, on both an emotional and physical level. Some of the latter was slightly unnerving; those bits about length and stiffness, for instance.

But it all produced what was supposed to be compatibility. Perhaps naively, I paid my money - quite a lot of it, actually - made my choice and waited for the phone call and its promise of the Snow White scenario of having time to smell the flowers as we skipped down the fairest way of all, accompanied by a whole flock of sweet birdies.

Sadly, our first date was a reality check. All right, perhaps the conditions weren't ideal; it was cold and wet, not conducive to any sort of gentle touches and I'm well out of practise anyway. But there was little forgiveness, as I was assured there would be, from the other side either and this partnership is going to require quite a lot more work than was initially envisaged.

There is no going back, though, and I will be updating our status on Facebook. Or maybe that should be Clubfacebook, as I try to bond with my brand-new set of custom-fitted irons.