The Hacker: From Texas Scramble to Mexican stand-off, but I'm always firing blanks

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The Independent Online

Of all the weird and wonderful versions of the game golfers playto amuse themselves, the Texas Scramble is probably the most popular because even the worst players can find themselves putting for birdies on a regular basis.

But what used to be a hacker's delight can now be more of a nightmare for the less gifted since they started refining the format.

The scramble is a game played by teams of four, each of whom play a tee-shot and then select the best. They each play their second shots from that spot, select the best again to play their third shots and so on.

In days gone by, all the hacker had to do was to ensure he was in a team with at least one good driver of the ball. He could then spend a comfortable round retrieving his drive from the most appalling places and taking his second shot from the middle of the fairway.

Even if he messed that up too, the ball would more than likely be on the green in regulation and he could become a hero by sinking a birdie putt.

But the game hasn't got where it is today through giving hackers an easy time. The version now being played at most clubs is that teams must take at least four tee-shots from each player.

It is not too much to ask even a hacker to hit four decent tee-shots out of 18 but the pressure on the weaker players gradually increases during the round and to find yourself still one or two shots short of your quota with only a couple of holes to play can attack the nerves.

A wise team will avoid last-hole panics by trying to take inferior drives early on but, happily, our team did not have to take more than one dodgy tee-shot last weekend – and that was because we all hit stunners.

Unhappily, we were let down by our short game – they even had to take a couple of my chips – and we returned a 65 which was more than 10 shots behind the winner. It was very enjoyable nonetheless. Another format we've dallied with is that each player must have three of his tee-shots taken but the one whose shot is chosen doesn't play a second shot. This stops one player dominating the team.

In an extended version of this called the Florida Scramble, or the Mexican Stand-off as it is also known, the player whose shot is chosen misses out on the next shot throughout the hole. This tends to spread the responsibility around.

One version that would appeal to the gambler is the Las Vegas Scramble. You have to take dice with you and number each player one to four.

After each player has driven, you roll the dice and the number that comes up is the drive you take. If the dice shows a five or six, you can select a drive in the normal way.

In the Bramble Scramble you each play the second shot from the same spot and then play your own ball for the rest of the hole adding up the lowest two scores for your team score. I am not in favour of the Reverse Scramble in which the worst drive has to be taken at each hole. This makes for a very slow round and also guarantees that hackers will not be invited to play.

At Royal Porthcawl last Wednesday I suffered my shoddiest game of the season, losing to John 8&7. For some reason my new, relaxed, approach to swinging suffered an attack of uncontrollable tension and I was scuffing the ball left, right and rarely centre.

I hope this was a passing blip because yesterday we arrived in St Andrews for our annual visit to the home of golf. Yesterday we were due to play the new Castle Course and today we face the New. Tomorrow it is the turn of the Old Course to smother us in its magic. You don't want to take a rubbish game to a place like that.

Simon Iliffe's tip of the week

No 92: The Walk-Through Shot

This is one of the best practice drills for any golfer who struggles to transfer his or her weight through the ball.

Nine-times major winner Gary Player used this as one of his practice routines. Pick a medium lofted iron; position a ball forward in your stance, opposite your left toe (for right-handed golfers) but otherwise set up as usual.

Make your normal backswing and then exaggerate your move forward to hit the ball.

Let the momentum take you right through the ball and start walking towards the target.

You will be left with no uncertainty that your weight transference is headed in the right direction. This drill will help you to add power and strike to your game, using your body weight to complement your swing.

Simon Iliffe is head professional at Bramley Golf Club, Surrey.