The Hacker: Game of snakes, ladders and top dogs

No golfers in the world are braver or more hardy than those who contest the thousands of club winter leagues throughout these islands.

Swathed in layers of moth-eaten sweaters over old and crusted long-johns, they tackle the courses in weather into which few other groups of sportsmen would venture in such numbers. But even these courageous souls have been defeated by this winter.

After the disruption caused first by the floods of November and then the freeze-up of December/January – and Met men say there's more to come – clubs throughout the country are fighting to keep the leagues, which are vital to their bar takings, on track.

Courses in some of the more stricken areas have been out of play for two or three months. Happily, most were back in action last Sunday when the second half of our league got off to its delayed start.

Although it was a bitterly cold morning, the way more than 100 swarmed eagerly on to the course, you'd think they were in Barbados.

That's what a long lay-off can do for a man's appetite for the game and judging by some shock results, the better players were slower into their stride than the hackers.

One of the best aspects of winter league golf is that it tends to pair up the good with the not-so-good players. Formats differ from club to club. In ours – called the Snakes and Ladders – we play foursomes with a minimum combined handicap of 20, which requires the best players to find partners among the high handicappers.

But there's at least one club where they don't even get a choice of who they are playing with. Regular Hacker reader Andrew Frosdick, who plays at the Silkstone club near Barnsley, writes in with a very erudite account of their intriguing format in which new pairs are drawn every Sunday.

Called the Top Dog, their winter Sunday competition involves a weekly random draw in which four names are drawn at a time. The lowest handicapper of the four is paired with the highest, leaving the two middle ones to form the other partnership.

"They play better ball match play with each player from the winning side earning points towards their individual league standing," writes Andrew, who plays off 17 but who describes himself as a hacker at heart. "It can be frustrating for the low handicapper but positively terrifying for the hacker." During the winter, a hacker can play with a series of much better golfers but he does bring with him a high allocation of shots that could come in useful.

"The high burden of expectation will often prove too much for the lesser player and it will be left to his partner to grind out a result with few, if any, words spoken between them. But one decisive contribution, holing a long putt or scrambling a half, can turn the most abject display into a match-winning performance. So it is often the case that a high handicapped player can remain in the final fight for the honours," adds Andrew.

Unlike leagues in which you are obliged to play every week, you play as often as you like. As long as you are registered you can miss the worst weather and turn up in March very rusty.

Many a contender for the Top Dog title has foundered when paired with someone playing his first round for months and having a stinker.

Andrew, by the way, occupies a "modest mid-table position" and lives in hope. We wish him well.

p.corrigan@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star