The Hacker: Ice isn't too hard to swallow as a sparrow migrates for winter

It takes more than a nationwide freeze-up to deter winter golfers but the suddenness of this icy spell has taken most of these intrepid souls by surprise.

Usually, you can take your time to de-crust your thermal long johns after they've spent eight months mouldering at the back of the wardrobe. But pale limbs had to be forced into them last week.

Rain, floods and gales had been the problem the previous week and most of us didn't bother to venture out but when the ice man cameth last Wednesday he was accompanied by enough sunshine in our neck of the woods to tempt the faintest of hearts.

In many parts of the country play wouldn't have been possible but we are very lucky at Royal Porthcawl, which rarely sees snow or frost. On a bright, cold day the views are spectacular.

On the opposite side of the wide bay, Swansea looks like Naples if you narrow your eyes a little. Beyond that is the coastline of the Gower Peninsula and across the Bristol Channel the cliffs and hills of north Devon can be clearly seen.

Usually, there is little time to take in the sights because you spend most of the round looking for your ball. But they have been cutting the rough back extensively over the past few weeks.

I am not sure whether this is a kindly act to help hackers get through the winter or a way of fattening up the rough for next summer but it is much appreciated by the wayward.

For John and myself it was our second outing in the Sparrows, a hearty group of enthusiasts who make a weekly assault on the links in all weathers and continue the bonhomie in the bar and over supper afterwards.

It is not for me to comment on the thirsts of my new companions but having spent a second session with them I would have thought Swallows would have been a more appropriate name.

I could give proof of my own lack of reluctance in that department because, unlike on our previous visit, I was not the designated driver of our party of four.

Because the Sparrows don't begin teeing-off until 12.45pm, only 15 holes are played during the winter months to ensure everyone gets back before dark.

As I have explained previously, we play in threes as designated by Bryan, the Chief Sparrow, and we keep our own Stableford scores in our head.

When John and I have our weekly matches we tend to express ourselves coarsely after bad shots and it can be inhibiting when you play with men you haven't played with before.

Thankfully, I was assigned to Tony and Dale who, despite being better players than me, were very patient with a swearing hacker who took seven holes to conquer a violent slice.

John was similarly blessed with Stuart and David but found it a strain, particularly when he had an air shot.

We had a discussion in the bar afterwards about whether it was technically an air shot because he carved a large divot out of the turf two inches inside the ball.

At least John had 18 points, which was two more than I managed to score. But I was hitting the ball straighter towards the end when I was getting more accustomed to all the layers of warm clothing I was wearing.

But the joy of the Sparrows is that when you report your score to the Chief, you whisper it and he puts you down for a 20.

Tony, who had a creditable 25, is departing for Australia next week in time to catch up with the Ashes series. I didn't like to ask him if he had a "money back if not satisfied" deal but he isn't due back until the end of January so at least he will miss the worst of the winter.

p.corrigan@independent.co.uk

Tip of the week

No 77: Stopping those pitch shots

There's nothing more frustrating than when you have played what you feel was a perfect pitch shot into the green, but it just keeps going on by, past the flag.

Next time this happens to you, hold your finish and check your club after you have played the shot.

The club shaft should be pointing at the target and the toe of the club should be pointing to the sky.

If you allow the toe of the club to pass the heel too quickly through impact, you are de-lofting the club and it will be difficult to stop the ball on the green.

If the shaft of the club is pointing left of the target (for right-handed golfers) when you hold your finish, you will again be closing the face of the club and coming over the top of the ball.

This encourages the ball to roll when it lands.

Practise holding that finish position and this will help you achieve better striking and stopping prowess on the greens.

Simon Iliffe is head professional at Bramley Golf Club, Surrey. www.theshortgame.co.uk

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
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

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project