The Hacker: I'd really like to improve but I can't remember how to do it
Sunday 23 November 2008
A few years ago I had a golfing lesson from Justin Rose, the affable and gifted Englishman who will surely win a major one day.
I need hardly say that this was not a private lesson but part of a corporate day during which he and Darren Clarke gave an exhibition and then passed among us, watching us swing and issuing some individual tips.
At the end I had my picture taken with Justin and he kindly signed it for me. It wasn't until I got home that I looked at it. "To Peter," he'd written. "Just ignore what I said."
I'm still not sure whether he felt that he had not adequately dealt with my problems or whether he recognises stony ground when he sees it.
It didn't really matter, because I'd forgotten what he had said anyway. No offence to him, but my capacity to absorb advice is notoriously feeble, as it is in most walks of my life.
This inability to retain the lessons your pro hammers into you is the bugbear of most hackers. Even for the best, golf is a game of perpetual learning, and a poor pupil pays a high price.
Some, however, do find it infuriatingly easy. I played in the fourball better-ball turkey trot the other weekend and had the pleasure of marking the winning card.
Malcolm and Steve had a better-ball score of 60. My fellow struggler Mike and I felt we didn't play badly, but still we couldn't manage better than 72.
Steve told us that five years ago he was the Welsh bowls champion and fancied a change of game. He took up golf from scratch and is down to 13 already. He is determined to reach single figures, which he is likely to do soon.
We can't all be quick learners, but even being a slow learner would be a help. It is a simple matter of replacing the bad facets of your swing with the good parts demonstrated time and again by your pro.
It is really quite straightforward, but knowing where I am going wrong is one thing; persuading my body to repeat the process correctly every time is quite another.
I've taken to practising my swing in front of the bathroom mirror every morning and I hope to try out one or two instructional DVDs.
But it probably doesn't dawn on those who produce them that if you are incapable of absorbing the simplest rudiments of a golf swing then you are unlikely to be able to operate a DVD either.
However, the best way to improve is to get out on the golf course as often as possible. My dentist and I were out at Royal Porthcawl on Wednesday, which was a lovely day, if a trifle breezy.We played only eight holes, because he had crowned one of my teeth the previous day and he was anxious to buyme a drink.
He hasn't played much this year and has resolved to play much more over the winter. He once played off single figures and wants to recapture his better days.
It's good to join up with someone on a similar mission, although there is a slight difference. He's looking for something he has lost, whereas I'm seeking something I never had.
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