The Hacker: I'm drawing a blank when it comes to emptying my mind

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At the turn of the year I made a bold statement regarding the upsurge I am expecting in my form. While in no way wishing to tone down my expectation, I have to report that my only outing so far has been less than encouraging.

I blame the weather. What we have had to endure over the past few weeks has been in no way conducive to the development of a new swing.

Actually, I don't mean a new swing. I am endeavouring to swing naturally, to allow my body to execute the required movement in the way it sees fit without bombarding it with instructions about what my head, shoulders, wrists, elbows, hips and feet should be doing at the various stages of the operation.

Some years ago, I was very impressed by Timothy Gallwey's book 'The Inner Game', in which he advanced the theory that we should place more trust in our instincts. We have an inner self that knows what to do but we introduce thoughts and worries into our minds that can only confuse matters. He was thinking mainly about tennis and golf, but what he says applies to many activities.

It is difficult to sum up such a thoughtful work in a few sentences, but to avoid letting doubts dominate our actions in golf he suggests clearing the mind of everything except the need to hit the ball. After all these years, your body should know what to do withoutany prompting.

Having tried this over Christmas with some success,I am now preparing to give my inner self every chance to prove its worth. Sadly, this will mean ignoring the many tips and words of advice I have received from readers on how to improve my swing. They are my fall-back plan.

One reader, however, will approve. Andy O'Donnell writes: "Remember Lee Trevino, Doug Sanders, Christy O'Connor...? Did they change their swings? Most of the golfers I read about are goners when they mess with their swings. Dance with who brung you there." It's not quite how Gallwey put it, but it is the same line of thinking.

But although I was armed with new-found confidence, I reckoned without the effect of the weather. Our one and only competition so far this year took place on a course white with frost.

It's difficult to keep your mind blank when your teeth are chattering and youreyes watering.

We were playing in teams of four, best three Stableford scores on each hole to count. I was playing with Andy, who like me is off 26; Mike, off 20; and Bob, a solid 12.

Our first shock was that it was three-quarters handicap, so we lost 20 shots between us before we started. If we'd been playing off three or less, we wouldn't have lost any.

We were even more grumpy after scoring just one point between us on the first. The greens were so hard that our pitches were bouncing everywhere and it was like putting over cobblestones.

It got easier as the day gradually thawed, but our finishing scores were 21, 23, 26 and 27, and you needn't ask who got the 21.

It was a bad start but I have an excuse. It's hard to empty a mind that is full of curses.