The Hacker: It wasn't jolly to be off my trolley and let a caddie view my folly

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The Independent Online

The capacity for self-delusion demonstrated most vividly these days by politicians and England footballers is also tobe found flourishing among certain golfers.

I don't mean pros or top amateurs, whose scores keep them in close touch with the brutal truth, but those whose golf largely consists of playing with the same foursome or four-ball partners. The further you can stay away from marking a card the less you need worry about the true state of your game.

Even regular players in the monthly medal can usually find a convincing reason for an upward curve in their scoring graphs and, generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with deluding yourself. But if you want to risk a run-in with reality I suggest you try letting an11-year-old caddie for you.

It wasn't by design. Mike, one of my playing partners, asked if I'd mind if two of his grandsons, both keen new golfers, accompanied us in the August medal last weekend. Despiteour early start of 8.16am, Michael and Spencer reported bright-eyed and eager, and Michael, the older of the two, was deputed to take command of my motorised trolley.

Normally, I'd prefer not to have a caddie. It adds pressure, because even if they don't say anything they carry an air of what in the army is called dumb insolence. But Michael was such a pleasant and polite boy I had no fears. However, I would have preferred to have impressed him with my opening drive instead of topping it 50 yards into thick, wet rough.

I sploshed my second another 50 yards, didn't do much better with my third and put myfourth into the cross-bunkers. After I'd taken a nine he said encouragingly: "Never mind, you'll soon warm up."

And so I did. With the help of a 30-footer from just off the green I got a par on the next and took a creditable six on the long par-five third.

But on the fourth tee I hit an almighty slice which flew over the trees and landed on the ninth fairway. "Best to hit a wedge back over the trees,"said Michael.

I selected a nine-wood and aimed to get it further down the fourth with height and distance. It dropped tamely in the middle of the trees, and I hit another before I reached the fairway.

You don't require further details, but Michael was treated to one of my more calamitous rounds. I can't say that his presence unnerved me. I am capable of calamity whatever my playing circumstances.

Perhaps, though, I felt a little inhibited in that I couldn't let rip with my usual fusillade of foul language. All that bottled-up cursing could have an effect.

I did hit some decent shots, and after one of them Mike reminded his grandson that he should say "Good shot" on such occasions. When I hit a beauty to the 16th green, there was a pause before Michael said: "I would have said 'Good shot' but I was yawning."

I don't think he meant it unkindly. He was tired, as anyone would be watching me score well over the 100 I was trying to break.

I'm determined to do better next time, but I reckon I'll be pushing my own trolley.