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The Hacker: It's best to stay in the bunker during the Cairo revolution

Hackers are to be found in many other places than looking for their balls in the rough. Take Cairo, for instance. Richard, who has contributed one or two of his hacking experiences to this column in the past, moved to Cairo last year for reasons he hasn't explained.

He's been playing with the British golf society out there but obviously chances of a game over the past month or so have not been good.

However, at the height of the disturbances, he joined his neighbours on night patrol against looters and took along his most offensive weapon, a six-iron.

But his hacker's enthusiasm was rebuffed. "They said they felt safer with their shotguns and hunting rifles and sent me back to bed," reports Richard.

They probably felt his chances of landing a telling blow on a looter was not much greater than sending a golf ball in the right direction.

Sadly, hackers have to put up with these slurs and there are other places in the world where their problems are not confined to how they hit a golf ball.

Wayne, a regular reader and a member of our club, emailed me from Sierra Leone, where he is working at the moment, to report that, despite their recent turbulent history, he managed to get a game.

There is only one course in the country: in the capital, Freetown, two and a half hours' drive away from where Wayne is working.

When he and his colleague Dave arrived, they were warmly welcomed by the club secretary and professional.

"I don't think visitors had troubled them since 2008," writes Wayne. "Unfortunately, since the war and due to lack of funds the course was not in the best of condition but at over 6,000 yards it was quite a challenge."

The course had "browns" instead of greens, with a man employed to smooth them out before putting, and was home to 10 of the world's 12 most deadly snakes including the black mamba, which can move at 14mph and has enough venom to kill 30 men with one bite.

Luckily, Wayne is a five-handicapper and a straight hitter and never missed a fairway. Dave's drives found the jungle on most holes but, wisely, they sent their caddies to look for the ball.

They enjoyed the course and will be revisiting it but Wayne warns that "it is definitely a course The Hacker should avoid".

Perhaps I should give it a try. If anything is going to cure my slice, the thought of a black mamba might well do the trick.

John Berry emails another crow story, this one a little spooky. "Three of us were trying to play a round at Springhead, near Hull, and as we approached the seventh green a large crow swooped down and flew off with one of our balls.

"As we made our way down the eighth, we found a ball in the middle of the fairway, so we knew it couldn't be one of ours," he added. "On inspection, we found the word CROW stamped on it. Surreal, but true."

Before the crows start writing in, however, this correspondence must end and we must return to the normal theme of this column, which is my forlorn pursuit of a better golf game.

Last week I joined the Wednesday swindle, the Chips, who run a tight ship and insisted that I played off 24 instead of 28. Despite this savage cut I managed to score a fairly respectable 31 but, more importantly, my gross score was 98.

Regular readers will know of my many heart-rendingly hopeless attempts to break 100 in a medal over the past 10 years. This wasn't a medal and we were playing off winter mats, so it doesn't count.

I've been fooled by too many false dawns to allow myself to get excited but during this foul winter there have been one or two signs of improvement and I have to confess to a slight stirring of optimism.


Simon Iliffe's tip of the week

No 87: The Bent Left Elbow

There is often so much confusion about golfers having a bent left elbow on their backswing (for right-handed players).

What generally happens as the body loses flexibility is that golfers still try to keep "width" in their backswing and simply lift their arms. This stops the shoulders from turning and the left arm bends, narrowing the width of the swing.

Make sure to turn your shoulders fully, but don't necessarily lift your hands. Keeping the left arm relatively straight is much more important than feeling you have high hands at the top of the backswing.

With a full shoulder turn you'll achieve good power using the bigger muscles, which are in the back and shoulders.

With good flexibility you can still achieve high hands, and a straight left arm for ultimate power and increased club-head speed.

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