The Hacker: It's lambs to the slaughter as the shank contagion keeps spreading

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The Independent Online

Tales of shankers' woes have been pouring in since I dwelt last week on the dreaded act of hitting the ball sideways. It's bad luck even to mention the word and, sure enough, I did one myself last weekend – on Captain's Day of all days.

Thankfully, it turned out tobe a solitary blip, unlike many of my fellow club members who have suddenly been afflicted by the contagion.

The saddest sufferer I've heard from is Andy, a member of my profession with whom I shared a freebie golf trip to Portugal a few years ago.

Andy, who plays off 12, was shank-struck several weeks ago and has had so many tips and lessons he confesses to be "completely confused and totally depressed".

During his club's matchplay tournament last week he conceded on the ninth when he was already five down, and immediately scratched from all competitions.

He has booked a session with a golf psychologist at Sheffield University and promises to let me know if he can find a cure.

Apart from my one shank, I had an enjoyable Captain's Day. We play a foursomes Stableford competition with a draw for partners. The good players go in one hat and the higher handicappers in another.

With 250 players involved, and with each paired with someone they don't normally play with, it can lead to strained relationships.

Luckily, I had drawn an affable young man called Tom who plays off nine and turned out to be very patient, even when my tee shot on the second shot off almost at right angles.

But I went on to give a better account of myself, and Tom's steadiness brought us home with a respectable 33 points.

As luck would have it, the pair we were playing with included Yan, who is recovering from an illness and had the use of a buggy. Because we were both driving the even holes, I had the luxury of a free ride.

Unfortunately, while Yan and I were circling around looking for their ball on the third, we ran over it. This not only pressed the ball firmly into the ground but, as I felt obliged to point out, cost them a penalty shot.

Since they weren't having a good time anyhow it didn't matter, and we had a great day in the sun.

The only sad note of the day was when we found a dead racing pigeon on the 17th. We took the body back so that we could contact the owner via the metal tags on its legs but we couldn't work out how it died.

The bird only had a slight mark on its neck, which seemed to rule out a fox. It might have been a sparrowhawk or, as someone suggested: "Perhaps a shank got him."

Since everybody seemed to be suffering from it that day – one man had 10 – it was no laughing matter.

Then on Thursday we had a big charity tournament and Nick, the captain, who plays off plus one, had a shank on the 18th. The word spread rapidly. If it can happen to the captain, it can afflict anyone.

The captain himself was quite philosophical about it until we went in for dinner. The main dish was lamb shank. The chef swears it was a coincidence.