The Hacker: It's sad when a good argument leaves you off your trolley

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The Independent Online

After much heated debate, a competition held at our club last Saturday has been declared null and void and there are many aggrieved golfers as a result – none more so than the poor souls who would have won it.

There's nothing golfers like more than a good argument but, usually, they involve rule disputes out on the course.

When the players return to the clubhouse they consult the rule book and seek opinions, and within no time the entire place is caught up in the row.

On Thursday night in the bar we had a long and liquid bicker over a local rule covering a plugged ball in the rough and I wish I could remember how it ended.

But the quarrel that has the whole club buzzing concerned last Saturday's Texas scramble and a decision taken by a club official. A Texas scramble is a complicated competition for teams of four and is very popular as a change from the normal tournaments. It is also very competitive.

Our saturated course had been closed for most of the week but it had been ruled playable as long as no caddie cars or trolleys were allowed.

Caddie cars have been banned for months but refusing the use of trolleys is far more contentious because it is debatable whether their wide wheels do much damage.

There's a steep hill in the middle of our course that has distinct cardiac possibilities, and having to carry a bag around 18 holes is not popular. You wouldn't catch Tiger Woods doing it.

But rules are rules and when the players arrived, those who rely on trolleys had to start jettisoning clubs, clothing and equipment from their bag.

Bob, who is 85, had to have a wholesale clear-out and still came back knackered. Another player went out carrying five loose clubs under his arm and only one ball.

By lunchtime the early starters returned and their opinion was that conditions weren't bad and there had been no need to ban trolleys.

So a club official who was about to go out erased the "no trolleys" sign from the starting board. Since he always carries his bag it was not a selfish decision, but it meant the last five groups could use trolleys if they wished.

The reaction of those trudging in wearily to the sight of teams happily trundling their trolleys up the first was not pleasant.

When the match captain got to hear of it he immediately declared the competition void. There then ensued a full and frank exchange of views on whether he was right that lasted over the weekend.

On Monday, the match and handicap committee, having consulted the Golf Union of Wales, met with great solemnity and declared that all golfers in competitions must be allowed to play in "equitable conditions".

The cancellation was bad news for Sam and his team, who played without trolleys and came back with the winning score. They would have won £60 between them.

Perhaps significantly, the five teams who used trolleys finished in the top 10 scores.

Also sad were those who scored a two on certain holes. They would have won balls in the sweep run by the pro.

He wasn't happy either. He had to give back the £170 he had collected. The gloom was pretty general but at least it took our minds off England beating Wales.

Tip of the week

No 39: Safety First

The safe shot out of trouble and back into play is so often the hardest shot to make yourself play. You know full well it's the right shot but that small gap in the trees looks so inviting.

How often are trees 90 per cent air? Whether it's a long carry over water, a shot through a copse of trees or a high flop shot to a tight pin position, if you think you can pull it off more than 50 per cent of the time, go ahead and play it. If not, opt for the safe shot.

When you're playing the safe shot, don't rush it. So often players are disappointed they can't reach the green and they just hurry their lay-up. Invariably they mishit it and don't recover in a good position.

Think ahead: if you can't get to the green, imagine where you'd like to be playing your next shot from, then concentrate on hitting that spot. With a good wedge game you'll still stand a good chance of making par.

Simon Iliffe, Head Pro, Purley Downs GC, Surrey