The Hacker: I've ironed out my flaws so I did take away some consolation
Many times have I been poised on the brink of a golfing breakthough but, alas, they've all turned out to be a false promise of better days.
Now I find another new dawn shedding light on me and this time, even allowing for my gullible optimism, it feels like the real thing.
Coming only a week after my humiliating encounter with the 2010 Ryder Cup course at Celtic Manor, this may take some believing.
But in the two games I've played since, a new weapon has joined my armoury. It arises from a tip given to me at St Andrews two weeks ago when John Kelly, the golf director at the Rusacks Hotel, suggested a change which, though simple, is difficult to explain without waving my arms around.
I took to it immediately and with a seven iron I began peppering the 150 yards board almost every time.
Even more surprising was that I hadn't hit a seven iron for three years. I had dumped my mid-irons in favour of a seven and nine wood.
I restored the seven iron to my bag but was so overawed by the 2010 course, I cowardly decided against employing my new-found skill.
Although my next game was at the pleasant but far less demanding Oake Manor course near Taunton, I still felt inhibited and so I stuck to my old swing.
When I was three down after five holes I had no option but to make the change. Not only was I playing badly, I was faced with a heavy supper bill.
My opponent was James, mine host at my favourite pub, the Royal Oak at Luxborough on Exmoor. In the bar the previous night I was persuaded, in return for 10 shots, to play for the takeaway meals for two families.
To be three down after five, and hearing James express a fondness for curried tiger prawns, acted like a spur.
On the next hole I reached for my seven iron and the rest is history. The confidence that comes from hitting the ball a straight 150 yards at every time of asking can do wonders for a hacker.
I went from three down to three up with four to play and although James came back to win the next two holes, I banged four shots down the middle of the par-five 17th and won 2 & 1.
I haven't yet worked out how we ended up having cod and chips but I was too dazed by my new form to care.
Four days later, I had the pleasure of playing an old friend, Ron Jones, whose commentaries on football and golf have been gracing BBC Radio for over 30 years, at Radyr, north of Cardiff.
Ron and I made up a three-ball with Alun Jenkins, who has had an amazing entry into the game. He retired as a primary school headteacher last year, took up golf in October, and he is already playing off 22.
I have yet to extend my new swing to all clubs but the seven iron served me well again. My 27 points were very modest compared to Alun's 29 and Ron's 36 but I'm astonished by my progress.
Ron, who plays off nine, is a reader of The Hacker, so he knows all about my struggles and was impressed that I wasn't as bad as my adventures make out.
Perhaps it is a good job that Ron is not with me this weekend when I'm up in Scotland playing Royal Dornock and Nairn, which are no places to take a budding transformation.
Tip of the week
No 47: chipping from a tight lie
This is one of the most daunting shots, especially when there is a hazard between the player and the hole. If there is little or no grass around the ball, it can be difficult to imagine the club sliding under it. It is important to take a club with ample (but not too much) bounce, so try a pitching or lob wedge rather than sand wedge. Position the ball in the centre of the stance with 60 per cent of your weight on the left (for a right-handed golfer). Take a shorter than normal backswing and accelerate through impact, making sure to strike the bottom of the ball. With less grass around the ball there will be less resistance. It will fly further so be careful not to overshoot the green. Lead your hands into impact, don't try to add loft by letting the club-head pass the hands. Trust the loft, commit to the shot.
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey www.theshortgame.co.uk
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