The Hacker: Jeff tucks into the bacon baps and is bitten by the bug
Sunday 13 December 2009
It is a testament to the power of golf when you witness a man who is bitten by the bug before your very eyes – especially when it's pouring down with rain.
Anyone can be smitten by golf when they are standing on a sun-blessed fairway, with birds singing and the blue sky framing a panoramic view.
But on a wet and windy hill in Wales it is a near miracle, even more so when the man concerned is 66 years old. Jeff may be a sprightly 66 but it is a ripe age to suddenly discover a new passion.
It was a wonder we were out there at all. It was the club chef's 40th birthday and he'd invited a crowd of us for a game punctuated by large amounts of food and drink.
But the weather was atrocious and by 8am we'd all been informed that the course was closed and it was all off.
An hour later, however, we all had a text message that it was back on again. They'd opened 11 holes and the chef was waiting to dish out bacon baps before we started.
I'm not sure whether chef is the right description, Perhaps cook is better but who knows these days. It reminds me of the old Army joke about the Regimental Sergeant Major marching into the canteen and bawling: "Who called the chef a cook?" Came the answer from the back: "Who called the cook a chef?"
I'm not sure I've got the words right but there's frequent confusion about the terms and perhaps that is why we call our cook the caterer.
Whatever his title, Ben has done a superb job for us in the past year. Whether he is feeding four or 150 he has served dishes of a very high standard and has contributed greatly to the pleasures of club life.
There's not a job more infuriating than catering for golf club members. They never stop moaning and even Delia Smith would be cursing like Gordon Ramsay after a week, particularly when four ladies order a pot of tea for two and four cups.
But Ben copes with it all admirably and he has taken up playing golf when he is not at the cooker. So despite the weather it was a fitting birthday for him to be out on the course with his friends, not all of whom, it must be said, are all that familiar with the game. Together with Steve, a fellow club member who plays off 18, I was in the last group with two of them.
It was far from an ideal day for rookie golfers but Adrian, Ben's father, and Jeff stuck manfully to the task. Steve and I tried to give instructional advice which consisted mainly of shouting "keep your bloody head down" but, despite being wet, Adrian did not take to it like a duck to water.
He had so many air shots that pilots at Cardiff airport were complaining about the turbulence.
Jeff, on the other hand, found a decent swing from somewhere and was hitting the ball sweetly by the end.
"I wish I'd taken up this game years ago," he said excitedly. "I'm going to join the club as soon as I can."
I should have told him to do himself a favour and buy a set of darts. He'd have more fun and never get wet. But it's too late. He has the unmistakable symptoms of a man captured by the incurable disease that inflicts so many of us.
Tip of the week
No 31: playing in the frost
This time of year is always frustrating for golfers, as bright sunny mornings also bring frosty conditions. When playing around the greens, it is best to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. If the ball is lofted into the green, it is at the mercy of the frost as to how hard it bounces, and that is almost impossible to determine. The following are all shots worth trying in the frost: six-iron bump and run; putter from off the green; hybrid or fairway wood played like a putt. All these can be tried from as far as 75 yards from the green. Try these different methods and find which works best for you. Leave that 60-degree club in the garage until the spring...
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey.
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