The Hacker: Make yours a triple, he said. Now that's advice I'm happy to follow
Sunday 02 October 2011
If I can't sort out my faltering golf, at least I seem to be doing good to others. Over the years, I've had plenty of reaction from other hackers who derive great comfort from reading about someone who is even worse than they are. But never before have I been credited with providing a cure.
Jeremy James has written to say how advice he read in this column three Sundays ago revolutionised his game.
Oh, the stinging irony of it all. That advice was supposed to put my game right. Yet my game is still struggling while Jeremy's is flourishing.
He writes: "Over the last couple of years (I am quite old), I have dropped below hacking to being a coarse golfer. I've had lessons, read books... and my game was so much a nightmare I have thought seriously of throwing my clubs into the river.
"Then I saw the phrase 'slow and soft' in your last piece. Actually, I remembered it wrongly as 'slow and smooth' but the effect was sensational.
"I didn't lose a ball in 18 holes. I only had one seven (a 500-yard brute) and I broke 100 quite easily by swinging slow and smooth and aiming for bogeys not pars."
He says it is the first time that he has truly enjoyed a round of golf for two years and suggests that as a reward I buy myself a triple of whatever I drink.
If I buy myself a triple, it will be to drown the sorrows of another season that seems to be passing without my breaking 100 in a medal.
But I must take encouragement from Jeremy's experience. The last medal of the year is being held this weekend and I go into it determined to heed my own words or, rather, the words of a professional who has been trying patiently to rescue my game from its poverty.
His attempts to take the tension out of my swing and get me to concentrate on a full turn and smooth swoop of the club-head through the ball have worked wonders for my game in matchplay.
But there comes a time in every medal round when the old demons get me tensing up and the ball starts flying all over the place.
But if Jeremy can do it, so can I; although I am a little worried about an email he sent me last week in which he wrote: "What I neglected to say was 'slow and smooth' doesn't work unless you keep the left arm straight and the right elbow glued to the side; pivot the shoulders and hips completely but don't over-swing; start the swing with the hips and kick in with the right leg but don't overbalance; pronate the wrists and hit through the ball; finish your follow-through with the club-head touching the right ankle; KYBHS throughout."
The last bit of advice – keep your bloody head still – is fair enough but for a hacker to approach the ball with that many thoughts buzzing around his head is a recipe for disaster.
By all means practise these tips on the range. But on the course the philosophy is to relax, follow a pre-shot routine, don't grip the club tightly and swing slowly and smoothly. If you want another acronym, think of KISS – keep it simple, stupid.
Jeremy goes on to talk about a game he had last week with an elderly gent who was a seriously good golfer in his youth.
"He gave me a stroke a hole and a wonderful tip: forget the back-swing, he said, above all forget cocking the wrists, and concentrate on the follow-through. It worked."
I don't know if Jeremy feels confused by taking on board all this advice but I am.
Before I go out and play, I shall empty my mind of everything but the two words that we began with, "soft and slow". If it doesn't work, I know who to blame.
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