The Hacker: New allowance shouldn't be as much of a strain as a hernia

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Golfers who have to face me in match-play events say they are under extra pressure because of the humiliation they would have to face if they lost. Mercifully, my last two opponents avoided that fate.

I did manage to conjure up a scare or two for them but my traditional early exit from our two main tournaments was completed last week.

Any attempt to offer excuses would be scuppered by the shed-load of shots they had to give me. Since I play off 28, Colin, off seven, had to give me 21 shots while Jay, off six, had to give me 22.

Prior to last year, I would have received only three-quarters the difference. Then, to make it fairer to the high handicapper, the rule was changed to full difference and the better players are still not happy about it.

Jay met my son on a coach taking Cardiff City fans to Wembley for the Championship play-off final last weekend. "I've got to give your dad 22 shots," he complained. "I've got no chance."

My son, who considers my standard of play a family disgrace, put him at his ease by offering to bet £100 on him.

Nevertheless, Jay was still apprehensive on the first tee last Tuesday; a state of mind that wasn't eased when I hit two super shots down the first and won it with a net birdie.

I won the second with a net par and when, on the par-five third, I was on the green in three, I don't know which of us was more stunned.

But while I three-putted for a net par, he got a birdie and my lead was back to one. I overhit two wedges, one of which went out of bounds, on the next two holes but although I won the sixth and halved a few more I was well beaten 5&4.

Jay, who at 35 is a Joe Cole lookalike, plays for the second team and is too good to be bothered by an old hacker like me unless I had a miracle round. All the extra shots meant was that it was less of a massacre.

I had played Colin the previous week and when I reached the first tee I explained, as I always have to, that my cataracts mean that I couldn't see the flight of my ball.

"That's a coincidence," Colin said. "I saw a consultant this morning, and I've got cataracts, too."

I lost the fourth because although I hit what sounded like a good drive, neither of us saw it. Not that it would have made much difference because I lost 3&2.

Colin, who is the brother of Welsh manager John Toshack, the former Liverpool star and manager of several big clubs on the continent including Real Madrid (twice), also confessed to being nervous about playing me.

Last year he was knocked out of the competition by a player who was waiting for a hernia operation and was wearing a big body belt.

"Just imagine, losing one year to a man wearing a corset and the next to the worst hacker in the club," he said as we walked in.

Official statistics prove beyond any doubt that the new system is much fairer – indeed, the evidence suggests that the shots allowance should be even higher – and good players shouldn't be alarmed. All they have to do is play well.

It's not pleasure that people get from beating us; it's sheer relief. It's nice to have the power to frighten people, even for a short time.

Tip of the week

No 51: check your bunker lie

How much time do you take to assess your lie in the bunker? Often the cause of a poor bunker shot is the inexperienced eye not checking to evaluate the lie. A typical problem I often witness is a lie that has an amount of sand built up just behind the ball.

Most golfers wouldn't even notice the difficulty. If a normal bunker stance and shot are taken, the sole of the club will strike the sand too high and too early, causing the club to bounce and thin the ball into the face of the bunker, or over the green. A more downward blow is required, making sure to strike into the sand with the leading edge and not to sweep like a normal bunker shot.

Take time when evaluating your bunker shots. It could save you as many shots as learning the correct technique.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey