The Hacker: Old golfers never die, they just potter about with their putters

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It is a sad fact that the highest number of incurable hackers are to be found among the more elderly golfers, and they've been attracting some unfavourable attention lately.

Not for being hackers; just for being elderly. The complaint is that they are hogging the fairways to the detriment of younger players.

There's a new saying – old hackers never die and theydon't fade away quickly enough, either.

It is suggested that their freedom to play should be curtailed because they are not only living longer but staying active well into their eighties and, increasingly, into their nineties. And what's more, they pay reduced subs.

It has to be admitted that senior citizens are reputed to be better off these days, so there is a case for stopping, or at least delaying, the reduction. But the idea that there should be a cull of golf's aged because they're making the place look untidy is a betrayal of the game's ethos.

I won't admit to being elderly, but as I approach the springtime of my senility I think the number of sprightly old golfers playing regularly is to be celebrated, not moaned about by those too thick to realise that it is their horizon being nudged further away as well as ours.

I played on Wednesday with an old pal who is approaching his 88th birthday and hadn't been on the course for a year. His long-standing fourball had broken up because of death and ill-health, and he'd had a battle with cancer.

Rex, who spent the war in a Japanese prison camp on Java, is a veteran of Fleet Street, where he worked for the 'Daily Express', 'Daily Mail' and 'The Times', and he has been a golfer most of his life, at one time playing off 12.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and although he was a bit rusty and we played only six holes, it was a pleasure to share his enjoyment at being back on the course. We plan to playregularly, and how anyone can begrudge such a therapeutic blessing is beyond me.

A day later, I was at a club meeting when this very subject was debated. Our problem, as it must be at most clubs, is that our average age is close to 62, and the number getting reduced fees at 65 is growing relentlessly while we are losing members in their twenties because they can't afford it.

I'm afraid the pensioners' concession will have to be examined, which is a view that won't make me popular with our veterans section. I upset them enough a few years ago when I complained about the speed of their fourballbetter-ball matches. I wrote to the captain describing how this slow-moving phalanx was clogging up the course and causing misery to those playing behind them.

The captain got a bit shirty with me. He said he didn't like the sexual reference in my letter.

What sexual reference?

"You know," he said, lowering his voice. "Phalanx."

I explained that it was nothing to do with phallic but was a close-order military formation much loved by the Roman legions. He still doesn't believe me and I still haven't joined the veterans section, despite having long qualified. I'll leave it until I'm a bit older.