The Hacker: Peter brings home bacon but gets grilled for telling porkies

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The Independent Online

To be accused of being a pot-hunter in our winter league attracts much scorn and I am afraid such an allegation raised a heated debate in the bar last Sunday lunchtime.

It went further that that – the word "grooming" was used. Now, this word has serious connotations in the internet age and it must be emphasised that nothing of that nature is suggested.

But the deliberate befriending of a high-handicap player by a low-handicapper in order to inveigle him into pairing up in the winter league is not a trivial matter.

To be a pot-hunter in the spring, summer and autumn is fine; indeed that's precisely why most enter competitions. But the winter league is regarded as a bit of fun, an excuse to keep active during the colder months. You play to win, of course, but not too seriously and the joshing and the camaraderie both on the course and in the bar afterwards is just as important.

We do have a trophy, but the other prizes are more likely to include a sack of potatoes or a pair of oven gloves.

However, the thrill of winning is a powerful lure for some and after two big wins in the first two weeks of the 10-week session, Porky has come under scrutiny because his partner has been playing very well indeed for a 21-handicapper.

It has to be explained that the format for our winter league, known as the Snakes and Ladders, is foursomes and each pair must have a combined handicap of at least 20. Porky, as a four-handicapper, had to chose a partner who plays off 16 at least, but it is the care with which he chose the 21-handicapper that brought him to the notice of the chief snake.

His real name is Peter but everyone calls him Porky because of his passion for bacon sandwiches, and he was heavily grilled in the bar about how he came to pick his partner, another Peter.

He said it was a chance meeting in the bar but even his brother, who is called Slug for a reason I have yet to discover, didn't believe that.

The accusation was that Porky had observed Peter playing in another competition and earmarked him as a potential hotshot off his handicap. It didn't help the ribaldry that had by now engulfed the entire bar that Peter bears an uncanny resemblance to John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, which led to some unnecessary comments.

Since he hasn't been a member long, he was questioned about his past and admitted he'd previously played off 15 at a neighbouring club but hadn't played for a while before joining us when, for some reason, he was given a 21 handicap.

We've recently had a spate of newcomers being given generous handicaps and no one can understand why. You would have thought they would have been required to start low and work their way up.

Bob, our chief snake, has threatened to reduce Peter's handicap to 17 but is not sure if he has the authority. As a former chief snake, I think he has. I once allowed a man to play off 36. Mind you, he did have two artificial arms.

The matter is still under consideration but all this kerfuffle had led to other people being accused of playing off false handicaps.

One complaint concerns a 25-handicapper called Martin who is playing out of his skin. But, as I explained, there are times when a hacker suddenly starts playing well for no apparent reason. But playing well in foursomes off winter tees is not the same as playing a medal round in the spring when your handicap can be properly judged.

It so happened that I played with Martin on a golfing trip to Scotland last year and he was worse than me. If that does not prove that you are a genuine high-handicapper, nothing will.

Tip of the week

No 84: Playing from wet fairways

With the conditions we have been experiencing in the last few weeks, many of our courses have been left with very wet and muddy fairways.

These can be daunting lies to play from if we do not have the correct technique.

The most important factor is to make sure of a clean strike on the ball, and not to strike the ball heavily and take much turf.

When addressing the shot, position the ball inside of your left heel (if you are a right-handed golfer) like a driver.

Then place a little more weight on your left side than usual and have your hand position level with the ball.

The forward ball position will encourage a more sweeping action and help you to make a less descending blow which would take more turf.

The extra weight on the left side will make sure there is just enough of a downward strike so that you don't top the shot.

Try this and you'll improve your ball-striking off those wet lies.

Simon Iliffe is head professional at Bramley Golf Club, Surrey.