The Hacker: Price out the old folks and you'll empty coffers as well as the course

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Hard-pressed old hackers, in whose ranks I am inextricably locked, are a much-maligned lot in golf clubs and may be heading for more grief due to the new Equality Act.

The Act was rushed through by the last government before they were flung out in May and its application to golf clubs covers much more than the rights of women members.

Traditionally, pensioners of both sexes pay a reduced subscription once they reach 65 and have been at the club for a number of years. But that counts as discrimination under the Act which commanded the reduction be phased out. This would be very costly for the elders at some clubs.

Wiser heads have since called for further thought on this and no official action will be taken until April 2012 but many clubs reckon it is a very good idea and feel encouraged to do their own culling.

Last year, old golfers were accused of clogging up our courses. That they were doing so on the cheap further infuriated the critics.

In a game that prides itself on keeping its practitioners active well into their advanced years, there were many voices raised in defence of the old-timers most of whom, in their prime, would have done much to keep the clubs going.

But I must confess that around the time I was captain I supported a move to make a cut in the over-65 reduction because it was clear our age profile was moving remorselessly upwards.

That was almost 20 years ago and since then the number of lively old-timers tramping around the course is increasing at a faster rate.

We can't escape the irony that once you retire you play more and pay less and, with most clubs struggling financially, they can ill-afford the concession. But they must be careful not to overdo the purge. At our club it is only £50 a year but the reduction runs into hundreds at others and that would be a big fees hike.

Pricing out the old folks runs the risk of not only emptying the course but emptying the coffers as well.

In last week's column I highlighted the plight of a 75-year-old 22-handicapper who had given the game up because his club refused to lift their 18-handicap limit despite a directive from the golfing union. Most clubs have complied, in some cases very reluctantly. I imagine they'll be a lot more eager to take extra money from us than to honour our bona-fide handicaps.

On a brighter note, I have the honour this week to captain the visitors against the members of Cardigan Golf Club who are hoping to revive an old tradition. For years, they invited any holiday-making golfers to play a match. Visitors to that part of Wales who fancied a game would put their names down and, regardless of numbers, the club would put out a team of members against them. The match was followed by a riotous evening – few of which I have total recall.

Unfortunately, the match fell by the wayside and this year's captain, Edred Lloyd, mindful that it is the 900th anniversary of Cardigan (the town not the club) wants to reinstate it in the calendar.

It takes place at 2pm on Wednesday and you need to put your name down in advance. They don't give much away in that part of the country so take advantage of this generous offer.

Tip of the week

No 62: know your shafts

It is thought that the shaft and clubhead can be equally destructive if either component does not match a player's style.

There are four main factors when discussing shafts: weight, flex, torque and length. The weight is important; too heavy and you will not generate enough clubhead speed and lose distance; too light and you lose feel and control. If the flex of the shaft is too soft, you will lose control and generally hit shots too high or hook the ball; too stiff and you will hit the ball too low or slice.

The torque is the rotational twist properties of the shaft. It helps the clubhead to square up at impact. Too much torque and you will hook; too little and you will slice.

Finally the length; a golfer will have more control with shorter shafts but may lose distance. With longer shafts, more clubhead speed can be generated but a lack of control is often inevitable.

When buying new clubs, get the club-head right but pay equal attention to the shaft as well.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey.