The Hacker: Purple patch but red numbers elude me

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The Independent Online

It's probably asking too much to expose a newly assembled golfing strategy to the challenges of two of our top courses; anyway, that's my excuse after returning from Royal Dornoch and Nairn suitably chastened.

Not that your performance matters too much when you visit such classic links. The marvel of it all tends to dominate all other considerations. It is a privilege just being there. You gratefully accept whatever score you scrape together.

However, there was one moment during my first trip to this glorious part of Scotland when I felt my act was getting itself together.

We were playing Nairn Dunbar, which doesn't enjoy the world renown of the other two courses, but is an excellent championship links in its own right.

It was a much windier day than the other two and the fact it was behind us after the turn helped me score 19 points on the back nine, my only purple patch on the trip.

My chance of glory was snatched away on the par-five 16th. Our four-ball better-ball was all square and my new, slow-tempo swing produced three arrow-straight shots that landed me with a 10-feet putt for a nett eagle and the hole.

Then, one of our opponents, Paul, who was off the green for two, holed out from 50 yards for a real eagle. I was so shaken, I made a mess of the putt for a half and we went one down, where we stayed.

My partner that day was the Welsh singer/songwriter Martyn Joseph, who has written a song to commemorate this year's Ryder Cup which is well worth listening to.

Martyn doesn't drink, so was given the task of driving the 12 of us around in our hired mini-coach. It was a chore but he had the satisfaction every morning of being the only man on the coach without a hangover.

Golf trips can be as much a strain on socialising strengths as golfing ability. I wish some of my prowess in the former could be transferred to the latter. But it was difficult to feel mouldy for long when faced with the glories of Royal Dornoch and Nairn.

Dornoch is often rated in the top dozen world courses and has Tom Watson among its admirers. Apart from the beauty of its situation, the large rolling greens, many of them on plateaus surrounded by swales and bunkers, are a delight if you ever manage to reach them.

Nairn, which staged the 1999 Walker Cup, is another formidable delight. A decent slicer could plop a shot into the Moray Firth on each of the first seven holes. I managed to avoid that but was bothered by the gorse and heather.

I'm accustomed to being overawed by mighty courses in the past month. Three weeks ago I refused to reveal how many points I scored on Celtic Manor's 2010 Ryder Cup lay-out.

I promised to share it only on receipt of a letter signed by a hacker's mother and father. Sure enough, Simon Jones, of Yateley, Hampshire, got his father, Phil, and mother, Louise, to add their names to an amusing letter. They are now in possession of my dreadful secret.

I have no qualms in revealing that I scored 14 points at Dornoch and 20 at Nairn. Not very good, I admit, but they weren't the lowest in our group.

Tip of the week

No 48: struggling for carry?

With the invention of golf GPS systems and laser distance-measuring devices it is important to know how far you are carrying the ball.

Most of us only recognise total distance rather than carry distance. For a little more carry, we need to keep the ball in the air for longer. If your normal game is reliant on the ball running, you need a greater launch angle.

Position the ball further forward in the stance towards the left foot. This will encourage the club to strike the ball more on the up, and add loft at impact. Keep your weight back (behind the ball) on the right foot, to let the club strike the ball on an ascending angle.

You should see a higher launch angle with longer carries. It's only carry distances that are important to determine.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey.