The Hacker: Removal ofBig Bang theory is driving me round the bend

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The Independent Online

My best friend in golf is going to be torn from me at the end of the year by order of the Royal and Ancient. No matter that we've been inseparable for the past five years, no matter that I can't imagine teeing off without him; the guardians of golf havedecreed that me and mydriver must part.

I can hold him one last time on New Year's Eve, but on 1 January 2008, he will be an outlaw; classified under Rule 4 as a non-conforming club and fit only for the hacker's yard.

For all my inadequacies on a golf course, my driver is the most trustworthy club that I possess, and I'm unsure I can get a replacement that satisfies me and the new rules at the same time.

Then there is the expense. Countless thousands of hackers are going to have to buy new drivers; and they don't come cheap.

Not that I can complain. My TaylorMade R580 was given to me, and the reason it is no longer kosher is that its pliable metal face has a "spring-like" effect on the ball. Hitting the ball with that thin skin is like bouncing it off a trampoline.

Millions of similar clubs were being played with before the R & A and the United States Golf Association, who rule world golf between them, decided that they provided an unfair advantage.

The speed at which a ball flies off the club face is called the "Coefficient Of Restitution" and they came up with a maximum COR. Any club that bounced the ball off at a higher rate was banned.

To be fair, they gave a few years' grace to the hackers. First, these clubs were banned from the professional circuits, then three years ago they were banned from top amateur and inter-club competitions and, finally, they are now going to be banned at club level from the beginning of next year.

Last week, I rang a pal who is high up in the world of golf administration and he confirmed that this was the case. "But is it OK if I just use it when playing with my friends?" I asked.

"As long as you don't mind breaking a rule of golf," he said, chillingly.

Using it, he added, would be the equivalent of kicking the ball in the rough to improve your lie.

"Don't tell me that's illegal as well," I gasped. I hope he knew I was joking.

Many will be going through a similar torment to mine. A golfer is closer to his driver than to any other club. Some may be attached to a certain putter, but the driver is the one that launches you into action on a long hole.

It's part of your manhood and, since the massive-headed drivers were introduced,there is always a frisson onthe tee when you peel off your head cover.

This is reflected in some of the names that now litter the banned list: the "Big 'Un", "Big, Big Bang", "Bang-O-Matic", "Killer Bee" and "Macho Express". There will be other big clubs with lurid names, but it won't be the same.

As if the game isn't hard enough already, they're going to take away my only source of reliability. It's a good job I'm thick-skinned.