The Hacker: Rule bullies should stay cool and pies must be kept warm

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The Independent Online

A word of advice to all hackers playing in their club winter leagues: don't be bullied. It is hard enough braving the harsh elements without having to put up with opponents who claim to know the rules better than you.

Arguments on the golf course are inevitable due to the complexity of the rules and the slightly woolly understanding of them by most golfers, and they are more likely to occur in matchplay, which is the format of most winter leagues.

Recently, I wrote about an email entitled "Honest cheats" received from Peter Harris of St Pierre, in which he talked of golfers breaking the rules through ignorance.

He suggested issuing each golfer before a round with a card plainly explaining five of the more basic rules. I recommended the idea to my club, and it received the backing of Mark Timlett, secretary of West Kent Junior 4somes League.

He wrote: "Several years ago I used to get Rules in Brief booklets from the English Golf Union for our juniors but haven't seen it for a while now. It was very helpful for the youngsters but it would be equally helpful to all age ranges as, I agree, the lack of knowledge is widespread."

One benefit would be to speed up play by reducing arguments out on the course. Peter Harris also claims it would prevent more vociferous players – and we all know plenty – holding sway on rule disputes because others are uncertain.

Another Hacker reader, Simon, who plays at the Kirtlington club in Oxfordshire, tells me that in their winter league last weekend his partner was just off the green and before he played his shot he repaired a pitch mark on the green.

One of their opponents immediately called a penalty because he said it was against the rules to repair a pitch mark unless your ball was on the green.

They disputed this and agreed to seek a ruling when they returned to the clubhouse. As it happened, Simon and his partner won by a margin big enough for that hole not to matter but, in any case, their opponent was wrong.

The essential thing was that they agreed to seek a ruling before they reached the next tee, otherwise the committee may not adjudicate.

Simon's query was if his opponent was wrong in claiming they had broken a rule, would that count as giving wrong information, which carries a penalty?

The short answer is no, but it might be a good idea if it did. The threat that they would be penalised for getting the rules wrong might dissuade rule bullies from laying down what they think is the law.

Regular Hacker readers often draw comfort from a golfer who is even worse than they are. Peter Holly has a different reason: "I read it because it serves to remind me never to take up golf, comprising as it does ritual humiliation and extreme weather in equal measure. So I manage to resist the overtures of my friend and I can therefore enjoy the game from afar."

Seeing my name induces a touch of nostalgia for him as he always connects it with the smell of a meat pie. "As a young boy supporting Cardiff City I used to avidly await your match reports in the pink Football Echo on Saturday nights.

"My parents used to bring home from the Maesteg Working Men's Club a Thomas of Merthyr pie wrapped up in the Football Echo, which I used to read while chomping the pie. Pure heaven!"

I think heaven lay in the pie rather than the reports. But it brings a lump to an old hack's throat to realise that not only did my words once help to keep a young boy's pie warm, they've kept him from making a fool of himself on the golf course.

Tip of the week

No 76: Know your short-game yardage

However many wedges you have in your bag, it is important to have three different yardages with each of them.

These are a full shot, a three-quarter shot and a half-shot.

For example, I carry with me a pitching wedge, a gap wedge and a lob wedge.

My full shots with each are 130 yards, 110 yards and 90 yards.

My three-quarter shots are 115 yards, 95 yards and 75 yards.

And my half-shots are 100 yards, 80 yards and 60 yards.

Therefore I have most shots from 130 yards covered with these three clubs.

Next time you are out on the practice range, spend some time with your wedges.

Make sure you earn your full, three-quarter and half-swing distances.

Remember to swing with your normal tempo.

Then simply change the length of your swing in order to change your distances.

The time you spend practising this will save you plenty of shots during your next round.

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