The Hacker: Snooze you lose as I fail test of playing golf in my sleep

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The Independent Online

Sometimes, a sporting life can be too much even for an enthusiast, and last weekend I proved not to be equal to the challenge.

It started on the Friday night with a dinner to mark Cardiff City's centenary, a great evening of well-lubricated nostalgia, and by the time I reached home the Adelaide Test match was well under way.

I sat in the chair to watch a few overs and the next thing I knew the phone was ringing. It was 8.57am, I was still fully dressed and Mike was impolitely reminding me we were due off the first tee at 9am.

Thankfully, it was a fourball better-ball medal and he could start without me. "Get here as soon as you can," he said, "but don't worry, you rarely score on the first three holes, anyway."

It was a lousy morning. Everything was frozen solid and yet it was raining; only the craziest would venture out in conditions like that.

They were halfway down the fourth before I caught up with them and I can't say I received a warm welcome. They were more interested about what had happened in the cricket. I then realised that I hadn't seen a ball bowled. Seven hours in front of the television set and I didn't even know the score.

But I knew our golf score and it wasn't very good. Our playing partners, Max and George, were going very well but, subdued as I was, I couldn't cope with the icy ground from which the ball bouncedsky-high at peculiar angles.

You soon learned not to send high pitches towards the pin, and because of the ice we played to temporary greens, some of which were not well sited. To compensate, the holes were extra large, about a foot in diameter, but the business of putting was a lottery.

"Still, it gets us out for a bit of exercise," said someone. It was pouring with rain and difficult to keep your feet at the time but I stifled an appropriate response. Strangely enough, I eventually began hitting my drives well and the ball was bounding much further down the fairways than usual.

Our score of 31 on the back nine was one better than the other pair but we were miles off the best score and it certainly didn't beat a morning in bed.

On Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to attend the Golfer of the Year media lunch in London and Colin Montgomerie spoke well about probably the best year European golf has ever had.

My colleagues on the judging panel had a difficult time choosing the golfer of the year. At times, I'm told, it was like a scene from 12 Angry Men. In the end they couldn't decide between Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer and made them joint winners.

Had the judging panel met a few days later, after McDowell's brilliant defeat of Tiger Woods in Tiger's own tournament in Los Angeles, it would have surely tilted in the Ulsterman's favour.

Speaking about great years, I bored my fellow members of the Cardiff & County Club Golf Society at our Christmas lunch on Thursday by recounting my big moment of the year, when I won the £10 third prize in our autumn tournament.

I didn't dwell on the fact that only 12 played and, because it was so wet, six of those called it a day after nine holes. Society golf is very enjoyable. Everyone is keen to win but the atmosphere is friendly and high-handicappers like me are certainly not discouraged.

This particular society holds a lunch the day before we play and the pairs for the tournament are drawn out of a hat. The penalty for not attending lunch is two shots, and some think that's a low price to pay for a clear head the next day.

But my main worry is that when someone draws me, they have 24 hours to think of an excuse for not turning up.

Tip of the week

No 79: Getting to the course on time

We've all done it, running late for our tee-off time and arriving on the first tee with only a few minutes to spare.

It is not the ideal start to the round, but what's the best way to prepare yourself for a stressful opening few holes?

To save shots, I suggest that you head straight for the practice putting green and have a few chips and putts.

Getting the speed and firmness of the greens is essential, and is definitely more important than hitting balls on the range.

It will also give you a chance to calm down. Get a feel for the long and mid-range putts and hole a few three-footers, just to gain some confidence before you head for the first tee.

Once you get there, have a few warm-up swings with a five-iron (nice and easy).

Then hit a safe hybrid or fairway wood from the tee in order to get you going.

Don't reach for the driver and try to blast it when you're not fully warmed up.

If you follow this simple procedure, you'll definitely save yourself a few shots.

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