The Hacker: Some lateral thinking is needed to find a cure for the unspeakable

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The Independent Online

There is a golfing affliction that strikes without warning and is so feared by players at all levels that even to call it by name will earn you a rebuke.

So I won't even write the word. But, since it is a little difficult to discuss a subject without identifying it, I shall spell it: S-H-A-N-K.

Please don't repeat it out loud. You never know who is in earshot.

For those not familiar with the ailment, it occurs when the hosel of your club connects with the ball and sends it on an alarming angle to the right. Apart from being dangerous to innocent bystanders, it is calamitous to the golfer.

I've had a few lately but since they have occurred in the midst of a host of other faulty shots, I tend not to get overwhelmed by their destructive threat.

But they ruin the games, if not the lives, of far better players than me. They even get an occasional one at the Masters. It's a curse that doesn't discriminate on the grounds of class or skill.

It's also contagious. We had an epidemic at our club last year and it even attacked our assistant pro, who'd never had one before, and the captain, who plays off plus one.

When I wrote about it, I had a despairing email from Andy Waple, a fellow journalist I met on a golf trip to Portugal a few years ago. He wouldn't mention the word, either. He called them the "laterals" and the harder he tried to get rid of them, the worse they got.

He had so many tips and lessons that he became "completely confused and as miserable as sin".

The final humiliation came in a matchplay tournament when the laterals caused him to go five down by the ninth and he conceded the game.

A 12-handicapper, he withdrew from all competitive golf, seeking drastic action to find a lasting cure.

Andy took what he calls "a twin-track approach". He booked a course of lessons on technique from Andrew Rossington, a pro at the Peter Cowen Academy in Sheffield, and sought help from the sports boffins at the Zenjin Academy at Hallam University.

Gradually, they forced the demon out of him and now he is looking forward to rejoining the fray. "They were both brilliant," he said.

"Andrew is a terrific coach who takes the swing to pieces in a way you can understand and builds you another.

"The Zenjin guys worked on golf psychology, teaching me a specific pre- and post-shot routine, and they gave me a series of exercises to make me swing better.

"It has taken time to rebuild my confidence but, touch wood, it is working so far and I'm a happy teddy again."

Both Andrew and Zenjin now want to see him drop from 12.5 to 9.4 by the end of the summer.

Andy has written an article about his experiences for a forthcoming edition of 'Today's Golfer', and Zenjin have used him as a guinea pig for an academic paper which they are writing on the dreaded subject.

"Who said golf was an easy, enjoyable game with a few pints at the end?" asks Andy.

I think I said it, Andy. Do you think that's where I'm going wrong?