The Hacker: Sort out my cataracts problem and I might finally get my eye in
Sunday 20 December 2009
If you are the sad possessor of poor eyesight, a game of golf is never more infuriating than if you play with someone else damned with dodgy peepers.
Max and I, for instance, play regularly in the same fourball but we could never play on our own. Max is waiting for a cataract operation which has been postponed at least once.
I am not so far down the cataract road and am waiting for my situation to be assessed by a consultant but my failing vision seems just as bad.
If we played as a twoball, the destination of our longer shots would be a mystery to both of us. Just as well, then, that our companions have sharper eyes and happily employ them on our behalf. But while I am always grateful for their patient kindness at having to perform this chore for 18 holes, it is not a satisfying experience. It's like being helped across the road by an old lady.
And there's always that delay before you know the fate of your shot. No matter how well you feel you've hit the ball, you wait anxiously at the top of the follow-through for the reaction of those alongside you on the tee.
Occasionally, if you have struck the ball straight and true, you will catch sight of its flight against a bright sky and what a joy that is.
But usually you search vainly for it while awaiting the verdict. If it is a good shot they'll tell you immediately. If it's wayward, there will be a muffled curse followed by a pause while they wait to see where it drops.
Then someone will put a sympathetic hand on your shoulder and point vaguely to a spot in the crap where your ball landed. Or, worst of all, they'll say "you'd better play another one".
As valuable as this service is, it is never quite enough for a hacker eager to learn. If the ball went left you have to ask if it was a pull or a hook; if it went right, was it a push or a slice? How else am I to make the necessary adjustments to my swing? This raises the question of whether my failing eyesight has played a part in the deterioration of my golf over the past couple of years.
I've had brilliant eyesight for most of my life so that doesn't explain my bad golf previously but who knows? Sorting out my cataracts could be the boost I'm looking for.
If it enhances my enjoyment of the game as much as it has done for John, another golfing companion, I'll be delighted. I've been playing with him at Royal Porthcawl since he made his comeback last year after 30 years out of the game.
He used to play off single figures but is finding it difficult to reclaim his old form. He has never had good eyesight but he had laser treatment a few weeks ago and has never seen better in his life.
We played at Porthcawl last week on one of those sunny winter days when you could see for miles. Unfortunately, he could and I couldn't.
The sea is visible from every hole at Porthcawl and he kept pointing out ships on the horizon that I couldn't possibly make out. But he did come in very handy in spotting my ball.
Most of the time he could see exactly where it was from over 200 yards away. It was like having a guide dog, and I've booked him for the next two months.
Tip of the week
No 32: Putt better under pressure
It doesn't matter if it's a putt to win The Masters or a putt to take a fiver off your pal, we all feel pressure towards the end of a good round. What the great players do is learn to deal with it. A great practice drill is to take four balls and place them round a practice hole at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock. Start two feet from the hole and knock them in one by one. If you miss they all come out, and you start again. Once you hole all four, double the distance. Set yourself a target of eight consecutive putts before you head for the first tee. If you miss them left, right, long or short, that's what you'll do under pressure on the course. Work towards achieving 12 or 16 successive putts before you leave. This will make you a great pressure putter.
Simon Iliffe, Head Pro, Purley Downs GC, Surrey. www.theshortgame.co.uk
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