The Hacker: Specs appeal is limited with eye op on hold

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The Independent Online

I have yet to set foot on a golf course this year but already my masterplan for 2010 has suffered a major blow. The boost to my vision I had been expecting is not going to materialise for a year or so.

After a lifetime of enjoying excellent eyesight, it has deteriorated over the last couple of years and I had to start wearing glasses for the first time last April.

It is while playing golf that I notice the biggest difference because I can't see the ball in flight which is not very helpful to me and even less so to my playing partners who are constantly asked 'where the bloody hell did that go?' or words to that effect.

My optician diagnosed the problem as a cataract and referred me to a consultant. A few of my friends have had cataracts removed and reported much clearer vision.

But my hopes of joining them were dashed last week when, after a thorough examination, the consultant said that the cataract was still in its early stages and an operation now was not advisable.

He suggested that I returned in a year's time and when I looked glum he reassured me that, with my spectacles on, my sight was very good.

I said that I could not play golf with my specs on and I was fed up at not being able to see the ball. The consultant didn't reply but I got the distinct impression that among the many and varied priorities of the National Health Service, the visibility of my golf ball did not figure all that highly. I don't blame him for that.

I am not alone with this problem and there are many worse off. When I wrote on this subject recently I received a sympathetic email from Bill Burnett of Canterbury.

He rates his golf as a shade better than the hacker, "but not by much", and last July suffered a detached retina that required some brilliant work by a surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital to put right.

But he was told he had lost quite a bit of power of vision and this is most apparent on the golf course. Says Bill: "Unless I am driving into clear blue sky it is very unlikely I can see the ball. I also have to be careful in my set-up. Sometimes, I think I have put the club head in a perfect position behind the ball only to find by the shot that I didn't."

He also has trouble aligning his putter and feels his golf is less consistent since the op. "I have always played golf in glasses but I observe that our retired pro, who only needed glasses recently, puts them in his pocket when driving. Perhaps I should try it."

I was thinking the opposite, Bill. My specs are varifocal and when I've tried to play while wearing them I've found it very difficult to focus.

Maybe I should give them an extended trial but it is not likely to help the other part of my masterplan to reduce my new, embarrassing handicap of 28. I've devised a new form of attack, embracing a few swing changes and a more positive approach around the green. But because of the weather these astute alterations have been practised only in front of the mirror and by chipping plastic balls on to the sofa.

Like most golfers in these sad islands I am desperate to get back on the course. Only there can we see the truth.

Tip of the week

No 37: playing from thick rough

In an ideal world we wouldn't find ourselves here, but too often we are faced with a lie we wouldn't wish on our least-liked opponent. It always astonishes me – when playing with the members – the club I see them selecting for playing from what looks like an impossible lie. If in doubt, select a club with loft, for example a pitching wedge or nine iron.

Place the ball towards the back of the stance (opposite the right foot for right-hand golfers). Place the hands well in front of the ball, towards the left thigh, and position the majority of your weight on your left side. Pick up the club steeply at the start of the backswing and make a good shoulder turn. Now hit down hard on the back of the ball, trying to take as little grass as possible before striking the ball. The club should end up buried in the grass with very little or no follow-through.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey.