The Hacker: The curse of the shank shows how easy it is to drift off course

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The Independent Online

Our assistant pro swears that we have a shanking virus sweeping through the club – and just to prove it, he had one in a big tournament last week, and he's never shanked in his life before.

For the uninitiated, a shank occurs when the hosel – the part of the club's head into which the shaft is fitted – connects with the ball and propels it at an alarming angle to the right. Apart from being dangerous to innocent bystanders, it can ruin a golfer's life.

A shank can strike without warning, and some sufferers are so afraid of it they don't even allow you to say the word in front of them.

Our recent outbreak of the curse struck two weeks ago at the climax of one of our most prestigious competitions, the Barbarian Cup.

This trophy was presented to us by the famous rugby touring team, who used the club as their headquarters during the 100 years or so they toured South Wales over Easter.

As at many clubs, there is an extra frisson in our big tournaments this year, arising from the objection of the lower handicappers to the new rule requiring them to give the full difference in handicap, instead of three-quarters, to their less gifted brethren.

Being a strokeplay event, this doesn't apply to the Barbarian Cup, but relations are a touch tense, and when the result was a tie at 68 between Alan, who plays off 17, and Roy, who plays off eight, there was more than the usual interest in the play-off the following day.

The two players concerned weren't bothered. They toasted each other throughout the evening and had far more than was good for anyone facing head-to-head combat the following morning.

It didn't affect Roy. Our first three holes are par four, three and five, and Roy began with 3, 3, 6. Alan scored 6, 6, 8. He had started with a nine-shot advantage and had done in eight of those already.

He felt like calling it a day there and then but his caddie urged him on, saying that anything could happen.

It did on the eighth. Roy had a chip in front of the green and shanked it. He shanked the next one, and the one after that.

He went round the green anti-clockwise and finished with a 10. Alan took an 8 at the ninth and was 55 to Roy's 50.

Roy steadied down on the back nine and was looking good until the 16th when he started shanking again. He went into a bunker and took seven to get out. He scored a 15 and followed it up with a 9. He finished with 105 and Alan took the cup with a 101, 13 shots ahead.

Some have sniffed at the cup being won with a 101, but Alan is delighted. "Don't forget that I scored 68 nett to get into the play-off," he said.

"I've never been lower than a 15 handicap and at 62 this is the biggest thing by far that I've ever won. It just shows what a great game it is."

Meanwhile, Roy is still trying to shake off the shanks, and a number of players swear that they've caught it off him.

We're playing for the Captain's Prize this weekend, with 250 players in contention, and a spread in the contagion could be devastating.