The Hacker: These incredible shrinking men should watch out for others

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The Independent Online

Arrogance and sexism, the twin banes of golf's image, are, it seems, still with us. While inside the halfway house at my club, preparing it for a recent high day, I was saddened to overhear a conversation between a group of our male members, who had clearly had rather a tip for themselves as golfers.

The gist was that they thoroughly resented the course being cluttered up by "bloody hackers and women". Be careful of what you speak in future, boys, sound carries further than you think on a quiet, still morning.

Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of our members, male and female, are delightful and perfectly civilised, and adhere to the code of etiquette without which the game would founder. And most of them are hackers, who necessarily are the backbone of any club.

I was meanly pleased to note that one of those self-styled cracks, after so sniffily dismissing the majority of the membership, then proceeded to hit his drive barely 100 yards along the ground.

Of course, no one in the amateur game, even those who think they're too good for the rest of us, can help playing rubbish shots. But manners and courtesies shouldn't need practising.

On our course the morning order of play from the first and 11th tees is currently suspended as a controlled experiment, which means that two-, three- and four-balls are mixed up together.

Most of the slower groups are aware of the situation and will let two-balls through. Some, however, simply will not and, whether they like it or not, the fact is that the miscreants are overwhelmingly four-balls from the mens' senior section.

Still, perhaps some of us should take more time over the game; not so long ago my playing partner and I were twitching with impatience on the fairway while a player on the green lined up a long putt with what seemed to us agonising over-attention to detail. And then, of course, holed it. Mmm, OK, then.

The further down the food chain is where the slower play tends to be, of course. As I well know, it obviously takes longer to quadruple-bogey than birdie. But there is nothing more frustrating than being stuck behind a group whose trick is to play without a backward glance or acknowledgement that anyone else on the course either exists or matters.

Perhaps they really do believe, as rumour in the ladies' locker-room has it, that part of their anatomy shrinks every time they let a female through, rather like Pinocchio's nose in reverse.

In more cheerful vein, if all goes to Monty's plan (Harrington? Why? Discuss), a month today we will be welcoming the Ryder Cup back to Europe. A group of us from Bury St Edmunds – I and my chums Viv, Patsi and Joan – will be heading west from Suffolk to supervise the triumph at first hand.

Our four-ball's meticulous long-term planning includes loading the car with self-catering fare to reflect the composition of the team. And never mind the spag bol and sausage and mash; rioja and roll, Europe.

Can you do it? Yes you chianti. And take as long as you like.

Tip of the week

No 65: Grip pressure

One of the most overlooked faults is how firmly you hold the club. Incorrect pressure on the grip can contribute to many poor shots and can certainly cost you yards off the tee.

Most players take their grip with good pressure, but as they keep addressing the ball the pressure will increase. Waggling the club before takeaway or a forward press of the hands will alleviate gripping too tightly, but the simplest way is to practise relaxing the grip just before you take the club back.

If you take a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being as tight as you can hold the club, your long-game grip pressure should be 5/6 and your short game 3/4, even lighter if you can. This will help you turn better in your backswing, be freer on your downswing and give you an improved release of the club through the ball.

Practise this and you will be a better ball-striker immediately.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey.