The Hacker: To be Frank, it's a slice of bad news for high-handicappers as we fail to see the points

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The Independent Online

A mix-up at our club last weekend led to many high handicappers walking around with satisfied smirks. Sadly, they were to be cruelly wiped from their faces.

The occasion was our annual tribute to Dr Frank Stableford, founder of the great points system which is played and enjoyed by golfers throughout the world. Dr Frank first experimented with the system at our club, The Glamorganshire, in 1898.

He offered a special prize for the best score in a competition played off scratch with one point for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie and so on, just like the modern version.

Each player then added a third of his handicap, to a maximum of 15, to the total (they used to have handicaps ranging up to 60 in those days; how I wish I'd been there).

We don't know how well the system went down with his fellow members but it wasn't heard of again for more than 30 years. He had probably been a bit pre-occupied as an army surgeon in the Boer War and the First World War.

A very good golfer, Dr Frank won the championship at Royal Porthcawl in 1907 and reached the semi-finals of the Welsh amateur in the same year.

He moved to the Wirral in 1914 and joined Royal Liverpool and Wallasey golf clubs and it was at Wallasey in 1930 when he decided to resurrect his notion of a fairer scoring system that made it possible for a player to mess up a few holes and, unlike a medal, still turn in a respectable score.

It has to be said that his first attempt was not all that generous to the higher handicappers. But he made up for that when he tried his revised version at Wallasey. The competition was still played off scratch but you added your full handicap to your score at the end.

Unfortunately, the weather was so foul that scoring was very difficult and the high handicappers had a field day. They had their points in their pockets before they started.

Eventually, the stroke index system allowed him to allocate your shots hole by hole and it was a sure-fire success from the moment Wallasey staged the first competition under the present rules back in May 1932.

Wallasey play an annual open tournament in his honour and for the past 15 years we've done the same, using his original rules.

Because being able to add only a third of your handicap makes it such a tough prospect for the not-so-good golfer, there is a separate competition in which you add on your full handicap – but only to a maximum of 18.

This year, however, we were told that the maximum had been lifted. As a 28-handicapper, this was very good news. Others were not quite as impressed.

One first-team player left the course after scoring 25 points and his indignant parting words were: "Corrigan's got three more points than me before he even starts."

Sadly, I was not able to take advantage. I am experimenting with a new relaxed swing designed to take the tension out of my body. But it is not easy to play like me and avoid tension and I sliced my way to a measly three points.

But when I added my handicap it was a reasonable 31 points. Mike shot a net-69 and his total was 40 points. Andy, another 28-handicapper, scored 13 points and was whooping around with 41 points.

Then came the shock news that there had been a communication fault. The 18 limit was still applicable. We are already lobbying for the full handicap.

After all, it's what Frank would have wanted.

Tip of the week, by Simon Iliffe

No 68: How far from the ball?

It is little wonder that many golfers find it difficult to know just how far to stand from the ball.

The clubs in your golf bag can vary by up to a foot in length, forcing you to stand further away from, or closer to, the ball.

The easiest way to know if you are at the correct distance from the ball is as follows – once you have taken your stance as normal, the butt of the club should be about a fist's width from the inside of your left thigh (for right-handed golfers).

There is scope for comfort, so it doesn't need to be exact. Standing too far from the ball will encourage a more stooped posture with an upright swing plane.

Standing too near to the ball can cause an upright posture and a swing plane that is too flat.

Make sure that you are the correct distance from the ball each time to maximise your success at consistent ball-striking.

Simon Iliffe is head professional at Bramley Golf Club, Surrey.