The Hacker: Watching Bicks was a sight for sore eyes. Now he owns our pub

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The Independent Online

My reconditioned right eye had its first golfing outing last week. Successfully freed from the cataract that was badly hampering my vision, it has been glorifying in sights not seen clearly for years.

Unfortunately, the flight of my golf ball was not immediately numbered among the views that have been catching my breath.

Despite eagerly scanning the sky, I didn't even see the first tee shot I hit. This was probably due to me looking straight down the fairway.

I had to rely on the man standing beside me. "It's either landed in that big bush on the right or gone just beyond it," he said.

This was embarrassing because he was John Bickerton, who was a pro on the European Tour for 16 years with three top tournament wins, two seasons in the top 20 and about five million quid to his credit.

Even a 28-handicapper likes to do better than slice a drive in the presence of such a superior being.

What I was doing in such distinguished company – or what he was doing in such undistinguished company – is an interesting story.

We were playing at the Minehead & West Somerset club and normally I would be hacking the ball around with James, mine host at the local pub in my Exmoor bolt-hole.

Bicks, as we are allowed to call him, moved into the locality last year. Having played tournaments in South Africa and Dubai at the start of this year, he slipped in the snow walking his dog in Exmoor and hurt his wrist.

It wasn't until he took his next swing at a golf ball and a searing pain shot up his arm that he realised the extent of the injury to his wrist ligaments.

Four months later, he is still on the injured list and although he has managed some light practice, he is still months away from returning to action.

It is a frustrating time but he is making the most of it by keeping fit, mowing the village green and doing missionary work among hackers – namely, me and James.

He offered to play a round with us and to give us 40 shots each as an encouragement. James asked if we were playing for anything. "The pub will do," he replied.

After the third hole, when he had done most of his shots and lost a ball, James conceded defeat.

How about double or quits, he asked. "You haven't two pubs," said Bicks.

I fared a little better than James but was 22 shots behind after the first nine when Bicks kindly stopped keeping the scores. It was an absolute pleasure and our opponent could not have been more gracious or patient.

He paid the green fees, led the searches for our lost balls and gave an exhibition of ball-striking and putting that was a joy to watch.

It was only his third full round since February and his wrist was still giving him jip, especially when he almost drove the green on a 377-yard par four.

As for my eye, I was seeing the ball crystal clearly and, thanks to a couple of top tips from Bicks, I was hitting it much cleaner.

James, too, benefited from his expert advice and was only an inch or two short of an eagle on the 15th.

It is not often that top pros and lowly hackers meet for a friendly game and he is probably as much at a loss to explain how we can play as we are to understand how he can play as he does. In no other game could it happen.

Tip of the week

No 55: driving your shoulder alignment

It is no wonder that the average club golfer's weak shots are the slice and pull. When you set up with a driver, the correct ball position is inside the left-heel (for right-handed golfers).

However, by moving the ball forward in the stance, the shoulders will align further left than intended.

With the shoulders open, the club will be swung along an out-to-in swing path, with pulls left and slices right being produced. A conscious adjustment is required to pull the right shoulder back, so the shoulders are square to the line of the feet. This will now encourage an in-to-square-to-in swing path and much straighter shots.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley Golf Club, Surrey.