There are times in golf when generosity has an adverse effect on the receiver, especially on those who are not used to it. Unaccustomed as we are to kindness, hackers fall into this category.
Thus Mike and I were taken aback in our club's winter league last Sunday when our opponents gave us seven shots more than we were entitled to.
I'm not playing in the 10-week post-Christmas session of the league. My name is up as a substitute, however, but for some strange reason my services had not been called upon during the first six weeks.
Then Mike called to say his partner was off to Paris to see Wales play France, and asked me to take his place. We were playing Roy, who plays off eight, and Paul, who is off 16. Our combined handicap is 46, so were going to get 11 shots.
In the bar the previous night Mike had told them he had a hot sub, but refused to tell them who it was.
Any worries this might have given them evaporated as soon as I turned up, and when we discussed the shot situation Roy, in his usual unfailingly pleasant way, said: "Why don't we give you a shot a hole?"
We mounted a mild protest but allowed ourselves to be persuaded, and when he gave us a six-foot putt on the first for a half we were feeling quite good.
Of course, the feeling didn't last, and coming up to the halfway house we were three down, Paul being no slouch off 16.
Neither Mike nor I has a vice-like grip on the quality of our language when we are playing badly. It might have been to save his eardrums that Roy said he had some advice which might help.
He told us to take the club back more on the inside so that it almost scrapes the right knee. This ensures that you have a full shoulder-turn and deliver the clubface back square to the ball.
It worked better for Mike than it did for me, but it still made a big difference to our game, and after we left the halfway house, where Roy insisted on buying us each a bacon roll and a cup of tea, our fortunes began to improve.
Mike, who once played off 10 and is now off 20, was delighted with his suddenly improved form, and not only did we claw back the deficit, we were one up after the 14th.
I whispered to Mike: "We've been given 18 shots instead of 11, Roy has given us a terrific tip and he's bought the bacon rolls. It's going to be very embarrassing if we win."
It would reflect well on us if I reported that we threw the game. We didn't. They bloody well took it from us, winning on the last.
They fully deserved it, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the game. As we walked back to the clubhouse I thanked Mike for inviting me.
"I have to confess you weren't my first choice," he said. He'd asked Dermot, a 24-handicapper who has yet to have his handicap cut despite playing out of his skin.
"Why wasn't he available?" I asked.
"Because he's fully booked till the end of the competition," Mike replied.Reuse content