The Hacker: Wedding then winter league - it's a marriage made in heaven

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The Independent Online

We had a brief brush with romance last Sunday talking about golf's first dating website via which single male and female golfers could get together, but it would be a mistake to interpret this as a sign the game is getting soppy.

For instance, any hopes of cupid's arrow penetrating the macho ranks of our winter league would have been dashed on the opening day.

Every Sunday morning for the next five months or so, 144 men will do bitter battle out on the course. They will abide by the rules of golf but shoddy gamesmanship will erupt regularly. As for romance, their attitude can be gauged from the reaction to the news that one of their number, Steve, had got married on the previous day but still turned up for the start of the winter league early that morning.

He was given a rousing cheer at the lunchtime raffle, not so much for getting married as for demonstrating a sense of priority by not neglecting his golf. Not only that but he won his first game which, as someone pointed out, showed the benefit of having an early night.

That we should celebrate such bawdy behaviour is, of course, reprehensible, but it is well to remind non-golfers that there is another aspect of the game that contrasts with the snotty, twee image promoted by the posher clubs.

It is hard to estimate how many everyday golfers take part in rough and tumble winter leagues run by their clubs but it would probably run into tens of thousands.As a piece of outdoor sporting terrain, a golf course probably gets more all-year-round use than any other and only the harshest winter conditions can stop these hardy souls.

This type of golf is not to every player's liking and some of the better players tend to hibernate in the depth of winter when they can often be at the mercy of hackers who care nought for the conditions.

In our league the good players are forced to play with a high handicapper which can be another turn-off. We play foursomes and the minimum combined handicap is 20 which means, for instance, that a player off one must have a partner whose handicap is at least 19. Playing alternate shots with a duffer for |10 weeks is a daunting task but, bless them, many are game for the challenge.

None more so than our professional, Andrew. Like many club pros, Andrew doesn't play as often as he did. What with giving lessons and manning the club shop there is no time to play or practice.

Andrew was once a winter regular but in the last 10 years his game has suffered and when he decided to play last winter his collapse in form was embarrassing. His partner was a 26 handicapper, also called Andrew, and they struggled. The worse he played, the more he was mocked and the lower his confidence dropped.

It was inevitable they would win the wooden spoon but he won admirers by collecting the spoon at the presentation night and braving the jeers.

He has spent the summer working on his game. On holiday in Spain he came in one under par at La Cala. He's playing with a new member, who's off 25, this winter and they won their first game and just lost their second. Every-one hopes he can spend the winter recovering his pride. That's the sort of romance golfers like.

p.corrigan@independent.co.uk

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