The Hacker: What to do if you can't see eye to eye with your own co-ordination?
Sunday 30 November 2008
Among the bewildering amount of counselling I've received from readers anxious to lift the pall of depression that hangs over my golf comes a piece of disarmingly frank advice from Gerald Sinstadt, the distinguished football commentator.
I was once a contemporary of Gerald in the football- coverage business – only mine was a humble existence in the written rather than the spoken sphere – and it seems we have shared parallel miseries on the golf course.
Not any more. He has given up the game, and wonders if I should follow suit. It would be untruthful to say it hasn't crossed my mind, or the minds of my family and friends, that it would be a blessing to one and all if I put a five-iron to my head and pulled the trigger.
Gerald makes a powerful case for facing the unwanted truth that it is pointless continuing the struggle. He writes: "Like you, I hadlessons, occasionally, and like you I practised, even more occasionally. Like you I tried different clubs until I endedup with a collection Heinz could have advertised. But nothing worked."
He dreaded playing in celebrity events. "I just knew, standing on the tee, it would only need the words, 'Come on Gerald, you've got two shots here' to guarantee a slice out of bounds. So I gave up altogether a game which seemed to offer such tantalising pleasure, and did so because I came to understand the reason for my shortcomings. It wasn't that I didn't know what needed to be done. I just couldn't do it," he says.
The same thought has often nagged at me, as has his conclusion that hand-and-eye co-ordination, or the lack of it, is the root of the problem.
He reflects on his lack of progress in other games. "Cricket – the only time I made 50 they rewrote the scorebook, convinced that errors had been made. Football – I was the unquenchable Second XI enthusiast; failed goalkeeper turned hopeless half-back." It was the same story when he tried rugby during his national service. "I was also hopeless at tennis, and may have been the only squash player to use a double-handed backhand."
He blames it all on poor hand-and-eye co-ordination, and I must admit that similar echoes reverberate from my experiences in other sports.
Gerald adds: "So, with great temerity, I am wondering if you are simply trying to play the wrong game. I have to hope I am wrong, because my Sunday mornings would be irreparably diminished if The Hacker were to join me in my grumpy retirement."
Those kind words spur me on. As long as I suffer from this severe optimism syndrome, as long as I carry this insane hope that improvement is just around the dog-leg, I haveto persevere.
At the least I bring to Gerald a regular reassurance that he has made a very sensible decision, and to others I offer the comfort that they are not alone in their sufferings.
Besides, official figures show there are 60 million golfers in the world, and we can accept that the vast majority of them could be described as hackers. Think of the chaos if we all transferred our incompetence to other activities.
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