The Hacker: With eyesight restored, I won't make such a spectacle of myself

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The Independent Online

At last, the scales are to be lifted from my eyes. Whether I will then be able to see the futility of my continuing struggles to play golf is hard to say. But at least I hope to see the ball.

My eyesight has been deteriorating rapidly over the past few months. I was told in January that I had cataracts but they were not sufficiently advanced to be operated on. A consultant has decided they are now far enough gone and he will do the right one this week and the left three weeks later.

I have been told by friends who have either had the same procedure or had laser treatment that the difference is staggering. But will it improve my golf?

Better vision will certainly improve relationships with my playing partners, who have found my recurring question "where the bloody hell did that go?" increasingly tedious.

They have got so bored that they just say what part of the clock the ball is heading for; this can range from nine o'clock to three o'clock. A shank is about 4.30.

Those few seconds waiting for their verdict have become a torment. I have been driving pretty well lately so I have had plenty of 12 o'clocks, many of them accompanied by an unhelpful "you would have enjoyed watching that", but it is very frustrating.

Being able to see the results of my shots is going to make life more interesting but will I play better? Certainly, getting a clear view of the target instead of just a blur will help.

Being able to see the slopes and borrows on the green will undoubtedly aid my putting. It has become so bad I can't see the hole from more than 20 feet unless the flag is left in.

The biggest benefit will come on the practice range. I need at least two sessions a week on the range but it has been a pointless exercise for some months.

Short of taking someone with me as a spotter, there is no way I can judge if my swing is working. I hit about 70 balls last week and although most of them sounded fine the only one I saw was one that I topped 10 yards.

This is not an uncommon problem among old-timers. When I last wrote about it I heard from a few fellow sufferers. Bill Burnett, who plays at the Westgate & Birchington club on the Kent coast, suffered a detached retina and although some brilliant work at Moorfields Eye Hospital put it back in place, his vision has suffered and his golf is less consistent.

One of his regular partners is virtually blind in one eye but the other acts as "spotter" for them both. He was absent one week but they decided to play and went round without losing a ball between them. They must be straight hitters.

Patrick Lineham gave up his golf club membership this year because of vision problems. He, too, was diagnosed with early-stage cataracts, and with new specs he is slowly feeling his way back into the game via the driving range and the local par-three course.

With so many suffering from cataracts, he asks why the opticians can't come up with a better means of helping us through the early and middle stages of the condition.

They managed to help the snooker player Dennis Taylor with a pair of extra-large glasses, so why not something for golfers?

It's a very good question, Patrick. I'll ask my eye man but I don't want him to think we're trying to put him out of work.

Tip of the week

No 53: Get the right set

For some golfers, carrying the maximum 14 clubs is too many, for others it isn't enough. Whatever your preference, carrying the correct make-up of clubs is essential. Did you know that a three-iron, four-hybrid and seven-wood will all hit the ball about the same distance but with different trajectories? Make sure you know what clubs are important to carry for the course you're going to play. If it's a short, tight course make sure you have plenty of wedges in your bag. If you're playing a long, challenging course then long fairway woods and hybrids are going to be more beneficial. If you're playing a links course then long irons will be more useful to run the ball along the ground. There's nothing wrong with having a garage full of clubs, as long as you take the right ones on the day.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey.