The Hacker: With this new control I may not be as sloppy but now I'm slappy

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The Independent Online

I am ashamed to confess that my crusade to break 100 in a medal this year failed at the very first challenge. I must, however, claim extenuating circumstances because the March medal left a trail of devastation among much better players than me.

After five months of horrible winter weather we were all looking forward to the first proper tournament of spring after so long off winter tees.

But it was a harsh reintroduction to medal golf. The course was playable but exceedingly soggy and by moving the medal tees as far back as possible they presented us with a course playing very long.

It was a hard, gruelling slog which made it all the more amazing that one of our younger stars came sailing in with a gross 68. His playing partners said that Jordan, who plays off three, hit the ball like a god. He now plays off two.

Jordan's score was six shots better than the next best gross and only eight of the 159 who played in the competition managed to break 80.

My score, if you must know, was 111, which was far from the worst. Tom came in with 133 but I haven't seen him since for an explanation. He's probably still under the bed.

My playing partners agreed that I was undoubtedly hitting the ball straighter but they had their own worries. Mike scored a career-worst 109 while Max took a 10 on the ninth after playing the wrong ball, then lost his drive on the 17th before calling it a day.

Altogether, counting the non-returns, 45 failed to break 100. My nett score of 83, a total I shared with a seven-handicapper, meant that over 50 finished worse than me.

None of which excuses my failure but everything must be seen in perspective. Repeating the name Alexander Lebedev during my swing is definitely controlling my tempo in my aim to slow down my swing, upon which subject I have recently received two encouraging emails.

Richard Taylor writes that he slowed it down and played safe last year and his handicap has dropped from 23 to 18.5, while Phil Jones has given me the benefit of his long experience of the subject.

He writes: "Being a golfer (handicap 18ish) who continuously records his latest key swing thoughts, the slow swing has always figured in the copious aide-mémoire notes I have compiled over the years. If I were to catalogue these notes into one volume, it would be the size of the Oxford English dictionary."

From personal experience, Phil reckons that the search for the slower swing can lead to overuse of the hands and arms to try to maintain control and the neglect of the all-important turning of the shoulders and hips.

This may result in a straight shot but one with markedly reduced distance. It gives the feeling of a "slappy" shot rather than a crisp hit.

So, Phil advises, by all means cultivate that slower swing but do not forget to turn. Hence his swing mantra is not a name but "Turn one-two, back one-two".

He concludes his entertaining note: "Good luck in your quest for a two-figure medal... And remember, the golf swing should be produced like 'The Independent' used to be – without Russian."

In the interests of security – mine – I would like to emphasise that Phil is making a neat and amusing play on words. What he really means is "without rushing" – geddit?

Tip of the week

No 45: the 15th club in the bag

The most important accessory you can carry in your golf bag is free and may save you more shots than any club. What is it? 'The Rules of Golf'. It amazes me how few golfers carry a rule book with them and are unaware of the rules they may be breaking.

Would you take relief if you landed in an animal's paw print in a bunker? If so, how would you take relief? Or how would you proceed if your ball finished on an "out of bounds" boundary line? Are you in or out of bounds?

These simple answers can be found in the rule book, but if you aren't carrying one, you are guessing the answers. Next time you are at your club, pick up 'The Rules of Golf', and keep an up-to-date copy with you when you play.

For real enthusiasts, the R&A even publish a 'Decisions on The Rules of Golf'.

Simon Iliffe, Head Pro, Purley Downs GC, Surrey