The Hacker: Wooden spoon threatens to dish out more humiliation for a real pro

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Much of our never-ending struggle with the game of golf is a mental battle, and it is via my mind that I am attempting to improve my wretched game at the moment.

But you realise the vastness of the task when you see a good player vanquished by what's going on in his brain.

Our club professional is going through a nightmare experience that would send a shiver down the spine of any club pro.

Andrew, who has spent 30 years with us, is about to collect the dreaded wooden spoon in our winter league.

Today, he and his partner, Alf, will play the final match of the league, but after eight defeats in a row their fate is already sealed.

Last Sunday, I wrote about Andrew's determination to avoid the ignominy. He'd been studying his swing on the video camera and had seen where he had been going wrong in the previous weeks.

He hit shots on the practice range that convinced him his old form had returned. Then he got to the first tee and trundled the ball 50 yards. The pair went on to lose 3 & 2. "I was so nervous I was shaking like a leaf," he said. "I could hardly hit the ball."

This is a man who has given lessons for almost 40 years, who has schooled thousands of golfers of various shapes, sizes, ages and abilities and who now finds he cannot cure himself of the faults he has cured in so many others.

He wouldn't be the first to discover that being a busy golf pro doesn't give you much time to play. In fact, Andrew hadn't played at all for 10 years before deciding to play in the winter league.

Alf plays off 26, so they weren't likely to set the world alight, but as defeat followed defeat it began to get serious. There is no group crueller than winter golfers, and the mockery increased week by week.

It will reach a crescendo at the presentation supper when the giant wooden spoon is handed over, but Andrew will accept it with good grace and nobody will be able to question his bravery.

On the grounds that it doesn't hurt a teacher to know the sort of pain his pupils suffer, it won't affect his teaching either.

Since he is a friend, his sufferings have put mine in the shade, but I am making slow progress with my intention of trying to rid my mind of all the doubts and tensions that crowd in before I hit the ball.

My guide in this is Timothy Gallwey, whose book 'The Inner Game of Golf' encourages you to let it all happen naturally.

Put simply, his theory is that a part of you knows how to hit the ball properly but another part keeps filling your head with needless advice and anxieties. Keeping your mind blank is not easy when it has spent years being filled with a bewildering range of instructions.

Gallwey claims that more has been written about the mechanics of the golf swing than just about any other human movement.

Imagine, he says, how impossible speaking would be if you tried to learn how to pronounce words by studying the necessary tongue positions.