Yip-hit on the
Old Course

Posted April 27, 2015

My yipping match with Tiger Woods last week was a bit of a damp squib. While my first chip at the Old Course in St Andrews plopped pitifully into the Swilcan Burn, Tiger’s yips didn’t show up at all at The Masters.

It seems that his yips were part of a wider malaise his game went through a couple of months ago. Most of the wiseacres gloomily predicted that he would never be the same again.

His top-20 finish at the Masters seems to suggest otherwise. Mind you, the yips have the habit of biting back when you least expect them. The sad thing is that if he did anything specific to fend them off last week, he’s not going to tell us.

All he said was that he worked his arse off which is not much use to those of us looking for a miracle cure. I suppose we could work our arses off, too, but that’s not generally our style. Also it depends on how big your arse is, some will take much longer to work off than others.

Meanwhile, I am stuck with the curse which attacked me on the first hole of the Old Course. This is a hole where humiliation is easy to come by.

For a start, the drive on the first looks one of the world’s easiest. There’s out-of-bounds on the right admittedly but there’s so much room on the left you can pull or hook to your heart’s content. But the moment you step up to the tee in front of the imposing façade of the R & A clubhouse the weight of 600 years of history suddenly lands on your shoulders.

We’ve been going up there for 17 years and the prospect never fails to make the best of us nervous. The feeling that you daren’t cock up a drive at such a hallowed place was heightened this time because the stands for The Open in July were being constructed and the ones on the right of the first were almost complete.

They were occupied only by a few workmen but slicing into those empty seats would have been a colossal embarrassment.

There were only four of us this year while over the last five or years there have been as many as 18. But last year the younger members said they fancied a change and opted to find another Scottish venue.

Organisation not being their strong point, they failed to do so The four more senior members, however, plumped for St Andrews because we revere the place.

Just before we left some of the younger ones said they regretted not being with us. It was too late, of course, because you have to book up for the St Andrews Links winter offer about six or seven months previously.

I almost didn’t make it myself because a week or so before we were due to go I was hit by a heavy chest infection that took me to bed for four days and left me considerably weakened and with no appetite.

I lost six or seven pounds and was feeling very low but I was determined not to miss the trip and felt better when we’d booked into the Rusacks Hotel in brilliant sunshine and I’d had my first malt whisky overlooking the brilliant vista of the first and eighteenth holes.

My first venture onto the courses, however, was not a success. I had hoped to have a buggie but they had all been taken. I started off well enough on the Jubilee course but after three holes I was knackered and trudged back to the hotel where I seated myself by the window in the splendid Rusacks’ lounge and gazed out over the sunlit links fortified by Mr Macallan’s fine product.

Feeling slightly better the following morning, I made my way to the aforementioned first tee of the Old Course. My companions were John Dodd, Bob Edwards and Roger Meacham who I usually play with at Royal Porthcawl and who are all vastly superior to me.

To my great delight I was not at all intimidated by that first drive and my ball soared down the middle of that famous fairway as far as I’ve ever hit it. That shot alone was worth the trip.

Then I had an air shot. I was about 80 yards from the pin and 60 yards from the notorious Swilcan Burn which has foiled me many times. I was tempted to have a go for the green but eventually decided to pitch short of the burn.

That dithering didn’t help and I missed the bloody ball altogether. But my next attempt lofted the ball perfectly to within a yard of the edge of the burn.

It was time to challenge the chipping yips and after several firm and controlled practice swings the yips took over and I scuttled the ball into the water.

I didn’t have any more yips but I didn’t perform too well. At least, I finished the eighteen. No part of me was in good shape but I got around.

Fortunately, I was able to get the assistance of a buggie to play the New Course on the third day and, at last, managed to score some points. I actually got a two on one par three but couldn’t amass more than 25 points.

But this put me only one behind John while Roger scored 30 and Bob won with 32. So I wasn’t too far out of the mix and, thanks to the forbearance of my comrades, I had a great time in St Andrews. The weather was brilliant, better than we‘ve had at this of the year.

I got a bollocking from my doctor for going but until she comes up with a cure for the yips I won’t take much notice.

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Tiger and I
against the yips

Mindful of the trails and tribulations ahead of us this week, Tiger Woods and I stride manfully towards our challenges — his in The US Masters at Augusta National, mine in a pound-a-corner four-ball better-ball at the Old Course, St Andrews.
Two sacred venues that for this week embrace the whole spectrum of golfing ability, from one of the world’s greats to one of the game’s most pitiful wretches.
Pure fate has decreed our paths should be linked this week. He is coming back after a long and anguished absence from the game and I am at St Andrews on our 17th annual trip to golf’s cathedral.
And we are both accompanied by an unwelcome companion — the chipping yips. His are a recent invader into his game. Mine have been with me for bloody years.
When he went off into the wilderness to seek a cure for the yips that were destroying his game he took with him the good wishes of millions of hackers. If he could find the answer to this most pernicious of golfing ailments he could lead us to the promised land and spend the rest of his life in an aura of loving gratitude.
I shall be thinking of him every time I draw the club back to execute a nifty little chip to the flag from off the green and risk making a right berk of myself again..
I hesitate to say that I have a slight advantage but I am playing at the Old Course which is fairly flat and has close-cut fairways than run right up to the green. So, as long as there is not a bunker in the way you can putt from miles away.
I’m sure those who created the game at the Old Course long ago used to use their putters from way out, it seems natural. Then some fancy-arse invented chipping and put a lot of us in trouble.
There’s nothing more satisfying than a 100 yard putt that rolls close. It is not easy, mind.
Friends of mine still tell the story of when I was playing the 16th on the Old Course and I was heard to complain: ’I’ve three-putted and I haven’t reached the green yet.’
I shall endeavour to do better this week but I have had a week in bed with flu, or whatever they call it, and I am not at my strongest and three rounds in three days may be a bit too much.
But I will soldier on while keeping an eye on Tiger in search of the inspiration I trust him to provide.

One thought on “Tiger and I
against the yips

  1. I noticed Phil Mickelson, no mean chipper, using the putter from off the green on at least 2 occasions in the final round at Augusta notably from left side of the 18th green.

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Hacker abuse
rears its head

It was more like the Texas Chain-Saw Massacre than a Texas Scramble. Four knackered old hackers, denied the use of buggies, sent out first onto a boggy course on a cold and windswept morning — and we were docked four shots before we’d started. It was a recipe for a slow, disastrous round — for which we collected a heap of abuse for holding up the rest of the field.

And we had been so looking forward to our return to competitive action. Mike had been out for a year because of a shoulder operation, Roger had only recently returned from a similar op that had kept him out for even longer, Max hadn’t played 18 holes for ages and I hadn’t played since Christmas when I won a statue of a frog as a booby prize.

Since we also suffer from a combined age of 296, we felt a couple of buggies were essential to help us get round.

Imagine our dismay on the morning of the comp when buggies were banned because of the wetness of the course. We weren’t sure our legs would get the distance unaided. Luckily, powered trolleys were allowed, otherwise we wouldn’t have bothered.

Being first out at 8.10 wasn’t a great idea but was the only slot available when we got to the head of the queue to put our names down.

As if we hadn’t had enough bad news on a miserable morning, we then learned that there was a combined handicap limit of 60. Roger and I play off 28, Mike off 24 and Max is 22. That’s a total of 102.

Texas Scramble not being an officially recognised competition, rules differ from club to club. At ours the handicap allowance is ten per cent so we worked out we had 10.2 shots coming. Then we heard about the 60 limit they’d dragged up from somewhere and, for reasons I will go into elsewhere, we were even less happy than we had been hitherto.

For anyone not familiar with Texas Scrambles, each of the four takes a drive as usual, you pick the best one and everyone takes the next shot from there, and so on.

It’s largely a fun competition, but there are those who begrudge hackers any enjoyment. Apart from slapping a handicap limit on them there is another of our Scramble rules that causes some anguish.

Obviously, you can’t have a situation in which a group containing one ace driver can benefit from taking all his tee shots. Every member has to play his part and for each to have to contribute three tee-shots is fair, and it causes some extra excitement if one or two are not driving particularly well.

But we need each player to contribute four and for some hackers the provision of four half-decent tee-shots is a week’s ration not one round’s.

There’s nothing more dispiriting before a round than to feel you are beaten before you start and when we dropped three shots on the first three holes our hopes were as leaden as the skies.

But we also felt the pace and by the sixth the four behind were hard on our heels. We also noticed that they were reaching the far fours in two while we taking three at best.

We resolved to let them through when we reached the refreshment cabin behind the 8th green where we found to our dismay that they didn’t have any Clark’s pies. But they had sausage rolls and we were chomping into them when we noticed the group behind went straight to the ninth tee.

They’d decided that getting in front of us was worth the sacrifice of their halfway refreshments. We were going to let them through anyway but a cheerie request would have been welcome. Happily, one of their number apologised the following day.

As for us, we soldiered on with ever-weakening legs before sinking gratefully into seats in the bar. Our next big effort was getting to our feet to go home.

We had a scored a gross 82 which was a nett 76. This was 23.4 shots behind the winners. Good job they slapped that limit on us, otherwise we would be within 19.2 of them which, we have to agree, is far too close for comfort.

It was a couple of days before the acute stiffness began to creep out of our legs but as the season progresses we will get quicker. Meanwhile we will hire buggies to speed our progress around the course..

If buggies aren’t available we’ll have to decide whether it is worth risking the wrath of the more nimble and able bodied.

3 thoughts on “Hacker abuse
rears its head

  1. Peter, re “Hackers Cruelly Hampered” I couldn’t agree more – as a fellow “28-er” there is nothing more soul- destroying than losing a quarter of your shots when you most need them (in a competition) before you even tee off! My wife and I were recently paired with a lovely German couple whilst on holiday in Fuerteventura, and on enquiring about handicaps on the first tee were told by the husband that he was off 31! Apparently German chaps start at 36 like the ladies… is there no justice? Still, keeping positive I’m sure our mutual cuts to 27 are just around the corner during the 2015 season…

    • I’m too old to moved to Germany but I’d love to play off 31. Trouble is blokes who used to play off low handicaps are now getting into the high teens and I’ve nowhere to go.

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Travails of our
Winter heroes

Those of us waiting for the weather to improve before we venture back onto the course can have nothing but admiration for our more courageous colleagues who are playing in the winter leagues.

I played in our winter league in the ten weeks leading up to Christmas but declined to face the bleaker months in the second half of winter.

I was not the only one. There were about 120 of us in the first half but only 88 are competing this time. In support, I go along every Sunday morning to see them return to the clubhouse bedraggled but proud to have braved the harshness of this winter. I even commiserate with them over a pint. It’s the least I can do.

Only once in eight weeks has the Glamorganshire course been unplayable, which is not bad considering the weather, and the event continues to produce dramas.

There’s been plenty of dramas at the top flight of golf where the European and PGA Tours have been playing in warmer climes but the beauty of golf is that you can get excitement and intrigue even at rock bottom level in cruel conditions.

And out on those cold, wet and windswept fairways is where you find the true spirit of golf — but not every one of those heroes appreciates that.

There are a few pot hunters at our club for whom the expression bleak winter has a whole different meaning.

Leon Reece was our captain last season and, following an unusual set of circumstances that saw us lose two secretary/managers, he has ended up as secretary/manager.

This means that he is no longer a member. He’s entitled to play the course if he ever gets time but can’t enter any competitions –apart from the winter league which is not rated an official competition.

Leon, who plays off seven, is partnered by John Letton, who is a dead-eye putter and off 14 is not to be taken lightly. They would have undoubtedly fancied their chances but came an early cropper.

But a bigger blow was to follow. When they turned up the following Sunday, they found that one of their opponents hadn’t turned up. This usually very good news for pot hunters because the man who did turn up has to play them on his own and give the full difference in handicap.

Normally, the handicap allowance is half the difference. Leon is off nine and John is off 13 which gives them a combined handicap of 22.

Their sole opponent, Rhys Lakin is off 16 which meant he had to given six shots, which is not fun when you against two better players.

But Rhys, a well-known local rugby player (his father, Bob, played No 8 for Cardiff), proceeded to putt the living daylights our of them and win 3 and 2. It caused no end of jollity and Rhys was the hero at the lunchtime raffle.

Leon reckons Rhys will be off single figures in a year. Not only did he hit the ball very well, he sank one putt from 25 feet and three from 20 feet.

In sharp contrast John, rated one of our steadiest putters, missed four times from four feet and their prospect of a prize has receded somewhat.

Better fate has befallen Maurice Flynn who, like me, carries the heavy burden of a 28 handicap. This leads to a lot of ribaldry. It would be so bad if we could play to this handicap occasionally but we rarely get to within five or six shots of it.

This has led us spending a large number of winter leagues sweating on the wooden spoon — I got close enough in December to win a sack of potatoes — which Maurice has collected a few times.

Fortunately, in this session Maurice has the benefit of playing with James Barnett, a young man who is a single figure golfer. They have won two games in succession and, by all accounts,

Maurice has acquitted himself very well. Back to back wins is a rare pleasure. Brave

There’s nothing like playing with a good player to improve a hacker’s game. What it does for the good player has yet to be established.

As it happens, Maurice and James’s first defeat was against Leon and John. These are the ups and downs of winter league life. There’s nothing comparable in golf anywhere in the world.

3 thoughts on “Travails of our
Winter heroes

  1. Golf is a funny game! One minute you are on top of the world and the next you are bitten in the posterior! By your comments above I believe it was a wise decision not to play after Christmas judging from your reported results. At least it should have given you time (like Tiger) to hone everything to perfection prior to playing in the warmer weather.

  2. The second half of the winter league used to be foursomes, to make it a bit quicker back to the bar and warmth in the 80’s is it still the same?

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