Only Tiger can
kill the yips for us

Has Tiger Woods been sent from on High to lead us chipping sinners to a better place? Has the great short-game exponent been deliberately inflicted with the yips in order to help us cleanse our game?

Tiger hasn’t quite reached the wretched depths occupied by millions of hackers. But his shaming 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Open in Arizona last weekend plus his withdrawal from Torrey Pines on Thursday, has brought him far enough down the road to hackerdom

From here, he can be an example to us all, a beacon, a shining light to show us the way out of the wilderness.

Chipping is not his only problem at the moment but we know it is at the root of his troubles and we’re going to be intently watching the way he cures himself because this is the most insidious manifestation of our inability to get the golf ball to do our bidding.

Chipping should be one of the more straight-forward of golf shots. Hitting the ball a short distance to the green with a lofted club is not one of the game’s most difficult processes.

Obviously, it requires great skill and a deft touch to get the ball consistently close but, in itself, it isn’t a complicated operation. But when a yip suddenly causes you miss it altogether, clunk it couple of feet or blade it across the green it is a horrible experience.

We can cope with cocking-up our tee shots, murdering our mid-irons, shanking our approaches and sometimes failing to connect altogether but the chipping yips is the curse most capable of destroying our souls.

Not to be confused with the putting yips, the chipping yips are far more spectacularly humiliating, as Tiger has been proving in embarrassing fashion. And whereas we fiddle about uselessly in search of a remedy, he has to find a solution very rapidly. — and we’ll be watching like hawks.

We will also be relying on those wonderful gatherers of wisdom, the golf writers, to tell us exactly what steps he will be taking to fight this evil. Then we can follow him to the promised land.

I’ve had so much advice from pros about losing the yipsand so many lessons I’ve lost count. One pro even gave me my money back when I kept yiping away after all his efforts. That’s not something they normally do.

The problem is that only a fellow sufferer can really understand what you are going through. And when a player who was the best golfer in the world becomes a fellow sufferer he has the makings of a messiah.

It won’t be easy. No one can even agree on the cause. Some think it is physical, others call it the result of a ‘mysterious mental disorder’.

Over many years I have managed to cut down the number of yips I suffer and can sometimes go a whole round without an attack. But when you can sense the yips just waiting to strike without warning, you are never comfortable and it affects your entire game.

The yips quite literally ruined my game. I didn’t take up golf until my mid-forties but managed to get down to a handicap of 19 with every expectation of a gradual improvement.

Then I was appointed golf correspondent of The Observer. A great job but, paradoxically, it meant my playing opportunities were severely limited. I spent most of my life on the best courses in the world but rarely was there a chance to play –especially in weekend medals.

On the odd occasion I did play, the yips began to creep in and became a major problem. I spent hours practising, had some very highly-qualified advice, but often during a competition I brought the clubface towards the ball for a simple chip there would an involuntary jerk of my hands and I would lucky to make any form of contact.

It was a nightmare, ruining nearly every game I played. Unless there was bunker in the way, I would putt from miles away from the green.

I became quite good at 30 yard putts from the fairway. It doesn’t always work. Once, at the Old Course at St Andrews, I once three-putted before I reached the16th green.

My handicap wandered out to the maximum 28 where it still rigidly resides. I’m determined to break 100 and get my handicap down but it won’t budge until I rid my short game of this curse.

Because of the weather, I haven’t been able to practice on the course much lately but I’m constantly chipping plastic balls onto the armchair in the lounge. This works mostly but transferring it to live action is always a problem.

What I and countless others want is a miracle only someone of Tiger’s stature can perform. Save us, Tiger, we beseech you.

2 thoughts on “Only Tiger can
kill the yips for us

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Knackered but I
dodged the booby

Darts is a great game, as the World Championships on TV have been proving recently, but to suggest that a hacker should go and play it instead of golf is a disgrace — and that nearly happened to me over Christmas.

I played in the Egg Cup on the Saturday and was fearful that I would finish the year with another booby prize.

I wrote last time about how my latest collection of booby prizes were a statuette of a frog and a sack of potatoes.

And when I came in with a sad 21 points, I feared I was going to be handed another mocking award. But, somehow, someone managed to beat me to it. Did they take pity on me or did he really score fewer?

We’ll never know because no scores were announced but I do know that poor man had to read out a golf poem and was then presented with a set of darts.

As a suggestion that you should go and play some other game, how pointed is that?

My one excuse for my low score was that I was knackered. The previous day, which was Boxing Day, we had our traditional Cross Country event in which we traverse the course instead of proceeding up and down the fairways as normal.

We go from the first tee to the fourth green and then zig-zag our way around nine make-piece holes; some of them very strange, going over ditches and through trees and measuring up to 800 yards long.

I actually won the event many years ago partnering Simon Curle who played off one or two at the time. But I had to do my bit as we play greensome foursomes which means you both drive, select the better one and then play alternate shots.

Because of the terrain and the obstacles to be overcome it is by no means straight-forward and you both have to be resourceful, long and accurate. We won it easily and when Simon was teased for taking advantage of a high-handicapper’s shots, he happily pointed out that we won it with our gross score.

It was probably my finest hour and I’ve never come even close to so successfully bashing my way sideways around the course.

This year I played with Leon who had just completed his year of captaincy and was probably looking for a little light relief. He didn’t get it. I was a burden and it turned out that one of the Christmas presents I didn’t realise I’d received was a shank.

Our playing partners were two of the South Wales Constabulary’s finest former officers, Keith Nicholls and Steve Summers, who have somehow managed to avoid the CID investigating their handicaps.

We played them for a fiver a corner and although neither pair looked like challenging the leaders we had a very tight tussle which went to the very last putt. It looked as if we were going to finish level when Steve sank a 25 footer to take the money.

It was a great game but the weather was appalling. Not only was it blowing a gale, there was a driving drizzle that found its way through your waterproofs. Never mind, you have to take your pleasures where you can.

I didn’t realise how much it had worn me out until the next morning when I turned up for the Egg Cup which is a tournament organised by Arwyn Williams to celebrate his birthday.

He invites about 50 of us to play for individual and team prizes and then we get a sausage and mash supper. We have to pay, of course, but since he’s a former bank manager what do you expect ?

Anyhow, it’s always a lot of fun and the weather was a bit better than it had been on Boxing Day. Unfortunately, one of our team of four missed the first hole. Tony Edmunds, who insists on being called Slug, had got the times wrong and when he turned up accused us of starting ten minutes early.

As a team, we never got over that bad start and Slug certainly didn’t. He was almost as bad as me. The other team members, Alan Buchan and Chris Pickles, did better and got among the winners but it was hard going and I was flagging well before end.

After our sausages and mash I actually fell asleep in the bar. Next year, I think I’ll stay home in the warm and drink my Christmas presents.

One thought on “Knackered but I
dodged the booby

  1. Have a good rest now and learn this new chipping method, I am looking forward to hearing about it, I need all the help I can get! Have been hunting out Peter Dobereiner’s books on the net, I didn’t realise that you were colleagues, I can understand why golf writers have a good sense of humor, you need it when you have been playing this stupid, fascinating game for 50yrs or so. More power to your pen.

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Stirred up
by the spoon

A couple of dozen winter leaguers at The Glamorganshire are sweating under the threat of receiving the dreaded wooden spoon at the prize-giving supper on Saturday evening — all because of a sadistic Chief Snake who refuses to name the luckless pair until the last minute.

You would think that in any well-ordered competition the rules of engagement would be quite straightforward, with the top prize going to the best pair and the worst pair getting the wooden spoon.

But no-one ever accused the Snakes and Ladders of being well-ordered. Actually, the format is excellent. It embraces 72 pairs — that’s 144 golfers — and each Sunday the winners move up the ladder and the losers move down ensuring that the following week winners play winners and losers play losers.

Thus, over the ten weeks, the cream rises to the top and the crap to the bottom of the ladder which has pride of place in the bar.

There are vague rules, such as how many subs each pair is allowed, but generally the competition is run under the iron-fist of the Chief Snake who traditionally operates under just two rules:-

Rule One: The Chief Snake is always right.

Rule Two: In the event of the Chief Snake being proved wrong, Rule One applies.

It works well because there is nothing wrong with a benevolent dictatorship and our current Chief is nothing if not benevolent. Dave Hancock is very popular and this has been his first session in the job.

He took over from Peter ’Jammie’ James who was a very difficult man to follow. The main duty of the Chief Snake is to preside over the Sunday lunchtime raffle and give a scathing account of the morning’s play, naming all those guilty of air-shots and other golfing atrocities.

Jammie would have a packed bar of about 150 in stitches with the quality of his badinage interspersed with saucy jokes.

If there were any doubts that Dave, an ex-copper, would be able to maintain that standard he has soon dispelled them with his own brand of humour which makes up in comedic strength what it may lack in subtlety.

They do say that golf is a funny game but on winter Sunday mornings at our club it is positively hilarious and as far away from the game’s staid image as it possible to get.

Last Sunday was the final day and those in contention at the top and the bottom took out Stableford cards in case tie-breakers were needed to finalise the finishing order.

There was no problem in deciding the top five prize-winners but even though one pair hadn’t won a single match it was announced that they wouldn’t automatically win the wooden spoon. The Chief Snake wanted time to consider if other pairs were more deserving of the disgrace.

Winning the spoon means having your names engraved on a giant spoon above the fireplace in the bar and having to make a much-heckled speech at the presentation supper. In order to avoid it, hackers will persuade better players to sub for them at a crucial stage.

My partner Dave and I have won three matches and with plenty of pairs having won fewer than that we thought we were safe but for some reason we are mentioned as possible spoonists. We tried to make it four wins last Sunday but ex-printers Dave Virgin and Phil Salter beat us four and two.

Our cause wasn’t helped by Dave jarring one of his fingers which affected his driving and long fairway shots but, oddly enough, my ball-striking improved considerably.

‘Ten weeks, and now he starts hitting it,’ was Dave’s unkind comment.

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Saved by the
blessing of 31 shots

There have been dramatic developments in my golfing year. I am now fully fit to walk courses in the foulest weather — twice around Royal Porthcawl in howling gales and rain have proved that.

And after nine months beset with a high pitched squeak instead of a voice, I am now able to shout ‘fore’ in almost manly fashion.

But the improvements stop there. The cancer treatment may be working but I am still playing crap golf and my form in the winter league has been inconsistent to say the least.

Last Sunday, my partner, Dave Ellis and |I, narrowly escaped humiliating defeat against a player who was giving us 31 shots,

There are harsh rules in our winter league in which we play foursomes. If one of a pair doesn’t turn up, the other must give the full difference in shots to the opposition.

The pair we were due to play, Paul and Graham, played us in the first of the ten-game pre-Christmas league and when we went five up after the first five holes we were looking forward to an early drink. But the transformation in their game was such that we didn’t win another hole and lost on the last.

So we were looking forward to getting our revenge. However, neither of them could play and they arranged for two subs to take their place.

But when we got to the first tee only one of them had turned up. He was Andy Warner and he wasn’t very happy. He’d driven eight miles for a competitive game of golf and now faced the prospect of a bloody good hiding.

Normally, we play half the difference between the two handicaps but if only one turns up he has to give the full difference. Since his handicap is 11 and our combined is 42, that meant 31 shots.

He then proceeded to lose a ball on our first hole, drive out of bounds on the second and then cock up the third.

To be three down after three did not sweeten his demeanour. ‘I’m determined to give you boys a game,’ he said.

And he proceeded to do just that. A massive hitter, Andy can be a bit wayward but anger added accuracy to his armoury.

On the next hole, a par-five of over 500 yards, he was on the green in two. We had two shots but they didn’t help much when we took five to get to the green and he claimed one back.

He was pin high for two on the next, another par five, and just short of the green on the one after, a par four..

Our shots were giving us an obvious advantage but on the longer holes he was easily over-powering us for distance. After our eleventh hole, another par five he devoured, we were only one up and very worried.

But he found a deep and nasty greenside bunker on the next to go two down. Another par five followed but his soaring drive dribbled into the trees and he had to take a drop. This coincided with me hitting a good fairway wood for the first and only time and we were on the green for three nett one and he was there for four.

He kept fighting and won another hole but he lost a ball on our 16th and we won 4 and 2. We would have all been a lot happier had we not finished on the furthest point of the course from the clubhouse and had a mile walk back.

But he had turned a potentially lop-sided disaster into a very good and close game and went home a proud man.

This means that we have won only three out of the nine games we have played and one of those was with the help of a super-sub, my dentist Martin Price when Dave was away in the States.

But it has been a feature of most of our defeats that one or both of our opponents have played out of their skin. I have a theory that this very column may play a part in this sudden surge of opposition form.

They are desperate not to lose to us in case I take the piss out of them in The Hacker. As if.

But we are not out of danger yet. We are still in wooden spoon territory and we must win our last match on Sunday to be home and dry. Although I don’t think we’ll be dry for long on that day.

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