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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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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