CONGU to the
rescue again

Hackers have been given a big handicap boost — and they must now stand back and withstand a negative reaction from their fellow club members.

CONGU, the organisation that governs handicaps in GB and Ireland, have decreed that we are not getting enough help and that we can at last burst through the 28 ceiling and get a handicap that more fairly represents our capabilities.

The ladies will receive similar treatment and be able to get more than their 36 shot limit. The new ceiling for men and women will be 54, just like the juniors.

I doubt if any of us will reach anywhere near 54 but it will bring relief if we can creep up above the present ceilings. During recent years the re-jigged handicap system has been particularly beneficial to those whose handicaps were in the lower- to mid-teens.

As long as they don’t do anything daft like finishing high in a medal, they’ve crept up towards, and sometimes past, the twenty mark.

I know a few at our club who used to be off single figures and are now in their late teens. To be stuck at 28 and watch these blighters advancing relentlessly towards you hasn’t been pleasant.

But a more immediate result in the new revision will come in four-ball better-ball events. In both match and stroke play competitions the handicap allowance will be nine-tenths the difference instead of three-quarters.

This has been a bitter pill for the high handicappers to swallow. If two 28-handicappers played two scratch players, the higher pair would lose seven shots each and the scratch players none. A player off plus two would actually gain a shot.

It was a nonsense and CONGU have done well to sort out this anomaly. Doubtless, there will be moans from the better players but the assessors study thousands of club results to arrive at a fair deal for all.

There was an outcry a few years ago when CONGU ruled that in match-play the full handicap difference should apply when a player met someone with a lower handicap. For decades the rule was that only three-quarters the difference be granted. No one ever knew where this figure came from. I’ve questioned many of the top authorities but no-one is sure how that figure was arrived at.

When they made a deep examination of club records they came to the conclusion that the fairest allowance would be one-and-a-quarter the difference. They didn’t feel brave enough to make that big a change so they settled for the full difference.

Even then they faced a mutiny from the better club players many of whom threatened never to play in knock-out tournaments again because they would have no chance. The reactions were absurd and although there were a few instances of rare wins by hackers –I had a couple myself, I’m not ashamed to say — the old order was soon re-established and the prizes have been largely claimed by the usual suspects.

How precisely the new system will proceed will be explained to clubs during a sequence of workshops held around the country for match and handicap committees to attend.

The changes are mandatory and will apply only to club-run competitions and cannot be used in opens etc. Although the changes are from January 1, 2016 they will not come into force until March 1.

There are a few other interesting changes which I have not dwelt on here but all will be revealed early next year. Suffice to say that we hackers are considered important enough to have our interests looked at by an official group constantly aiming to assist club members to have handicaps which truly reflect their playing ability.

My playing ability tends to defy description but it is comforting to know that someone is working on it. I thank them very much.

3 thoughts on “CONGU to the
rescue again

  1. Peter that elusive 99 is getting nearer, not going to help me at the moment but only three shots to go and the years are passing quickly, 80 next year and bits are falling off fast, this will be very helpful to keep us olduns going. Good luck.

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I’m back — but
so is the frog

It has been a long time since I put pen to paper (or, rather, finger to keyboard) to describe the continuing saga of my bad golf. The absence has been due to a mixture of illness and fatigue — I was sick and tired of it.

For 15 years or so I had been banging on about the burden of being a bungling oaf on the golf course, of how I’d failed to break 100 in a medal during all that time.

My weekly woes had started as a column in the Independent on Sunday and when they threw me out three years ago I switched it to this website mainly because I felt I had a duty to the many lost souls who told me they were comforted by the knowledge that there was someone suffering even worse than they were.

But by May this year, when I started comparing my lot to that of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, it was clear that I was cracking up. There is nothing wrong in pointing out that golf is such a great game there can be similarities between those at the very top and us at the very bottom. But I was running out of straws to clutch at.

The truth is, I was always hoping for a breakthrough. Although it may have seemed at times that I was revelling in my uselessness — some even accused me of playing badly on purpose so I had something to write about — there was a genuine ambition to become a better player….. The ugly duckling turning if not into a swan then into a better-looking duckling.

There is a strain in trying to say something fresh about the same subject week after week and I would stare at the blank screen on a Monday morning and eventually say ’F— it’ and go and read the paper.

I decided I would wait until something positive happened to me on the course before I would venture to trouble my readers again. Sadly, the picture of pointless endeavour failed to improve.

I once had thousands of followers but gradually they have dwindled away. The records show that they kept checking with the site but months of no fresh columns subdued their interest.

I’ve had letters, emails and texts enquiring as to my whereabouts. My fellow club members have almost stopped shouting ‘where’s the bloody hacker’ when I walk in the bar.

Two things happened recently that persuaded me to tap out another hacker and will, perhaps, return me to the weekly inquest into my inadequacies.

This has always been a words-dominated site but a year ago I introduced a rare picture. It was a statue of a frog playing a violin. Not an item of beauty, I grant you, but a nice little cameo and one deemed suitable to give me as a booby prize.

The occasion was the annual prize day of the Chips and Crisps, two mid-week swindles that involve about 50 members. In the Chips, the winner buys chips for everyone else; in the Crisps, the loser buys crisps for everyone else. Don’t ask.

Every November, the founder and organiser Charlie Caldwell holds a golf day when we go out and play for an enormous number of prizes for individuals, pairs and teams of four. The prizes are both generous and inventive, no more so when it comes to the booby prize.

Last year he produced this frog when I came in last. Not one to be churlish, I didn’t dispense with it but suggested to Charlie that it was such a good booby prize it should be presented every year.

So this year, I stuck it in a Tesco bag and handed it back to Charlie with the words: ‘There’s no way I want that bloody thing back again.’

Off I went with my allocated partner Richard Salt and the two other members of our four-ball, Mike Hennessy and Alan Duncan.

Unfortunately, Mike’s back started giving him trouble early on and by the eighth he could go on no longer. This was a shame, not only for him but for me he as was showing all the signs of finishing with a score lower than mine.

Actually, he would have been hard pressed to do that because I found it so difficult to score. My partner, Richard, was burning it up and went on to score 40 points, only one point short of being the overall winner.

I was a dead loss as a partner, although he was too polite to say so. I didn’t play atrociously, in fact I drove the ball quite well, but when I reached the green my putter turned to putty in my hands.

On most greens, I was failing by only one shot to get among the points but that’s no excuse for coming home with a pathetic score ten points. As I said at the presentation, it could have easily been 11 or 12.

The frog was duly returned to me, along with a massive golf ball, which they said I’d have more chance of hitting, three balls, a miniature bottle of Hendricks Gin and a set of tee-pegs in the shape of a naked lady.

The frog is now on the mantelpiece as a daily reminder of my disgrace. Every other attempt to improve my game having failed, perhaps shame will prove my spur

7 thoughts on “I’m back — but
so is the frog

  1. Dear Peter,
    Good to see you back.
    I am in the adult care and dementia market now.
    I suspect there are connections between golf and dementia that might be interesting. I will leave that thought with you.
    25 million people on this isle of ours know somebody with dementia.
    Andy Tremlett
    Andrew Tremlett Associates
    +44 (0) 7775 842716

  2. Great to have you back, Peter.
    But I have to say the above piece is very downcast.
    What’s happened to all the determination you use to show us about breaking 100 in a medal – that you’d definitely do it one day!
    You need to get your positivity back. Even the frog seems to be playing something by The Smiths (is it “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now?).
    Come on Peter, break that century!

  3. Nice to see you back Peter, I’ve been checking the web site religiously every week in the hope of seeing your column again, it is a great link to my past for me and the happy times I spent at the Glamorganshire before being banished to the West Country 32years ago. Please carry on writing and keep in good health, the elusive 99 will come believe me

  4. It’s great to see you back. I know in my heart that you will break that elusive 100 in the not too distant future. You can do it as all of your followers are behind you in this challenge.

  5. Dear Peter do not despair. At the age of 76 my handicap was at a steady 23 and had been for some years. At my best I managed to get down to 16, but then on the advice of a 4 handicapper, I changed my clubs to get more distance.
    I had a good summer and managed to get down to 20 when a notice went up to enter the Lee Valley Seniors Open for those interested. I entered and returned a pleasing 37 points, but was delighted when everyone else seemed to have a bad day and I won. Do not give up old pal, mediocrity can have its own rewards !!

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Rory’s part in
my disgrace

It does a golfer good to know where he stands in this great game of ours but I wasn’t prepared for the revelation at the weekend that I stand precisely 69 shots away from Rory McIlroy.

After Rory’s amazing record victory at the Quail Hollow tournament on Sunday someone who is knowledgeable about these things calculated that if Rory was an amateur he would have a handicap of +16.

It so happened that the previous day I had played in one of our club’s most prestigious tournaments, The Barbarian Cup, and, to cut a long and disastrous story short, I recorded a score of 123 which is 53 above par and for which I am utterly ashamed.

There is no-one in the world able to get anywhere near Rory at the moment so who am I to complain about being so far adrift of him?

But a gap of 69 shots puts me several planets away. That having been said, it does raise the question of what would happen if I played him according to those scores.

If full allowance applied he would have to give me four shots on 15 holes and three shots on the other three.

If you think about it, it might be worth playing him for a £1, £1, £1 — but I definitely would draw the line at 50p for birdies

We are now entering the realm of fantasy, of course, because Rory would never play me. He’s far too busy.

And even if he did, certain other considerations would come into play. For a start, when professionals play against amateurs they play off scratch and when hackers get on the tee they play off a maximum of 28.

So my dream of playing Rory off the full difference of 69 wouldn’t materialise and I certainly wouldn’t play him with only 28 shots so we’ll have to leave it.

All of which, of course, is a blessed distraction from the serious part of this report which is my deplorable display on the course. It will not amaze you that I do have a good reason for my wretchedness. I won’t call it an excuse because it carries a certain amount of self blame, quite a lot of it actually.

The previous evening I attended a convivial dinner at which I had determined to keep in mind that I was due to play golf the following morning. Unfortunately, my memory isn’t too good these days.

And when we reached home, I had a couple with my son-law-law. At 2.30, he went to bed and I popped into the office to check my emails. When he got up at 7.30, he found me still sitting at the computer fast asleep.

I can’t tell you how stiff my neck was. It was pointless going to bed at that time so I had a sausage sandwich and made my way slowly down to the club. I was playing with |Mike Hennessy who’d had a similar night at a different function.

Luckily, we had booked a buggy but I have to say that our attempts at a smooth swing were not impressive. I won’t bore you with the details apart from the astounding fact I didn’t go into one bunker so I can’t blame getting stuck under a lip or anything like that.

Mike scored 120, which he regarded a a major triumph, but it wasn’t pretty and we both delivered withering self-bollockings. How the hell can you take yourself or your game seriously if you don’t prepare properly and present yourself at the tee in decent shape. It was a valuable lesson at the start of the season.

But I rather resented the fact that I came in bottom place. It wasn’t an easy scoring day. There was a nasty, cold wind and only two scores out of 200 were nett under-par and the lowest gross was 76. The telling figure was 22 Nrs.

An NR is the golfing opposite of a VC — the cowards medal. If you are ashamed of your score you enter a ‘No Return’ and your score stays a secret. I know of one bloke who scored in excess of 140 and tore his card up another who started 10, 7, 14 and got stuck in a bunker on the 4th and finally threw his ball out in disgust.

At least I had the courage to face up to my failings and the ignominy I inevitably suffered. It make me all the determined to break 100 in this my 80th year or give up trying. Even Rory couldn’t say fairer than that.

One thought on “Rory’s part in
my disgrace

  1. I know how you feel, many years ago after a similar night and day out I was 8 up after 8 when the March winds and sleet sobered me up and I lost on the last! How can you do that?

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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.

One thought on “Yip-hit on the
Old Course

  1. Nothing to do with the yips but on Saturday in the monthly medal I had the strangest round of Golf I have ever had, it contained:
    A birdie two, a Birdie three, a par four, six fives, five sixes, three sevens, an eight and a nine.
    I had 1 putt, 2 putt, 3 putt and 4 putt greens, a double hit and I broke the shaft on my driver. The good news is I broke 100 by 1, 99 net 85.

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