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.