Some wise words
about golf

I’m on holiday this week — playing my first game in over three months in the visitors match at Cardigan on Wednesday — and will do some tittering at the following golf truisms kindly sent in by Nick Page, a member at Wallasey GC, and who came to play in the annual Frank Stableford commemorative match against Glamorganshire last month.
I don’t know how it took him to gather these nuggets of wisdom but they are priceless:-
Don’t buy a putter until you’ve had a chance to throw it.
Never try to keep more than 300 separate thoughts in your mind during your swing.
When your shot has to carry over a water hazard, you can either hit one more club or two more balls.
If you’re afraid a full shot might reach the green while the foursome ahead of you is still putting out, you have two options: you can immediately shank a lay-up or you can wait until the green is clear and top a ball halfway there.
The less skilled the player, the more likely he is to share his ideas about the golf swing.
No matter how bad you are playing, it is always possible to play worse.
The inevitable result of any golf lesson is the instant elimination of the one critical unconscious motion that allowed you to compensate for all of your many other errors
Everyone replaces his divot after a perfect approach shot.
A golf match is a test of your skill against your opponents’ luck.
It is surprisingly easy to hole a fifty foot putt. For a 10.
Counting on your opponent to inform you when he breaks a rule is like expecting him to make fun of his own haircut. Nonchalant putts count the same as chalant putts
It’s not a gimme if its still your turn to play.
The shortest distance between any two points on a golf course is a straight line that passes directly through the centre of a very large tree.
You can hit a two acre fairway 10% of the time and a two inch branch 90% of the time.
If you really want to get better at golf, go back and take it up at a much earlier age.
Since bad shots come in groups of three, a fourth bad shot is actually the beginning of the next group of three.
When you look up, causing an awful shot, you will always look down again at exactly the moment when you ought to start watching the ball if you ever want to see it again.
Every time a golfer makes a birdie, he must subsequently make two triple bogeys to restore the fundamental equilibrium of the universe.
If you want to hit a 7 iron as far as Tiger Woods does, simply try to lay up just short of a water hazard.
To calculate the speed of a player’s downswing, multiply the speed of his back-swing by his handicap; I. E back-swing 20 mph, handicap 15, downswing = 300 mph.
There are two things you can learn by stopping your back-swing at the top and checking the position of your hands: how many hands you have, and which one is wearing the glove.
Hazards attract; fairways repel.
A ball you can see in the rough from 50 yards away is not yours.
How come some men can successfully run businesses with annual turnovers of hundreds of thousands and millions, constantly have trouble counting past five or six?
If there is a ball on the fringe and a ball in the bunker, your ball is in the bunker. If both balls are in the bunker, yours is in the footprint
It’s easier to get up at 6:00 AM to play golf than at 10:00 to mow the lawn
A good drive on the 18th hole has stopped many a golfer from giving up the game.
Golf is the perfect thing to do on Sunday because you always end up having to pray a lot.
A good golf partner is one who’s always slightly worse than you are….that’s why I get so many calls to play with friends.
If there’s a storm rolling in, you’ll be having the game of your life.
Golf balls are like eggs. They’re white. They’re sold by the dozen. And you need to buy fresh ones each week.
It’s amazing how a golfer who never helps out around the house will replace his divots, repair his ball marks, and rake his bunkers.
And, finally, one that really rings true — If your opponent has trouble remembering whether he shot a six or a seven, he probably shot an eight (or worse).
Many thanks, Nick.

Fitting homage
for Dr Frank

What a weekend……. Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, Ernie Els winning The Open in a dramatic finish and The Glamorganshire beating Wallasey in the annual match to honour Dr Frank Stableford.
While the third of these happenings might lack the momentousness of the first two it is pretty big stuff at our club. We’ve been getting regular hammerings from our Merseyside mates in recent years so it was satisfying, and totally unexpected, for us to register a 5-1 victory.
As you might expect from gentlemanly clubs, there is never any bragging over the result. The main object of the match is not who wins but to pay homage to our hero.
Although, it has to be reported that when the captain of Wallasey, Mike O’Callaghan, at dinner on Sunday officially invited us back to Wallasey next year the Glamorganshire captain, Jim Corsi, replied: ‘ We’ve had a better offer from Holyake’.
Hoylake, aka Royal Liverpool, is the neighbouring club to Wallasey and, of course, we would no more think of going there than they would of inviting us. Wallasey is the club at which the good doctor perfected the idea that makes his contribution to golf so immeasurable.
It was from there in the early 1930s that the Stableford system of scoring was launched on a world that embraced it eagerly.
What, I hear you asking, has this got to do with Glamorganshire golf club? Well, when I was researching our records to write the club’s centenary history in 1990, I first discovered that Sir Frank was a member in the early days and then, from one dusty volume, a newspaper cutting fell out.
It was from the South Wales Daily News reporting on the club’s first autumn meeting on September 30, 1898, and, as a footnote to the scores in the bogey competition, it read:-
‘A special prize was given by Dr Stableford in connection with the foregoing event, the method of scoring being as follows. Each competitor plays against bogey level. If the hole is lost by one score only, the player scores one; if it is halved, the player scores two; if it won by one stroke, the player scores three; an if by two strokes the player scores five. To the score thus made, one third of the player’s medal handicap is added.’
And there it is — the original blueprint of the system. The prize was won by W. Hastings Watson with 42 points but, apparently, Dr Frank didn’t play. No record is available of what his fellow members thought of the system and no mention of it is ever recorded again.
He probably had other distractions for soon afterwards he was enlisted as an army surgeon and went off to the Boer War and thereafter to the campaign against the Mad Mullah of Somaliland
When he returned, he joined Royal Porthcawl where he played off plus-one, won the club championship and reached the semi final of the Welsh Amateur Championship.
He moved to Merseyside and joined Wallasey just before World War 1 and was promptly called up as a RAMC colonel serving in Italy and Malta.
When I wrote about my discovery in the Observer, it irked Wallasey who perceived it as a challenge to their claim to be the home of Stableford. It was nothing of the sort — we were just proud and delighted to have a connection with the great man and that we were at least the birthplace of his brainchild.
If he hadn’t re-introduce it at Wallasey in 1932, his system would never have come into existence and that old clipping would have been as meaningless as all the others I had to plough through.
And many other clubs would not have been as patient to allow him to experiment. In its first manifestation at Glamorganshire, the system was played off scratch with a third of the handicap added at the end.
When he introduced it at Wallasey, the whole handicap was added. But a severe gale made him aware that if players struggled to score, the high handicap players would have the advantage of a load of points before they even started.
He then made the telling decision that the handicap allowance be taken at each hole — an option that wasn’t available before the arrival of the stroke index.
From then on, the system spread like wildfire and Wallasey hold an annual tournament to celebrate its inception.
When Glamorganshire held a tournament in 1998 to mark the centenary of the original outing of the system, the R & A were among those who sent representatives to play in it. Wallasey sent two teams and by 5 am the following morning we created a mass hangover and a bond that exists to this day.
We exchange annual visits and in his honour we all wear a bow tie. A flamboyant character, Dr Frank drove a yellow Rolls Royce and was never without a bright bow tie. We’ve created one which incorporates the colours and crests of both clubs. Furthermore, two Wallasey members fashioned a bronze trophy of a bow-tie which we play for every year.
It hasn’t spent long in the Glamorganshire clubhouse but it is there now after our shock victory. When Wallasey visit us, they play on the first day at Royal Porthcawl, the doctor’s other club in South Wales.
As I am out of action following an operation, I wasn’t able to play this year but I was at Porthcawl last Saturday to have a drink with them and accompany them for the first four holes.
The rough at Porthcawl is pretty heavy and I offered to help them look for their balls and go back to the clubhouse for more if they ran out.
But they played very well — captain O’Callaghan had two birdies in the first four holes — and I returned to the bar convinced we were going to be murdered the following day. They came in with commendable scores, two of them having 35 points. The winner on count-back was John Overend who had 22 points on the back-nine.
They dined very heartily at Porthcawl that evening and shared a few bottles of port with former Glamorganshire captain Bob Edwards, a leading Stableford expert.
When they arrived to play the Glamorganshire on the Sunday, the shine had gone off them. They were heavily defeated 5-1 by a Glamorganshire team of supposedly lesser mortals including Roger Ellis, who has been off injured for the best part of two years, and Eirian Owens, who has had. two knee and three hip replacements.
In the only game they won, their pair included the aforementioned John Overend who dropped one shot in the first six holes of the back-nine. I understand his handicap of 17 is being scrutinised as I write.
Richard Jones, who has been Wallasey’s team organiser since the outset of these matches, knew I was going to write something about their visit and he asked if he could have right of reply.
I said that this column has a comment section and that he could add whatever comments he liked. He should also be aware that our members are already clamouring to be selected to be in the team to visit them next year.

Speed-up with
a six-ball

The battle against slow play at our club wouldn’t get very far in Vietnam according to Tim, one of the Hacker’s readers, who wrote a comment at the end of last week’s posting inviting us to play in Asia ‘where every super-hacker believes they are playing on the final day of the Masters’.
One of his recent competition rounds in Vietnam lasted six hours 45 minutes. The temperature, by the way, was 38C and the humidity 95% which may explain the lack of urgency.
Thank-you, Tim, for reminding us that expat hackers all over the world face problems we who play our golf in the relative comfort of these rain-soaked, sun-forsaken islands couldn’t imagine.
Nev, one of our members who spends a few months every year in Thailand, confirms that it is not all that quick there, either, particularly when you have to stop every few holes for a rest and a gallon of water.
There are other drawbacks such as the habit some Thais have of playing in six-balls, a format made even stranger by the fact they don’t wait on the tee for each of the six to tee-off.
The first one drives and then sets off after his ball, the second does the same, then the third and so on. When they reach their ball they play their second shot immediately and off they go. After the first player holes out he goes straight to the next tee and sets off again.
They call it the Thailand crocodile. It sounds both chaotic and dangerous but it seems to work and is a lot quicker. To add a further complication, they play a gambling game called Boker which is based on poker with one player acting as the banker and large sums being wagered on each hole.
Nev is at a loss to explain how they keep a check on the scores and the bets but it doesn’t seem like a format that would replace our system of a pound, pound, pound and 20p for bits.
As for our club’s campaign against slow-play, this weekend’s medal will see the introduction of an official starter and a marshal riding around on a buggy urging tardy three-balls to get a move on.
It was to begin two weeks ago but a water-logged course put a stop to that. Whether the rain will abate this weekend remains to be seen but, at least, they did stage a four-ball better-ball competition last weekend.
I’m still unable to play following a major operation but I thought I would at least see if I was fit enough to walk the course. If I can do that four or five times, it might persuade the surgeon to let me loose again.
Although the course was playable, it was raining but I didn’t let that put me off. It sounds daft but I’ve never walked our course without carrying a set of clubs. It really is a worthwhile experience. Golf courses are splendid places and if you are not making a fool of yourself with a golf club there is so much to admire.
From the hill at the centre of The Glamorganshire course there are sweeping views over the Bristol Channel up to the Severn bridges and down to the Exmoor hills.. You can see five counties; Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devon and, of course, Glamorganshire.
I’m glad to say that I completed the walk comfortably, stopping occasionally to take the piss out of some appalling shots and generally enjoying myself.
I was aware, however, that I was attracting some furtive glances and not everyone seemed pleased at my presence.
But it wasn’t until someone started explaining why they taking so long that I realised they thought I was a marshal checking up on how quickly they were playing.
I protested that I wasn’t spying, I was just getting some much needed exercise. The idea of someone taking a walk in the rain seemed so ridiculous that many of them didn’t believe me for a minute.
I plan to take another walk this weekend. I’ll take a stop-watch with me to cause even more consternation.

Don’t blame us
for slow play

It’s bad enough when rain stops you playing golf but when it prevents you swanning around the course in a buggy as a marshal’s assistant it is doubly sad.
My enforced lay-off following an operation still has a couple of months to go but last weekend I was offered the chance to witness at first hand our club’s latest clamp-down on slow play.
This was slightly ironic since every time slow play is discussed my regular three-ball tends to get mentioned in a derogatory manner. Needless to say, we are aggressively vociferous in our defence. Not that we disagree with the principle, we just don’t like getting picked on.
The European Tour has also declared war on slow play and they penalised Ross Fisher one shot at the Wales Open last month. At Glamorganshire, suspensions are threatened.
There wouldn’t be much point in imposing a shot penalty at our level — most of the 200 or so who compete in each monthly medal would hardly notice if you added five shots to their total.
But stopping a club golfer playing in a medal is a cruel punishment. You have to queue up a week ahead to get your name down for one, that’s how keen everyone is to play in them. We are far keener on competitive rather than social golf.
Every golfer has their own idea of what constitutes slow play. In the third round of the US Women’s Open at Wisconsin last week the final two-ball took five hours and 25 minutes. They were probably having a chat.
Obviously, games of that duration would cause havoc in club golf. At our club, the match and handicap committee have decided that four hours, which includes a refreshment stop at the halfway house, should be the norm.
As it is, those off first in the morning usually manage to finish inside that time but by the afternoon rounds are taking four hours 30 minutes or more which is not good enough.
Match captain Leon is determined to speed play up so that no-one is unduly delayed. The first offence will attract a warning letter and dilly-dallying for a second time will earn a two weeks suspension for all competitions.
To help maintain the pace of play, a series of course marshals will be cruising the course in a buggy to encourage any laggards to get a move on.
And to ensure everyone begins on time, a starter will be posted on the first tee. Anyone late will also attract a penalty.
Leon invited me on his buggy to see how it all went but the torrential rain closed the course.
Just to prove there’s nothing new in this game, we had a slow play problem when I was captain 20 years ago. I appointed a senior member as a starter and because he’d be on duty for six or seven hours I arranged for him to be paid a couple of bob.
A year or so later, after my term of office was over, they sacked him to save money. I feel somewhat vindicated that a starter has been re-introduced and I may have mentioned it once or twice in the bar.
Of course, whenever slow play is brought up the poor old hackers are usually blamed. But common sense tells you that a golfer taking 110 shots in a medal is liable to be slower than one who takes 70.
Although that doesn’t always apply. Hackers don’t generally ponce around the green studying putts from every angle. And after playing a shot we tend not to stand there posing for 30 seconds
As for my infamous three-ball; Max, Mike and myself usually play at about 9 am. Unfortunately, most of those who start earlier have a passion for rapid play that we don’t share. This is not surprising since our combined age is about 220 and we take around 300 shots between us.
But we still get home in around four hours. They take pride in being a lot quicker. In fact, if you ask them how their round went instead of giving you their nett score as most would they say ‘three hours 41 minutes’.
Now, you wouldn’t mind if they were in a rush to finish in order to take their wives shopping or to see their sons play football. No, they gather round the back of the 18th green, with a steady accumulating array of empty glasses in front of them, mocking the finishing times of those behind them.
Our only explanation is that they are all alcoholics who can’t wait to get back to the clubhouse to have a drink.
Having said that, we are wholeheartedly behind Leon’s campaign and I hope Leon invites me onto his marshal’s buggy when last weekend’s postponed medal is played next weekend. I’d welcome the role of independent observer.

Saved by
a hacker

It is five weeks since my major cancer operation and my long road back to playing golf has begun. All this is due to a miracle called the NHS and, in particular, to the Upper Gastro-intestinal team at the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and the brilliance of senior consultant surgeon Mr Geoff Clark and his accompanying angels led by Clinical Nurse Specialist Tracy Parsons.
Sorry if this sounds over-effusive but when you’ve been through such accomplished healing hands you can’t pitch praise too high.
It is matter of extra satisfaction that Mr Clark is a golfer. One hesitates to call a surgeon a hacker but he plays off 20 and is happy to be counted among us.
This reinforces a long-held opinion that however poorly hackers perform on the golf course many of them display their excellence in other, and more important, areas of life. I am not saying that good golfers tend to be thick but there’s plenty of evidence to support that view.
Anyhow, Mr Clark has advised me that one legacy of the long and intricate surgery he performed is that I am unlikely to swing a golf club with my usual wild abandon for several months but that I can practice my putting.
This offers me an opportunity not given to many hackers who are naturally reluctant to spend time honing their game.
I now have ample time to take a slow and deliberate path back to full golfing fitness and on the way I can devote some close attention to areas of the game I may have neglected hitherto.
And what better implement to begin with than the putter. It so happens that putting is the least problematical part of my game — I’ve scored so many before I reach most greens, putting doesn’t matter — but it would be foolhardy not to spend the many hours I have at my disposal working on this important part of the game.
Furthermore, there’s so much happening in the world of putting these days it is worth re-assessing one’s approach to the art. I have a conventional grip and although my Odyssey putter with two white circles behind the blade was a bit racy ten years ago it is now fairly commonplace.
There doesn’t seem to be a conventional grip any longer. It has become subject to a bewildering range of hand arrangements. A study of the top players in the current big tournaments will reveal several new ways of holding the thing.
At the moment , I am fascinated by the placing of the left hand lower down the shaft than the right hand. It seems to give you more control. I shall soon find out.
As for the putters themselves, all sorts of weird shapes now poke out of golf bags and the increasing number of long putters now in use among professionals and amateurs is causing the authorities to look closely at whether they infringe the rules if not the spirit.
Mike, one of my regular partners, has been using a long putter to good effect over the past few months. I’ve asked him if I can borrow it for a few days. He says it may be a bit heavy for me in my present state but I suspect he’s worried I might break it.
But I am determined to try it. If it works I shall throw my weight behind the campaign to keep them. If it doesn’t, they can ban the buggers as far as I’m concerned.
Through the medium of this website, I shall keep you informed of my progress. I am determined that when I do start playing again I will be better prepared, mentally and physically, to resume my crusade to break 100 in a medal. Who knows, my operation could well be the making of me.

I’m planning a
big comeback

It will do the game no harm at all to learn that I will be unable to cause any damage to golf courses for a few months as the result of an operation I am due to undergo this week. Thankfully, the rain relented long enough for me to make a competitive farewell in the Jubilee Cup at The Glamorganshire on Saturday.
Since the course had been a soggy mess and closed for most of the week, we didn’t think much of our chances of playing but it dried out enough to enable us play a truncated competition over 15 holes.
I was particularly pleased because I wanted to take into hospital a fresh memory of my latest form so I could dwell on a comprehensive reflection of my mistakes as I lay in bed — but I don’t think they’ll let me stay in that long.
As it happens, my play was an improvement on recent rounds so I have more bright than bitter memories to ponder. I also have a more important distraction. My son, James, joins the Daily Telegraph as golf correspondent this week and is even now in the US from where he will be sending daily reports of Tiger’s and Rory’s adventures at Quail Hollow this week and the following week at the TPC at Sawgrass.
Meanwhile, back to more mundane matters. Happy as my regular partners, Mike and Max, and I were when we arrived for our 9 am start we soon realised we hadn’t put enough clothes on. I had three layers, including a polo neck, but the rain had been replaced by an east wind that may have been dry but was fiercely cold. We don’t recall being more cold at any time during the winter.
The Jubilee Cup is an individual Stableford which gave me the chance of improving on my last Stableford score of 16 points which made me joint bottom in the last competition.
It didn’t look at first as if I’d even get that many last Saturday. I was determined to try to hit the ball straighter, which I did, but my swing was so deliberate the ball wasn’t going very far. What with the course being muddy and slow, I was taking an extra shot to get to the greens.
And the greens, not having been cut due to the weather, were so woolly and slow putting was a nightmare. So many putts were stopping way short of the hole. Of course, you then gave the putt a bit of extra beef and the ball went sailing past.
There was a happy medium to be found but I never discovered it. Although I was hitting the ball longer as the round wore on, I ruined my chances of a better score by at least three-putting every green.
After six holes, I’d amassed five points. I did better on the back nine and the boys said they hadn’t seen me hit the ball better for weeks. Nevertheless, I still managed a total of only 15 points. Max didn’t do much better with 16 and Mike got 20.
I took solace from the fact that 15 points from 15 holes was a distinct improvement on 16 from 18 holes. But there was better news to come. Instead of finishing joint last, I was one of a number on 15 and there were five players on lower scores than me. The lowest was 12 points and included in the bottom five was my financial advisor, the club president and Bob, my winter league partner.
It’s nothing to get excited about but at my low ebb a few bragging rights are very welcome. Certainly, I have enough to work on in my mind before I can tackle a full round again and I’m planning a big comeback.
In the meantime, I shall continue writing my weekly hacker column for this website and I’ll be keeping a beady eye on a few other hackers whose travails I can report on. I hope I can still rely on your company.


A sorry start to my
attempt to be average

What a miserable start to my competitive year. Despite a promising round at the Old Course at St Andrews the previous Monday, I finished with 16 points in the singles Stableford back home in Glamorganshire.
I do have a bit of a medical problem to worry about but that’s no excuse for my abject failure to keep my swing slow and fluid. A series of jerks and judders sent the ball scurrying all over the place and the more I tried to keep my head down the more it shot up just before impact. And impact is hardly the word to describe the meeting between my club-face and the ball.
All you say about my score was that it was consistent — eight points each half. I finished joint last with Dafydd who also slunk home with the same score. I haven’t seen Dafydd to discuss our disgrace but he is my financial adviser so he is used to dealing with low numbers.
But before I brace myself for another tough season, an interesting statistic has caught my eye. I have long maintained that there are more hackers in the world than any other sort of golfer and from America a comes news that the average score for a round of golf is 100.
That figure comes from no less an authority than their National Golf Foundation and they say it hasn’t changed since the old days of hickory shafts. So much for all that advancement in equipment. Club and ball technology seems to be progressing every year — and so do the prices.
An estimated $4 billion dollars was spent in the US on drivers, putters and other golfing tools during 2011. That’s a big increase on the $3.4 million spent during 2007 and this was despite a decreasing number of people playing the game these days.
There were 25.7 million golfers in America in 2011 which is a drop from the historic high of 30 million in 2005 when Tiger Woods was on the rampage. I suspect his fall from grace might have something to do with a lessening of the game’s appeal.
But back to the point. We’ve never spent more on clubs and balls — and I expect the figures here mirror those of the States — and yet we hackers are still not getting the ball in the hole quick enough.
Mind you, any improvement in clubs tends to lead to the courses being lengthened and toughened up. What’s the point of giving us better weapons if you then stiffen the defences of our courses?
Still, my forlorn ten year quest to break 100 in a medal is suddenly put into perspective. When I eventually bust that ton, and this year may be the year, I will be able to claim a place in the top half of the golfing fraternity. I will be an above-average golfer.
Considering my many natural frailties, that will be a triumph — although Professor Anders Ericsson disagrees. His research shows that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be great at something; regardless of how much innate talent you possess. I can’t agree with that. Just a look around your own club. Some players have a natural aptitude for the game and if you don’t share that it is very difficult to acquire no matter how much you practice.
There’s no doubt that expert tuition and extra practice can make a difference. But not everyone can retain advice for long and it is easy to slip into old mistakes. It is wrong to think of hackers as stubbornly lazy, although some do fit that description, because some of us are desperate to improve.
My son says I’ll never play the game well because I have a lack of hand-eye coordination and nu muscle memory. I distinctly remember having a muscle when I was in the army but I’m determined to improve.
I am quite impressed with this quote I read last week from an American:-
‘Golf isn’t for everyone. It’s not easy to learn and it is impossible to master. It’s expensive, time-consuming, intimidating, and humbling. Its rules often defy common sense and some of its traditions are downright primitive..’
It makes you wonder how the hell we manage to get so much fun out of it.