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.

Porky shows Maurice how to get a grip of us

Yesterday’s lashing rain might have been welcomed in the drought-lands of eastern England but it made hell of a mess of our golf course in Wales and our winter league matches were postponed. However, this might have worked in our favour because Bob and I were due to play Porky and Maurice Flynn again.

We beat them five weeks ago and it is very unusual to play the same pair twice in the same ten-week session.. But that’s what the draw threw up and Maurice was claiming a sudden improvement in his game that would help them get revenge.
Like me, Maurice is a 28 handicapper but his game is even more erratic than mine. Playing foursomes with him is like playing with a suicide bomber — you never know when he’s going to go off.
Peter Edmunds — nick-named Porky because of his passion for pork pies and bacon sandwiches — is a very good five handicapper and, although a commendably patient man, he does get occasionally frustrated.
The previous Sunday, he and Maurice were three up with three to play but managed to lose on the first sudden death hole. Porky’s tolerance level took a dive and he decided to have a word with Maurice about his grip as they trudged back to the clubhouse.
Porky had never seen a grip like it. There was a gap of three or four inches between his top hand and his bottom hand. It was the sort of grip you’d use if you were sweeping the garden path. There was no way he could hit the ball properly so Porky introduced him to the interlocking grip. Maurice said it felt very strange but thereupon started whacking the ball straight.
He went out practising during the week and couldn’t believe the difference. ‘Why hasn’t anyone told me before that my grip was all to hell,‘ he demanded. He couldn’t wait to get on the course yesterday and help Porky to smash us. The fact that Porky scored 40 points in a Stableford competition on Saturday did not augur well for us.
Alas, the rains came and play was impossible. The postponed matches will now be played next Sunday and with any luck the delay will play havoc with his new grip. Not that Porky will allow him to slip back to his old ways because he has a pressing need not to be on the losing side to me again.
Indeed, the club is buzzing with the possibility of me securing an historic hat-trick over him. Considering the yawning difference in our handicaps it would also be regarded as a miracle.
But we are talking about foursomes golf in which anything can happen. In last summer’s foursomes competition, John Dodd and I were rank outsiders and when we were drawn against Porky and Matt Davey, the clear favourites, everyone expected a massacre. Indeed, two members promised us a bottle of champagne if we brought off a giant-killing act.
We played out of our skins to record the shock win of the year and Porky was mocked unmercifully. When we were drawn against each other in the winter league he was thirsting for revenge but we won two up and once more he had to endure a gauntlet of mickey-taking
Fate has now brought us back together in combat for the third time. If Maurice gets his grip right we ought to get a whacking. But who knows?
At least, we have avoided the wooden spoon. We have both won three matches — two of theirs came when Maurice was on a cruise reportedly paid for by Porky — so there will be nothing on it but Porky’s pride.
Next Sunday is the final stage of the winter league and the pairs at the top and at the bottom will play Stableford as well as match-play in case tie-breakers are needed. One pair, Shaun Begley and Steve Jarvis, haven’t won a match. Their opponents, former policeman Dave Hancock and ex-Cardiff RFC and Wales ’A’ flanker Bob Lakin, have won only one. It is all tense stuff.

Porky thinks I’m an avenging angel

It is rare that a hacker gets to be on the winning side against a category one player twice within a year but last Sunday I completed the double over Peter ‘Porky’ Edmunds.
After conceding defeat from the depths of a bunker it was impossible to get out of, he shook my hand and said: ‘You are my nemesis.’
I’ve been called many things in my golfing life but never have I been compared to the Greek goddess of revenge whose name has come to mean retribution for past sins.
I can’t imagine Porky guilty of even the slightest misdemeanour. His nick-name comes from nothing more sinister than a liking for pork pies, he plays a great game off a five handicap and in the local motor trade he is known as one of the best panel-beaters in the business.
How he comes to regard me as a jinx is much less due to my golf than a matter of circumstances proving brutally unkind to him.
We are not the only figures in this drama because his two defeats have come in foursomes golf in which you and your partner play alternate shots.
In the club’s top foursomes tournament last summer Porky and his partner Matt were the clear favourites and were drawn against me and my partner, John Dodd, who were rank outsiders.
Some of Porky’s rivals promised two bottle of champagnes if we won — and we beat them in what was the upset of the season.
Porky still gets ribbed about it so imagine his feelings when he was drawn to face me again in the winter league.
Because the league rules are that pairs should have a combined handicap of at least 20, low handicap players have to seek out a high handicapper as a partner and Porky selected Maurice Flynn which was sporting because Maurice is usually found in wooden spoon territory.
My partner, Bob, and I are also familiar with that area because I have won it twice and Bob six times and, all things considered, our match was justifiable billed as Porky’s revenge.
Our starting hole confirmed that. We play a shot-gun start and we were assigned to the 18th, a par three that runs up to the clubhouse.
Porky drove first and landed the ball five feet from the hole. Bob scuttled his tee shot to the right and the ball landed between an impenetrable row of leylandii and the car park fence.
As I trudged back to help find it, Porky swept past me in a hurry having been suddenly assailed by an urgent need for the toilet.
By the time he had gone into the clubhouse, upstairs to the toilet, washed his hands and returned to the course, we still hadn’t reached the green.
It wasn’t a good start for us and by the fifth hole we were two down. But Bob and I managed not to collapse and, with the help of the 11 shots we were getting, we were one up after ten holes and three up with three to play.
Maurice wasn’t having a good time and Porky’s putting wasn’t what it should be but they managed to win the next two holes assisted by some abject play by us.
But, armed with a shot, we were on the green for nett three and Porky was under the lip of a greenside for three and after failing with a valiant attempt to get out he conceded the game.
News of our victory caused great excitement and Porky once more had to ride a gauntlet of guffaws.
If pairs are on a losing run it has been known for the weaker of them to be absent for a week or two and a substitute found. Maurice has announced he’s going on a cruise in February and the rumour is that Porky’s paying for it. I refuse to believe it.