Why Rory is the hacker’s friend

Shame that Rory McIlroy’s valiant attempt to win the WGC-Accenture match play yesterday, and thus become the world’s number one golfer, fell short on the Dove Mountain course that looks a hacker’s nightmare. You could play it without ever treading on grass.
After mounting an amazing comeback to beat Lee Westwood in the morning semi-final, Rory fell victim to a super-steady display by Hunter Mahan.
But, win or lose, Rory earns admirers every time he plays and he was particularly endearing when he was being interviewed by a young lady before the event began. She asked what he liked best about golf.
He replied: ‘The handicap system so I could play you.’
There may well have been a flirty element to that answer but the very fact he is aware of the handicap system’s importance to golf makes him an exceptional member of golf’s top echelon.
The fact that it is feasible for the mightiest to play the meekest with even the slightest semblance of equality sets it apart from any other sport — although there is one glaring anomaly in the system when it comes to professionals.
What handicap do you think a player of Rory’s ability should be off? Plus eight, plus nine…? The answer is scratch. Whenever they play an amateur that’s what they play off.
The best player at our club is off plus one so he’d have to give Rory a shot. He wouldn’t think that was fair but, as it happens, that same player doesn’t think it is fair that if he plays me he’d have to give me 29 shots.
He’d still murder me but he begrudges me the full difference between our handicaps — a rule that was introduced a few years ago to an outcry from category one players.
When Congu — the body that runs the handicapping system on behalf of all the GB & I golf unions — ruled that the old allowance of three-quarters the difference was unfair many of the better players refused to enter the knock-out tournaments.
They said the odds would suddenly be against them. It was nonsense, of course, and now that it has all settled down the results show that it hasn’t led to hackers winning all the prizes — far from it. The advantage still lies with the better players.
Congu didn’t make their decision on a whim. They studied years of records on both sides of the Atlantic and concluded that the three-quarters rule gave the better players a huge edge
In fact, they said, to make it entirely fair the allowance should be one-and-a-quarter times the difference. In order to prevent attacks of apoplexy sweeping through low handicappers they declined to take this step.
Instead, they plumped for full difference which has changed the odds in favour of the better players from ’enormously favourable’ to ’favourable but not actually unfair’.
I did a lot of research at the time into how the figure of three-quarters was ever arrived at in the first place. It dated back further than anybody could remember and no-one knew the logic behind it. Not only did it seem an arbitrary figure, we were the only country in the world to impose it.
Congu are to be congratulated not only on rescuing high-handicappers from decades of unforgivably shabby treatment but also for their general governance of the handicapping system.
There are pockets of resistance among some clubs who still operate the three-quarter rule and where a handicap limit of 18 is still imposed on some competitions. I know of one septuagenarian hacker in Lancashire who gave the game up because his club refused to obey the new rulings.
In our winter league match yesterday, Bob and I received five shots from Andy and Martin but they weren’t enough.
We took them to the 18th but they beat us one up. It was a good game but the standard was seriously affected by Wales’s victory over England the previous day. How can you stay sober after a game like that?
Sad to hear of the death of comedian Frank Carson who was very keen golfer. I met him once at a golf function and he said: ’You’ll have to write about my new book. It’s called ’How to leave your fourth putt stone dead’.

One thought on “Why Rory is the hacker’s friend

  1. Lovely to catch up with The Hacker again. For those who view his tales of misadventure on the golf course with disbelief, let me reassure you that much (all?) is so true.
    There was a famous occasion in Spain on one of the superb golf journalists trip organised by the legendary Cal Carson Agency ( Colin and Ethel Farquaharson) a few years back. We stayed at La Manga and visited Hacienda del Alamo to meet Dave Thomas and his son Paul who designed the golf course. We had to use our imagination – there were a few strategically-placed green patches we were assured would be fantastic greens and a few half-built villas. But the beer flowed in the temporary marquee where we were entertained in style.
    We also played a couple of rounds of golf – one at a course I have forgotten – but for one lifelong memorable moment.
    A Hacker (yes, the only real one) stood on the first tee surrounded by high fencing erected to prevent an errant golf ball inflicting permenent damage to luxurious residences under construction.
    He then proceeded to slice not one but two tee-shots over the fence……
    Come on Pete – give those new website readers the chance to read the column you wrote the week after in the Sindy. It was one of your best.
    Great that you are keeping up one of golf’s most enlightening columns.

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