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 At the 19th

Ups and downs at the Home of Golf

There are few more thrilling sights in golf, I don’t think, than me crunching the ball 185 yards, give or take, off the tee. An impressively full shoulder turn combined with a moderately rhythmical rotation produces a more or less reliable drive that ends up on or about the fairway approximately six times out of 10. Leaving aside four par- -threes, that extrapolates to roughly eight fairways hit in regulation per round.

The same shoulder/rhythm combination also produces tolerably decent iron shots. However, a tendency to sweep the ball off the turf rather than strike down on it – although desirable from a course maintenance point of view – results in frequent directional malfunctions. Consequently, my ability to convert ‘fairways hit’ into ‘greens hit’ fluctuates from disappointing to pathetic.

Assuming one of the eight fairways hit in regulation is on a par-five, which then requires the statistically improbable two consecutive good shots to produce a ‘green in reg’, I would estimate that, of the remaining seven, on average I hit two greens. Assuming I three-putt one, which is a conservative estimate, I’m left with one solitary textbook par-four a round. Add to that one flawless par-three and you have the two pars which, assuming I don’t get stuck in a bunker, lose a ball or go out of bounds but manage instead to bogey every other hole, explains my 16 handicap. And that, as we all know, would constitute a particularly pleasing round when everything has gone more or less according to plan.

Perceptive readers will already be fretting about a significant part of golf that I’ve blatantly omitted. Why no mention of the short game, I hear you cry. Well, if I confess that I’m normally elated to get up and down in anything less than four, you will perhaps understand my reluctance to address the subject. And I’m not here referring to awkward shots off tight lies over a deep bunker.

Sadly, I can’t even cope with a straightforward uphill chip off a perfect lie with absolutely everything including the wind, theoretically at least, in my favour. And so I putt. In fact, I putt from anywhere within about 75 yards of the green. This rather unconventional strategy invariably invites unwanted comments, provokes extravagant headshaking and seemingly obliges playing partners to offer unsolicited advice. Even though I’ve heard it all before, I try not to look completely disinterested. If the guy giving the advice has won a major then I will pay attention even though I know that what’s being said has absolutely no relevance to me because, when it comes to chipping at least, I’m not like other golfers.

Well, a few weeks ago I was at the St Andrews Festival of Golf. Since you ask, I was there to collect a long overdue award for ‘golf humour’ (whether it was for my golf or my writing wasn’t made clear). Anyway, playing spectacular Kingsbarns with another journalist, I was about to attempt a tricky 68-yard putt that broke five ways before it even reached the green when he asked why I didn’t chip. Since explaining takes too long, I simply grabbed my pitching wedge, concentrated hard and promptly whistled the ball 50 yards through the back of the green, leaving me an even longer putt back. Fortunately, I pluckily salvaged a double-bogey and, even better, he offered no further advice for the remainder of the round.

However, after we had shaken hands came the inevitable quick tip that was ‘guaranteed’ to cure my problem. Stifling a yawn, I watched un-intently as he dropped a few balls. What came next could genuinely be described as dramatically and refreshingly different from anything I had ever seen before. After I took my stance and followed instructions, one ball after another plopped onto the green and rolled towards the hole. It was spooky.

Although I sense you not unreasonably would like me to share this thrilling tip, I can’t in all conscience until such time as it has been rigorously tested in the the June midweek stableford at Dale Hill. If it stands up to that fierce examination then I’ll have a word with the editor and see if he’ll let me have a page or two for instruction in the next issue. Then, who knows, next year I might pick up the St Andews Golf Festival Most Original Golf Tip of the Year Award.

June 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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