Dr Felix Shank

Do you have a golf problem that’s keeping you awake at night?
Is there some aspect of your game that you simply can’t sort out?
Stop worrying because Dr Felix Shank, a more or less genuine expert on all aspects of the game, is here to help.

Illustrations by Tony Husband.

I’ve been golfing with a friend called Jim for just over 15 years. He’s not a particularly good golfer but we met when we were both beginning and we’ve played together ever since. One of the rather remarkable things about Jim is that, although he almost invariably finds his own ball, despite looking intently, he never seems to find anyone else’s.

Although I have often wondered why it was, I have never thought it especially significant. However, the last time we played he lost a ball in the rough on the 9th and I found it. What was strange was that it had the identical markings to those that I put on my ball, six small circles. Naively thinking that it was just a coincidence, I subsequently noticed him drop a blue tee peg while looking for an opponent’s ball.

Rather suspicious, I walked over and followed the direction in which it was pointing and, low and behold, there was our opponent’s ball. What I suspect Jim is doing is finding balls, saying nothing, marking the spot and then returning later to pick them up. I want to tell him that I know what his little game is but, because it’s so embarrassing, I can’t bring myself to confront him, which is what I know I should do.
Geoff Anderson, Newport Pagnell

Jim’s behaviour is quite despicable and must be stopped forthwith. Because, as you rightly say, it’s so embarrassing, you must find a subtle way of letting him know that you have rumbled his contemptible thieving.

What I suggest you do is pick a few balls that you don’t mind losing and write on them “Jim stole this ball” and, the next time you play together, spray them all over the course. He only has to find one to get the message. If that fails, you can always adopt spoiling tactics and drops handfuls of teepegs in the vicinity of every lost ball.

Dr Felix Shank

I read a splendid article in this magazine a few months ago (I think it was written by Clive Agran) about the joys of playing on your own. I heartily endorse the sentiments he expressed. However, there is one aspect to solo golf that disturbs me and that is the way two, three and fourballs habitually ignore a lone golfer behind.

It only takes a moment or two to step aside and let a single through, so why don’t they? The problem is that singletons are seemingly afforded no rights whatsoever on the golf course. This appalling situation is neatly summarised in the offensive phrase, “Single players have no standing.” I firmly believe that such a doctrine represents a gross violation of my inalienable human rights.

Last Thursday evening a fourball held me up – and another solo player behind me – for over four hours and I am proposing to pursue a test case against them (Dewhurst versus Atkinson, Fairweather, Black and Entwhistle, ex parte the Royal and AncientGolf Club) if necessary, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Reginald Dewhurst, Cambridge

Golf, especially in this country, has a remarkable record for ignoring what those outside the game would regard as correct behaviour. Women and the less well off in particular have for centuries suffered the most appalling discrimination and been denied what we might today regard as equal rights. Those who support the unsupportable do so to protect their own self interest. Unenlightened, middle-aged, middle-class, white men not unnaturally want to preserve their privileges.

However, although I sympathise with your predicament and understand how frustrating it must be to be stuck behind slow players who choose to ignore you, I’m not sure that you will be able to convince the courts that your human rights have been violated. In the incident you cite, why didn’t you join up with the guy behind, play though the fourball and then split up again immediately afterwards? Even if that strategy would have obliged you to play a hole or two with someone else, I think you’ll find that, in the long run, it will prove to have been a lot less stressful and expensive than pursuing your case all the way to Strasbourg.

Dr Felix Shank

I’m a retired dentist who recently accepted a part-time job at a golf club as a starter. After 35 years it’s a real pleasure to be doing something that isn’t incredibly stressful.

However, I have a problem that you might be able to help me with. It’s simple really, should I or should I not watch players tee off the first? My instincts tell me that I should but when, as very frequently happens, a player hits a dreadful shot, he or she invariably turns and stares at me as if it’s my fault for watching. Not watching, however, strikes me as rude.
P McArthur, Dundonald

Curiously, my instinct tells me that you shouldn’t watch because, as with traffic accidents, watching suggests an unhealthy interest in observing the misfortune of others. However, I can see that not watching could be construed as disinterest.

May I therefore suggest that you watch while appearing not to be watching. Then, on those rare occasions when someone hits a decent drive, you can say, “Good shot!” If they don’t, you can be looking the other way and apparently getting on with something else when they inevitably turn around reproachfully.

Dr Felix Shank