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.
My husband and I are great friends with another couple at our golf club, let’s call them Mr and Mrs B, and every year I partner Mr B and my husband partners Mrs B in our major mixed foursomes competition. Frankly, Mr B is not a terribly good golfer, has never won a competition and, consequently, in the 15 years that we have been partnering one another we have never got beyond the first round. This year, however, we have made it through three rounds and into the quarter finals.
Mr B is getting hugely excited, which is fine. What is not quite so good, however, is that he is beginning to smell quite badly. After our first round victory, he vowed to wear precisely the same clothes, including socks and underwear, and not wash them until we were beaten. Not to put too fine a point on it, he smelt so bad in the last round that I hesitated to even ring our opponents and arrange the nextmatch. And now I can’t even bring myself to tell Mr B when it is.
When I finally manage it, is there any way that can I broach the subject of smells without offending him or am I obliged to simply suffer? I asked Mrs B to have a quiet word with him but she’s too afraid.
Mrs Pamela Ponsonby-Fulbright, West Chiltington
Telling someone that they smell is possibly even more difficult than they are incorrectly aligned at address. My suggestion is that you avoid doing so directly. Tell him that the match is the week before it really is and then pull out at the very last minute saying that you are too ill to play.
Explain to him that you have already rung your opponents and conceded the match. Ask Mrs B to wash his clothes and, when that’s been done, ring him with the thrilling news that your opponents have kindly offered another date. Remember to explain to your opponents what you have done before you tee off otherwise they may be confused if Mr B thanks them for rearranging the game.
One of my favourite playing partners is a passionate environmentalist who, despite living 14 miles away, regularly cycles to the golf club. To protect the environment, he never takes any tee-pegs out with him but searches around on the teeing ground until he finds one. This is all very well but it sometimes takes him a couple of minutes and I’m conscious that while he’s looking, we’re losing ground on the game in front and will soon hold up the group behind. Whilst what he’s doing is entirely worthy it’s driving me nuts!
M Beamish, Newmarket
Your friend’s admirable concern for the environment is evidently greater than his dislike of slowplay. The solution, however, is not difficult. The simplest thing would be to try and ensure that you tee off ahead of him and pretend to pick up your tee whilst in fact leaving it for him to find.
You might even care to experiment with two tees under your ball to double his chances. When it’s his turn to go first, you should nevertheless step onto the tee, either pretending you had forgotten that he had the honour or under the pretext of surveying the hole before deciding which club to take. In either instance, you should drop at least one tee-peg down your trouser leg for him to findwhen he steps onto the tee. The unfortunate irony, however, is that pandering to your friend’s environmental anxieties will simply result in more, rather than fewer, tee-pegs being used.
The Chairman of our club happens to be a ‘Sir’ but he’s not in the least bit pretentious or snooty and he’s great company. He was formerly a very successful international businessman and has a fund of fabulous stories that he regales his playing partners with during the course of a round. Perhaps because I always laugh loudly at his anecdotes or maybe he just likes me, anyway, for whatever reason, whenever he sees me up at the club he invariably fixes a date for us to have a game.
The problem is that whenever he starts a story he stops walking and stands in the middle of the fairway, or wherever he happens to be, for however long it takes and only when he’s finished does he move on. Although it doesn’t faze him if there are people waiting on the tee behind, it does me and I feel increasingly uncomfortable. I feel I should say something but he’s a knight of the realm as well as Chairman of our club and I don’t think it’s my place to tell him off but I’m quickly reaching the point where I just find it too embarrassing to play with him.
C T Morrison, Matlock
Your Chairman’s habit of standing still whilst telling a story is not uncommon among those used to addressing audiences. However, what is acceptable behaviour when making a speech is quite different from that which is required of those playing golf. Your Chairman’s problem is that he’s incapable of distinguishing between the two; one which is exacerbated because neither you, nor anyone else who values their membership of your club, dare put him right.
What you must do, therefore, is approach the matter indirectly so that you avoid appearing to criticise him. Think of, or make up, a good story of your own. Then, when you next play with the Chairman, stop in the middle of the fairway and start telling it to him. I doubt very much that he will suggest you keep walking and so it is for you to say something along the lines of, “Excuse me, here I am telling you this story whilst standing in the middle of the fairway totally oblivious of the fact that there are people waiting to tee off behind us. Forgive me.” Start walking, apologise profusely and hope that the Chairman recognises the situation and, with a bit of luck, amends his behaviour accordingly.