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.
Following a recent article in this magazine about how to shave shots off your handicap through a razor sharp short game, I have become hopelessly addicted to lob wedges. What started out as a mild dalliance carrying a 56 and 58 degree wedge has turned into a full blown addiction.
I have now jettisoned every club in the bag save my putter for a rich variety of gap, spin, mid and lob wedges and it does not seem to be doing my game any good. Despite hitting every shot beautifully in last month's club medal I returned a score of 114. Also, given the number of shots I must take to reach long par fours and fives I am adding an hour to my playing time, hence finding other members reluctant to come out with me.
But what can I do? I already have my eyes on a beautiful 60 degree, offset, chrome beauty which could possibly replace my putter and is certain to get me into trouble with the greens’ committee.
STEVE KILDARE, EASTBOURNE
A study by David Isenberg, Emeritus Professor of Sporting Disorders at the University of East Basildon, reveals a remarkable correlation between addictive behaviour of the sort you describe and the premature termination of breast feeding. In other words, there is a very strong probability that your were separated too soon from your mother's breast.
With their shiny and appealing heads, the wedges you now find yourself attached to are simply substitute breasts. Don't despair, however, as your condition is eminently treatable.
A revolutionary aversion therapy technique that involves being slapped around the face with balloons filled with water whilst watching a Natalie Gulbis instructional DVD has an astonishing success rate that makes the gain well worth the pain. Be warned, however, this treatment should only be administered under the strictest medical supervision otherwise there is a real risk that you will develop a liking for it that can, in a few rare instances, escalate into full-blown sado-masochism.
I've reached the final of my club's Summer Cup and have to play a rather obnoxious fellow called Roderick. Not only is he thoroughly unpleasant but he's also one of those golfers who is terribly well organised. He keeps all his teepegs in one pocket of his golf bag, spare gloves in another, a banana in another and so on. He meticulously wipes each club after using it, slips one of those infuriating little protective covers over it before sliding it carefully back into its allotted slot. I know that it really shouldn't annoy me as much as it does but for some reason I find this anal behaviour extremely irritating.
Perhaps I wouldn't mind so much if he weren't such a steady golfer and wasn't so confident of beating me. When he does, he'll be thoroughly ungracious and intolerably boastful, which will compound my misery. Is there anything I can do to stop him?
JOE WHITLEY, LEEDS
To be fair to Roderick, there is nothing essentially wrong or gratuitously provocative in being well organised. However, I appreciate that such fastidious behaviour, especially where it's taken to extremes, can be irritating and part of its purpose might indeed be to unsettle opponents.
One tactic you might consider employing is out-organising Roderick by being even more meticulous than he is. For example, how about attaching a row of coloured pencils to your bag and marking Roderick's score on each hole in one colour, your own in a different one and the match score in a third? If nothing else, it'll give Roderick something to think about.
Your best bet, however, is to indulge in a spot of sabotage. If he has to search for a ball, take the opportunity while he's distracted of switching his head covers around, pulling out two or three of his irons and returning them to the wrong slots and hiding his banana. It may even be necessary, if he doesn't hit into the deep rough himself, for you to sacrifice a hole by deliberately slicing a shot into trouble and interfering with his stuff while he's looking for your ball. Discovering various items are not in their correct place will profoundly unsettle him to such an extent that his game will almost certainly fall apart and you should win comfortably.
I am a salesman with a pharmaceutical company who organises a friendly game of golf every year between my boss and me and two senior executives from our biggest customer, a firm based in Tunbridge Wells. Because it’s very handy for them, we play our match on a beautiful Ian Woosnam designed course at a club called Dale Hill.
My problem is that I’m expected to ride in a buggy with the less senior of our opponents who, without putting too fine a point on it, has a serious odour problem. Because he’s aware of the situation, my boss refuses to switch places but I honestly don’t think I can bear to spend another four hours sitting next to someone who smells so badly.
P CASTLE, GREENWICH
My research has revealed that there are two courses at Dale Hill - the Woosnam, where you have played your match every year, and what is known as the Dale Hill course.
Buggies are mandatory on the former but not required on the latter, which is far less hilly. On the pretext of trying something new, why don’t you extol the virtues of exercise, book a tee time on the Dale Hill course and walk in the fresh, sweet-smelling, East Sussex air?
I'm due to play a chap called Thomas in the semi-final of my club's scratch singles' competition. A devout Christian, he beat me last year and the year before and employed what I regard as ungentlemanly tactics. For example, before teeing off at the first he crossed himself and sprinkled holy water on his ball. Then every time he faced an important putt he looked skyward and would mutter an inaudible prayer.
The Lord, or whoever it is up there, certainly seemed to smile on him as he enjoyed some outrageous good fortune. I'm determined not to let him beat me again but don't know how to counter what he describes as ''his caddie in the sky''.
D N GILBERT, NOTTINGHAM
There is no place for Thomas's tactics on a golf course.What he is clearly doing is convincing his opponents that he has God on his side, which evidently fosters an increasing sense of desperation in them.
There is no alternative open to you other than to fight fire with fire. Just before you tee off in your semi-final, invite him to join you in a prayer. As a devout Christian, he can hardly refuse. Then recite the following. "Oh Lord, with so much sadness, misery and trouble in the world, both Thomas and I recognise that you have no time to look down upon or take an interest in our unimportant and inconsequential game of golf. So please attend to those things that really matter and leave us to enjoy our game in peace. Amen."
I'm an unemployed bus-driver for whom golf is a great consolation during a particularly difficult period of my life. Anyway, I'm due to play my neighbour Chris in the final of an important club competition in a few weeks time. Because I lost my licence at the beginning of the year, I asked him if he would kindly give me a lift to the club on the day of our match. He declined saying that it was important for him to be alone and collect his thoughts before a big match.
Apart from the fact that I can't really afford a taxi, what makes the situation really upsetting is that it was I who proposed him when he joined my club at the back end of last year. Furthermore, it was after celebrating the news that his application had been successful that I was breathalysed and lost both my driving licence and my job. I think his behaviour is unforgiveable and, to be honest, I now regret ever having proposed him in the first place.
R BRAITHWAITE, ENFIELD
You're absolutely right, Chris's behaviour is quite intolerable. Feeling extremely indignant on your behalf, I took the liberty of making some enquiries at your club and discovered that all new members are automatically on probation for one year. Your club rules state that, "... if during that period, his or her proposer or seconder withdraw their support for his or her application, or three members submit a written objection to his or her membership, then the probationer's membership shall cease on the final day of his or her probationery year."
It is more than a little fortuitous that Chris's probationery period ends four days before your final. Although you could obviously use the situation to persuade Chris to give you a lift, it's my opinion that, through his selfish and inconsiderate behaviour, he has forfeited the right to be a member of your club.