Yippee, it’s Lucy…

Thought for the Day
There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed

Here we Go Again
Of all the sins that can be committed on the golf course, two stand head and shoulders above all others – and I’m not talking about peeing on the tee box or behaving inappropriately with the Ladies’ Captain.

The two I’m talking about are first, that dreaded affliction of the greens – the yips – and as Henry Longhurst once astutely observed, once you’ve had ‘em, you’ve got ‘em. Bernhard Langer must be a beacon of salvation shining out to all those affected because, pretty uniquely in the history of the game, he has conquered them. Not once, but three times. Considering this history, and the fact that putting yips are supposed to get worse as you age (the theory being that a lifetime’s accumulation of stress on the greens is what eventually causes that spasmodic, twitching stroke that fires the ball 10 feet past after a four-foot putt), his unparalleled success on the Champions Tour alongside the round bellies, defies all logic and convention.

Then again, when he missed a six-foot putt at Kiawah Island that would have retained the Ryder Cup, and went on to win the following week, when just about anyone else would have been a basket case, was early testament to his indomitable spirit and titanium will.

The other affliction, which is such a devil’s curse that we’re not even supposed to say it aloud for fear of infecting those nearby, begins ‘sha’ and ends with ‘nks’. This reluctance to utter the cursed word is so great that we have devised an apparently limitless number of synonyms, the best-know being ‘Lucy Locket’ (socket) to describe the condition. It is a subject about which I am a renowned authority, having been visited by the malaise more than a few times in my 45-year golfing career.

I once went for a lesson with a sympathetic, generous-hearted and talented golf pro who, after 30 minutes during which I shanked every single ball, was closer to tears than me (I had, after all, been there before, and was somewhat philosophical, albeit depressed). He excused himself for a moment and returned with the PGA Teaching manual, the bible of all UK teaching pros. He showed me the two pages each devoted to curing a hook and a slice before turning to the eight pages dedicated to stopping people from shanking. I may not have got those figures exactly right but his point was that the Lucy’s are a damned sight harder to fix than just about any other golfing complaint, and the potential remedies as numerous as the potential causes.

After that episode I developed a band-aid emergency fix that involved not trying to hit the ball. I would aim (seriously) to hit a blade of grass about three inches inside the ball. It wasn’t pretty and made me feel rather emasculated but at least got me back to the clubhouse with most of my senses still intact – although some of my playing partners might take issue with the last part of that statement.

Carol Mann, an accomplished golfer on the LPGA Tour in the 1960s and ‘70s, won 38 times, including two majors. She once said: ‘A golf swing is a collection of corrected mistakes,’ which is something I think about whenever my shanks reappear, which they have done, with a vengeance, over the last three months.

It reinforces the idea that we all have our own, natural, way of swinging a golf club, and spend all of our golfing lives trying to do it differently – there can be few other activities we undertake in which the accepted and taught way of doing things runs so counter to our own natural instincts. In my case, the ingrained physical move that is my golfing downfall involves a forward motion in which the arc of my swing is slightly outside the line of the backswing, causing me to strike the ball where the shaft meets the clubhead, rather than in the centre of the clubface (we will ignore my tendency to sway off the ball, or my flying right elbow – they’re for another day).

But do not despair on my behalf because salvation is mine. Having just spent 24 hours visiting relatives, my delightful sister-in-law, who shall hereafter be known as the Blessed Ruth, effected a cure that I can’t wait to try on the course tomorrow. I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say I hit a succession of soaring, powerful wedge shots that would have made Bryson DeChambeau jealous – well, they were okay, verging on the pretty good.

My only consolation throughout these last three horrible, soul-destroying months when I couldn’t hit the green with a sand wedge is that I knew, or fervently hoped, that this bout of hosel-hitting would pass eventually – only to be followed by the depressingly inevitable thought: ‘Yes, but that also means that one day they’ll be back again.’

But in the meantime, praise the Lord (and the Blessed Ruth) and pass the ammunition.

Quote of the Week
When your forward press is longer than your backswing, you’ve got to think about giving up the game.
Charlie Crenshaw

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