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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.

Ever since I married about three years ago I have been suffering from constipation. Consequently, I spent quite a bit of time in the smallest room in the house. To help pass the hours, I keep a pile of back issues of your magazine in there which I regularly read. Although you would have thought that there was no real upside to my problem, you might be interested to learn that my handicap has come down by five shots in that time and I attribute all of that to careful and repeated reading of your excellent instruction articles. However, I would willingly give back those five shots if I could re-establish regular movements. My wife is convinced that golf might be aggravating my condition and seems keen for me to cut down on the number of rounds I play a week or, better still in her opinion, give up the game altogether.

Could she be right?


Although somewhat surprised that you are anxious to overcome a condition that has evidently benefited your game so much, I can appreciate that being stuck in the lavatory for long periods can be tiresome. Your wife, of course, is completely wrong. Exercise is a recognised laxative and I suspect that there may be some hidden agenda in her seeking to persuade you to reduce the amount you play. Indeed, her hostility to your golf might well have triggered the anxiety that, in turn, could have brought about your condition. How strange that she might inadvertently have been responsible for lowering your handicap. Far from giving up the game, you should play as often as you can, drink plenty of water on the way round and try and eat an apple (excellent roughage) on every par five. Assuming that this relieves your condition, be prepared for the paradox that the more you play, the worse your game will get.

I’m rather pleased with myself for surviving five rounds and making it through to the final of my club’s Summer Cup. However, my opponent is a rather slippery character called Simon. A notoriously bad bunker player, he has somehow managed to convince the competition committee that he suffers from a rare sand allergy and has produced a medical certificate to support his claim. The committee have, foolishly in my opinion, given him special dispensation to drop out of any bunker without penalty.

Incidentally, he does this by elaborately donning a pair of disposable protective gloves. He has also managed to have the final put back until October because he knows that I’m a marketing director of a fireworks company and that October is our busiest month. He claims that he arranged his holiday to Skiathos some months ago and is sorry that he can’t make the traditional third weekend in September. I know, because he’s going with my non-golfing neighbour, that he only booked it a couple of weeks ago.


Although nowadays there are all sorts of allergies, neither I, nor any of my medical friends have encountered a sand allergy before. So your suspicion that Simon is a fraud would appear to be well founded and exposing him as one must be our aim. A Greek island seems a strange destination for someone supposedly allergic to sand. Tell your neighbour that you’re thinking of going there next year and would like to be reassured that the beaches are as beautiful as they appear in the brochure. Would he mind, therefore, showing you any photos of the beaches and the sea? Unless he is indeed allergic or remarkably lucky, Simon should, as it were, be trapped by the rising tide of evidence.

The least liked member of our club, Thomas Osborne, sadly died of a heart attack at our Christmas dinner. It is testimony to his unpopularity that, in order to persuade members to sit with him at that dinner, tickets for his table were sold at a substantial discount. Anyhow his widow, Mrs Osborne, gloriously unaware of the low esteem in which he was universally held, has generously donated his wedding ring mounted on a plaque to the club as a trophy to be awarded in his memory. Our problem is finding a suitable competition to which we could appropriately attach his name without giving the false impression that we cherish his memory.


Anything to do with death has to be handled with great sensitivity, which makes my initial thought that the trophy could be awarded annually to the least popular member of the club one that I instantly dismissed as gratuitously offensive. However, the integrity of the club, its competitions and the names on the other trophies must be protected and not devalued.

After careful thought, could you not create a low-key eclectic event to run in conjunction with the monthly Stableford competitions from, say, June to August and award the Thomas Osborne Summer Stablefords Eclectic Ring to the winner? That should satisfy his widow, whilst those who knew him could refer to it colloquially as ‘The Tosser.’

Three months ago, I met and fell in love with a beautiful young woman called Ellen. Previously, the only true love in my life had been golf. Anyway, Ellen recently moved into my one-bedroom flat and noticed how much space was taken up with my golf gear. Not only the clubs and bag, but the boxes of balls, clothes, shoes, tee-pegs, instruction DVDs and, forgive me, the piles of your magazine. They had, Ellen explained, taken over my life and so she encouraged me to get rid of them and literally clear some space in my life for what really matters. Although extremely apprehensive at first, I took her advice and have to tell you that it was an incredibly liberating experience. To be blunt, I have never been happier. There is space in my flat and, just as important, now that my weekends aren’t wasted on the golf course I have time to explore other areas of human activity that I had previously neglected. Golf had taken over my life and I now I feel blissfully free.


Although I know I should feel happy for you, I don’t. What you are experiencing is very similar to what people who have lost their jobs go through. Beware, the initial exhilaration at being freed from the perceived shackles that previously constrained you will soon be replaced by boredom in much the same way as those who are unemployed are more bored than liberated. And I must confess to being rather nervous about Ellen and her motives. Instead of understanding that golf is a perfectly healthy recreation, the fact that she sees it is a threat as if it were a rival for your affection, is a worry. My hunch is that when spring comes, you will yearn to get back on the fairways. And come the summer, it will be Ellen’s things that will be cluttering your flat. Then you will have to make a choice. Although it would be inappropriate for me to interfere, may I simply say that, compared with most women, golf is cheaper, more tolerant and less demanding.

Two years ago, a friend of mine at my club (let’s call him Harry) begged me to partner him in the Winter Fourball Competition. Although he is rather unreliable, I reluctantly agreed. Anyway, he turned up 20 minutes late for our first round match and, under the rules of the competition, we had to forfeit. He blamed me because he said that I should have known that he might be late, should have allowed for this and given him an earlier time than the correct time. Twenty minutes, he said, was an “acceptable margin for error.” So last year I told him that he “must be there for 9.40, although we don’t tee off until 10.” He turned up at 10.20, we were again disqualified and he again blamed me because he said that I shouldn’t have said, “…we don’t tee off until 10,” because that was the time he then registered in his mind. I said I would give him one last chance this year. We’re teeing off at 9.48, what time should I tell him?


Harry is a complete nightmare, doesn’t deserve a reliable partner like you and needs to be taught a lesson. Tell him that you’re teeing of at 8am sharp. Concede the match to your opponents and don’t bother turning up yourself so that he discovers what it’s like to be let down. If he says you told him that you would give him one last chance, explain that you meant no more chances and that telling him one was within an “acceptable margin for error.”

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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