I was representing my club in something of a needle match against another club. We were playing singles and my encounter was both tense and all square as we stepped onto the 16th tee. Although you can’t see it, there’s a railway line running down the right-hand side of the 16th which is, of course, out of bounds.
After splitting the fairway myself, I felt it incumbent upon me to alert my opponent to the existence of the out of bounds. Predictably, he promptly knocked his ball onto the railway line and cursed me under his breath. I won the match by one hole and both in the bar and at the dinner afterwards he let it be known that he thought I had been guilty of gamesmanship in mentioning the out of bounds. I told him that I felt obliged to point it out but do you think I did something wrong?
G Blenkinsop, Trowbridge
Research conducted the Sports Psychology Unit at the University of East Basildon clearly demonstrates that knowledge of a hazard or problem is indeed a hindrance to performance. An experiment was conducted where golfers playing on an unfamiliar course were told there was a small lake hidden just over the brow of a hill and that a hit in excess of 150 yards was required to clear it. During the course of a week, over 250 golfers unknowingly participated in the experiment. Of the 125 who were warned about the ‘lake’, 68.4% failed to carry the ball more than 150 yards whereas in the control group, who knew nothing about the ‘ lake’, 83.7% managed it. A similar experiment was conducted separately using a sign and oral warnings. You might be interested to know that, when it comes to impairing performance, oral warnings were twice as effective as a simple sign. So were you wrong to mention the out of bounds? From a competitive point of view, clearly not.
My 81-year-old father and I went to the same school and are members of the Old Boys Golf Society. We have partnered each other in the society’s father and son knockout winter foursomes every year since 1975 without progressing beyond the third round. Miraculously this year, which because of my father’s mild dementia and failing health is certain to be our last, we’ve made it all the way to the final. This is especially thrilling because my father says that winning this competition is his only outstanding ambition and that he’ll go to his grave happy if we do. The problem is he has never used a trolley in his entire life and still refuses to do so. He manages okay up until about the 14th or 15th hole but then tires quickly and his game consequently deteriorates rapidly. We’ve got as far as we have this year because we’ve managed to win our matches well before the end. However, I fear our formidable opponents in the final, who are the defending champions, won’t succumb so easily.
M M McIntyre, Edinburgh
Yours is a very touching story and I would very much like to help. Although it might seem rather unkind, for the greater good I think you should ‘exploit’ your father’s mild dementia and hope he doesn’t notice if you lighten his load substantially by putting at least half of his clubs in your bag. Be sure to alert your opponents beforehand to what you’re doing and indicate to them which clubs are his otherwise you might fall foul of the 14 club rule. If it were me, I would also tell them the whole story as I’m certain it will weaken their resolve and improve your father’s chances of fulfilling his dream.
One of my playing partners pointed out to me that a good friend of ours called George is guilty of petty larceny.
Although I must confess I had previously never noticed, what he does is regularly ‘borrow’ a coin to use as a ball marker and then either never gives it back or else, if asked, returns one of a much lower denomination. What makes it worse is that when he got a little pissed at our club’s Christmas dinner, he was heard bragging to the captain’s wife that last year he amassed sufficient in this way to pay his annual subscription, which is £575!
Having known and played golf with George for more than 25 years, I just find the whole business extremely awkward and, believe it or not, still lend him coins and am too embarrassed to ask for them back. The man’s stealing from me and I seem powerless to stop him. Can you help?
Gregory Flynn, Redruth
Money often causes embarrassment and telling George to cease his little tricks is clearly something you’re reluctant to do. Instead I suggest you keep a supply of worthless foreign coins, tiddlywinks or, if you’ve nothing else, 1p coins and present one to George each time before you play saying, “Here’s a marker, in case you don’t have one.” That at least will save you money.