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 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.

I live in Dubai and was left devastated by events last weekend. Competing in the Gourmet Golf Day at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, I managed to navigate the distractions of miniature Wagyu beef burgers, Peking Duck rolls and chilled glasses of Riesling to post a career-best total of 27 Stableford points, a score that I felt certain would put me in the frame for some silverware. But horror of all horrors, I was denied my first ever podium finish in a glutonous Middle East corporate golf day by the beastly system known as countback and was pipped at the post by a rival with a marginally stronger back nine of 13 points as against my 12. Distraught at missing out on an ornamental hookah, I was unable to enjoy my lobster and venison buffet. Why should golfers be rewarded for finishing their round better than they started it? Surely one should treat fast starts that eventually peter out with greater respect than woeful beginnings that partially redeem themselves in the latter stages. After all, as you know, it’s much easier to play well after you have thrown your round away than it is to protect a score. So after posting 15 points on the front nine, who can blame me if I was a little gun-shy over the odd two-footer? Why should some hacker who limped out in 14 points get the hubble-bubble pipe and not I?

Robert Greenfield, Dubai

Although I have some sympathy for you, the tie-breaking system of which you complain merely reflects the somewhat arbitrary nature of the game itself. The wellworn cliché, “Golf was never meant to be fair” would seem to apply here. Instead of feeling bitter, try and put your unfortunate experience alongside other injustices. For example, Roberto De Vincenzo’s incorrect recording of a four on the 17th when he actually had a birdie three at Augusta in the 1968 US Masters cost him a place in the play-off. And last year in your part of the world there was Padraig Harrington’s notorious disqualification in Abu Dhabi for not noticing that his ball had wobbled on the green. I hope putting yourself in such illustrious company will soften the pain of disappointment.

I’m 50 and have never won anything playing golf. The compass I was given for “Playing the Most Golf” in a Captain’s day some time ago doesn't count – winning it still annoys me. I enthusiastically support all my local golf events and club competitions but to no avail. It’s not the wearied contempt of my wife which rankles but the continued disappointment of Simon, my son. “Playing in another competition, Dad? Good luck. It must be our turn soon.” It’s heart rending. I’ve thought about telling him I’ve won when I haven’t but I can almost, but can’t quite, lie to him. Anyway, I’m not sure I can handle seeing his sad face the next time I inevitably return home empty handed.

Wally Lambert, Tunbridge Wells

Then you mustn’t come home empty handed. Not unnaturally you want your son to look upon you as a winner and the contemptuous attitude of your wife might change if you started delivering the goodies. You say you can’t lie to him and I respect that but there is a way of guaranteeing prizes without actually lying. If you’re not already familiar with it, you must go on eBay’s website and understand how it works. Basically, you submit bids and if yours is the winning bid then you ‘win’ the item. That is precisely the terminology that eBay uses. Since eBay has everything from ghastly glass trophies to iPads, all you have to do is choose the prize you would most like to bring home, submit the highest bid and then you can honestly tell your son (and your wife) that you ‘won’ the item.

I’ve just married the most beautiful and lovely woman in the world. Not only is she absolutely gorgeous, but she also plays golf. Although I couldn’t be happier, there is one serious problem… her mother. Despite also being a golfer, she is just about the most unpleasant person I’ve ever come across. Partly because I think she really struggles to find people who will play with her, she wants a game with me. If we play, I know for certain that we’ll have a huge row and it’ll end in tears but how on earth can I say no?

Andrew Griffin, Lossiemouth

You don’t say no. Look, if she’s as horrible as you say she is you are never going to enjoy a pleasant relationship with your mother-in-law. So you should have a game of golf with her and allow the inevitable row to completely rupture relations between you so that you aren’t even talking to one another. You see, for the modest cost of three-anda- half unpleasant hours you will be able to look forward to a lifetime of comparative peace.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 
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