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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.

Since you are the high priest of the fairways, I come to you with the kind of confession that I am certain would see me banished from even the most tolerant of golfing circles. In order to secure a senior post with a leading firm of investment bankers where the Chief Executive is a complete golf nut, I lied at the interview and said my handicap was very much lower than it actually was. Instead of confessing that my golf was abysmal, I heard myself saying, “On a bad day, I'll knock it round in the upper seventies.”

My future seemingly depended upon my future employer’s perception of my golfing ability. There were only two of us who made it through to the final interview and the other guy (let’s call him Joe) was a very talented player who had been on a golfing scholarship to the States and had seriously considered turning pro but, because he had a young family, opted for what he imagined was more secure employment. Anyway, I got the job and over the course of the next three years I did what was necessary to preserve my secret. I said I was left-handed when only right-handed hire clubs were available. I claimed to be 'remodelling' my swing. I cried 'food-poisoning!' when asked to pop out for a quick nine.

Then, on my way home from celebrating a £1m Christmas bonus, I saw Joe sleeping rough under a bridge. He explained that, after just losing out to me, his life had rapidly gone downhill. Unable to get a job, he turned to drink, his wife left him, he lost his home, he doesn’t see his children anymore and, the final tragedy, he could no longer afford to play his favourite game. Feeling unbearably guilty, I ironically turned to golf for solace. But when standing over the ball at particularly crucial moments, I find myself distracted by thoughts of what I had done to poor Joe. What should I do?

Name and address withheld

The answer is simple – you must develop a regular pre-shot routine that you adopt whatever the shot and regardless of how important it is. In that way you should be able to shut out all extraneous thoughts that are clearly impeding your performance.

I’m 40 years old and, principally because I’m extremely shy, still single. The only women I ever meet are fellow golfers at my local club. Well, there’s one rather special lady I partnered in our summer mixed foursomes who is absolutely gorgeous and of whom I am particularly fond. Although her putting is rather erratic and she frequently misses those tricky little three and four footers, she’s a very solid player and we make a formidable pairing. Every Tuesday morning we play a singles match which, despite conceding her loads of putts, which she likes, I ordinarily win. Two months ago I bought an engagement ring with the intention of asking her, after one of our games, to marry me. But when the time comes, I always bottle it. It’s partly that the moment never seems quite right but mostly because I’m simply too shy.

B. Comac, Bexhill-on-Sea

Asking someone to marry you is quite daunting even for men who ordinarily don’t suffer shyness. Just saying the words, “Will you marry me?” is extremely difficult. What you must do is engineer a situation where you can pop the question in a more oblique way. The next time you play, mark her ball, preferably when she has a putt of between three and six feet, not with a ball marker but with the engagement ring you bought. Then, when she goes to replace her ball and sees the ring, say something along the lines of, “You can have both the putt and the ring if you’ll accept my hand in marriage.” A combination of gratitude for the generous concession combined with admiration for the novelty and charm of your proposal should ensure an answer in the affirmative.

Watching all the ballyhoo and hype surround the Olympics has given me what I believe is a brilliant idea as to how the R&A could more effectively promote The Open. I suggest that at the conclusion of the championship, which of course this year was at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s, a golf bag be filled with sand from one of the greenside bunkers on the 18th. During the course of the next 12 months, this could then be carried around the 2000 or so British golf courses by each of the respective club captains. What an honour it would be for them! And then finally, on the eve of the next Open, the sand could ceremonially be poured into a bunker by the 18th green of the next venue by someone who has contributed an enormous amount to the game. You, Dr Shank, would be an ideal candidate.

J L M Witherspoon, Batley

Sadly, a rather dodgy back would preclude my lifting and emptying a golf bag filled with sand. However, I do appreciate the thought and would suggest you put your idea directly to the R&A. Although they have a well-earned reputation for resisting change, it’ll be interesting to hear their reaction to your imaginative idea.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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