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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.

Mine is a complex problem that is not only affecting my health but my golf as well. It all started at the beginning of this year when a friend of mine insisted I borrow his ‘belly’ putter during a friendly round. I had been enduring a miserable run of form with the flat stick to the point where I wouldn’t even have been confident facing my 86-year-old father-inlaw in the first round of the ‘Summer Bowl’. Despite being an avowed golfing purist, I thought to myself: if it’s good enough for those young bucks Bradley and Scott, it’s good enough for this 11 handicapper. And alarmingly, it was almost too good.

Now I realise why Herr Langer gets so prickly when anyone asks why golf’s governing bodies aren’t banning the thing. I could not miss all day and quickly put the belly in the bag. It soon got to the point where I felt naked without something anchored in my midriff when putting. And this is where my real problems began. Ever so slowly at first, I started to gain weight. After bursting out of an old pair of golf trousers, I responded by having the grip handle trimmed by a couple of inches. In six months I ballooned to nearly 20 stone and now my gut is so large that I am able to use a regular sized putter just like a ‘belly’. I have returned to my purist roots but, in the process, have become a cardiac arrest waiting to happen. To say nothing of what all this has done to my full swing. Doctors say if I keep going I’ll no longer be able to walk 18 holes, and yet still I’m addicted to holing putts.

Ernie Wells, Elstree, Herts

What is happening here is a battle between your brain and your body. Subconsciously, your mind has rejected the assistance you are receiving from what it regards as an unacceptable aid. Your body, on the other hand, recognises the enormous benefits to be gained from using it and is almost literally embracing it. Much as I would like to suggest that it is for you to decide which is more important to you – adherence to traditional values or success on the green – clearly your health is paramount and so you must gradually put the inches back on the putter. This will cause some discomfort in your midriff but your body will get the message and you should soon start to lose the unwelcome inches around your waist.

Obviously stop the process when you have reverted to your previous size otherwise there is a real danger you could develop anorexia.

I’m a pretty average golfer who has developed a rather awkward personal hygiene problem as a result of a rather foolish commitment I made about 15 years ago when I first took up the game. Because I initially made very slow progress, I decided I would incentivise myself by buying a new golf shirt every time I played to my handicap. Initially, this strategy seemed to work well and I soon acquired several smart shirts as my handicap tumbled from 28 to 21. Then, about five years ago, my putting touch deserted me and I’ve not managed more than 33 points since my club’s November (2007) midweek Stableford. I desperately need a fresh shirt and my problem has got so bad that I’m now finding it difficult finding people willing to play with me.

Robert Perkins, Bristol

Before you become a complete golfing pariah, may I suggest you slightly amend your own rules so that you can win half a shirt if you manage 18 points over the front or back nine. Then, when you have secured two halves, you should buy a new shirt. If that doesn’t work, try a third of a shirt for 12 points in any six holes or a sixth of a shirt for six points in any three holes until such time as you have enough fractions to make a whole.

I am a happily retired lady who has only discovered golf comparatively recently. I enjoyed a successful career in the city but have now left my shoulder pads and hairspray behind. Although not the best golfer, I am nevertheless applying the same ferocious tenacity to practise as I once did to work. What I was unprepared for in the world of club golf, however, was the hierarchy of power and how alluring I would find it. When I first joined my club I was encouraged to attend the AGM. It was all a little over my head at the time as I was unfamiliar with the majority of discussion points but when the newly elected club captain got up to speak, my interest piqued. My hitherto glacial heart began to melt as though cupid’s arrow had shot out from under that retired army general’s, moth-eaten, tweed jacket and hit me flush in the chest. From then on I made each and every club function and always in my finest attire, ever hopeful of snatching a few moments of the general’s time. Although never forward, I nevertheless made it clear I enjoyed his company. I am not proud of it but I even bribed the club secretary with a teacake to fix the mixed foursomes’ draw so that I was paired with the object of my affections. Nothing happened between us and over the course of the year the fire that had burnt so brightly began to flicker and fade as I became aware that my head had been turned by the incoming captain, a sourfaced Scot with an intriguing limp. Like a giddy schoolgirl my heart was again set a-flutter. It’s been six years now and the conveyor belt of captains has seen my heart merrily bounce down the honours’ board. Why am I behaving like a sort of golf club groupie?

Miss Mabel Merriweather, Morpeth

Although I have no wish to delve too deeply into your background, my suspicion is that your father was a stern authoritarian figure possibly with military connections. I would further surmise that he was rather cold and, despite your considerable efforts to persuade him to behave differently, showed you little affection. Your obviously successful career was a subconscious effort to impress him, which I suspect failed. This unrequited love for your father has now found expression in your feelings for club captains. The best solution would be for you to marry a man for whom you had genuine respect. There is a golf dating website teeforetwo. co.uk, which you might care to try.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 
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