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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 watched the drama of the Ryder Cup unfold on Sky in amazement and awe. What the European team achieved at Medinah was simply phenomenal. And then, when it was all over, I asked myself what lessons I could learn from it that would help my game. Evidently, Seve’s inspiration was critical and so I persuaded my wife to sew that distinctive Seve logo onto the sleeve of my favourite blue golf shirt. I then wore it for my club’s October mid-week Stableford and kissed it moments before topping my opening tee shot. Never mind, I recovered quite well, got up and down in three for a solid bogey at the first and turned with a steady 14 points. Despite spending most of the time I wasn’t looking for my ball either staring at my sleeve or looking up to the heavens for help, I still managed only 25 points which, although not disastrous, wasn’t the sort of inspirational score I was expecting.

L Vardy, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leics.

Whereas role models are not a bad thing and can, indeed, provide inspiration, it’s essential not to overlook the importance of technique. My suggestion is that you combine the two by logging on to Amazon and purchasing one of several copies they have of “Seve Ballesteros: The Short Game - The Ultimate Instructional DVD.”

I took up golf 15 years ago when it was suggested to me that exercise would help me deal with a mild phobia I was developing to stripes in general and striped wallpaper in particular. Yes, I know it sounds bizarre and irrational but that’s how it is with phobias. Frankly, I never quite got the hang of the game but it undoubtedly helped me deal with my problem. Then, about a year ago, a playing partner asked why I would carry on looking for balls even after I had found mine. Although a little strange, perhaps, I told him that there was nothing intrinsically wrong in it. However, more recently my wife has pointed out that I’m always looking for golf balls. In restaurants, at the supermarket, on the train, in our living room… wherever I am, apparently, I look for golf balls. I even shift furniture and ask people to stand up if I think they’re sitting on a golf ball. My wife tells me that it’s intolerably embarrassing. Other than on the course, I never find any but that doesn’t stop me looking. It’s a real problem.

David K Browne, Stranraer

You obviously belong to that personality type that is particularly prone to irrational fears and compulsive behaviour. Clearly, your obsessive ball searching must stop. I suggest you either buy a quantity of second- hand balls from a driving range or persuade your wife to paint stripes on some of your practice balls. Whichever it is, she should then hide them about the house. You will doubtless find them and be disturbed by the stripes. This ‘aversion therapy’ should cure you of the habit but be careful not to continue with it for too long otherwise you might find that you’re reluctant to even look for a ball on the course for fear of it being striped.

Persuaded by my wife to find a hobby, I took up golf when I was 28. As with a lot of other people, I was soon gripped and found myself playing three, four or even five times a week. Compared with golf, work was rather dull and I wasn’t therefore too upset when I lost my well-paid job as a salesman because my boss said I spent too much time on the course and not enough on the phone to customers. Anyway, I soon found work as an evening barman, which was perfect in that it left me free to play golf during the day. My wife then suddenly and inexplicably left me after 12 years of marriage claiming I loved golf more than her. Again, I wasn’t as devastated as I thought I would have been as it meant I could play at weekends and in more club competitions. I didn’t marry again and my handicap tumbled to 13, but never got lower. Now aged 57, I suddenly feel as if I’ve wasted my life. My handicap now is 17 and steadily creeping up, and all I’ve got to show for all those years of hitting balls is a solitary hole in one and a manual trolley for nearest the pin on captain’s day in 1992. If it weren’t for the fact that my putting touch seems to be returning, I’d feel inclined to end my useless life.

A R Ashforth, Cirencester, Glos

You are, of course, displaying the classic symptoms of a mid-life crisis, which is not unusual in players with your moderate handicap. You are, in effect, belatedly ‘mourning’ your lost job and wife. However, instead of regarding the time you’ve spent playing golf as miss-spent, you should look upon that period of your life between the ages of about 11 to 28 as the wasted years. Think, if only you had taken up the game a lot earlier, you might have made it to single figures. Still, you achieved a hole in one, which is a great deal more than a lot of golfers and in many ways harder to accomplish than a successful career or happy family life. You might also care to reflect on the fact that very few people on their deathbed regret not having spent more time in the office and be grateful that you discovered golf, albeit a little too late to ever get really good at it.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 
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