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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.

My left leg is shorter than my right. Samantha, the physiotherapist who is endeavouring to sort me out, says it’s a consequence of a rather violent swing that sees me driving my weight aggressively through to my left side on impact. Frankly, it’s less of a problem on the tee than it is on the fairway. Second shots are even more difficult if the ground slopes the wrong way and exacerbates the unevenness of my alignment. Samantha is a lovely woman but she knows nothing about golf. To give you some idea, she has even suggested that I play lefthanded until the imbalance is corrected.

Roger Redfield, Carlisle

Although my expertise is principally with the mental rather than physical aspects of the game, I may nevertheless be able to help. Samantha is quite correct in seeking to alter your swing but a little unreasonable in expecting you to switch to being left-handed. A more realistic adjustment might be to adopt the ‘stack and tilt’ style which, since you start with the weight firmly on the left side, reduces the damaging effect of the power shift caused by weight transference. (A letter to the Editor suggesting a more thorough analysis of the technique might be helpful). Meanwhile, you should favour courses where the fairways predominantly slope left to right as you look at them from the tee, as these will tend to mitigate the pull shot that a lower left side will tend to produce. You have the advantage of living in an area that enjoys a great deal of hilly terrain and you should read Terrence Hackett’s excellent little book, “A Guide to the Sloping Fairways of Great Britain” and carefully study its detailed course-by-course analysis.

To give you some idea of how indecisive I am, I’ve changed my mind no fewer than 14 times regarding whether or not I should write to you. Doubtless by the time I’ve finished this letter, I will have changed my mind several more times. The specific problem about which I would welcome your advice, I think, is the difficulty I experience trying to decide which shirt to wear when I’m on a golf holiday. Each year eight of us go away together and the other seven sit in the hotel lobby most mornings waiting for me to make up my mind which shirt to put on. Last year we twice missed our tee time because of me and my inability to decide. The other seven guys have threatened not to take me with them this year unless I promise not to delay them in the morning.

P J Murray, Porthcawl

I used to think indecision was a big problem but now I’m not so sure. Just kidding. It is a serious problem which, in your case, must be addressed. Your inability to decide which shirt to wear is aggravated by the fact that your friends are waiting impatiently downstairs. Their eagerness to set off for the golf course dramatically increases the pressure on you, which in turn makes a decision even harder to make. What you must therefore do is adjust your routine so that at the time you have to make a decision about which shirt to wear, there is very little pressure on you. I suggest you put on a fresh shirt for dinner and wear that same shirt for golf the following day. In that way, you will be choosing your shirt when you are unhurried and unflustered.

My problem began in the third round of my club’s Atkinson Trophy, which is the blue ribbon tournament for high handicappers. Although playing rather erratically, I was nevertheless one up on my opponent with two holes to play when, horror of horrors, I dumped my ball in the lake on the 17th. If that wasn’t bad enough, to my considerable consternation, I realised that I had run out of balls. Rather unkindly, my opponent refused to lend me any and there followed a rather frantic five minutes during which I searched in the rough for a ball, any ball, while my opponent just stared at his watch before announcing “time up” and leaving me with no alternative other than to concede the match. From that moment on, I began taking more and more balls out with me. My bag grew so heavy, I couldn’t carry it. Then the trolley I hired buckled and I had to reimburse the pro £75. After my last round, I emptied my bag and counted over 250 balls.

David Ashforth, Cirencester

A fear of running out of golf balls is not uncommon, especially in a case such as yours where there has been an awful trauma. I presume you are stuffing balls into every orifice in your bag. Like any addict, you must be gradually weaned off. Before your next game, either seal off one of the compartments in your bag or stuff it full of waterproofs, bananas, etc., so that there’s absolutely no room left for even one golf ball. Repeat the exercise the following time you play but this time stuff two pockets full of anything but golf balls. Continue the process until there’s only one pocket containing golf balls.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 
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