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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.

My handicap had been stuck on 14 for so long that I had given up hope of ever lowering it. Then a strange thing happened. Whilst on holiday in Turkey I left my six iron on the tee of a par three and never got it back. I only realised I had lost it when playing in my club’s July mid-week Stableford. Despite being a club short, I racked up 39 points and was cut to 13. In the following medal, the shaft on my wedge snapped on the third hole. Again I didn’t seem to be too inconvenienced and my net 67 saw my handicap lowered to 12. I shan’t bore you with all the details but in every subsequent competitive round I have played with one less club each time and have had my handicap cut by precisely one shot so that now, with only five clubs in my bag, I’m playing off five. I must confess it’s getting increasingly difficult to know which club to leave out and am wondering whether I should continue with what seems an illogical but effective strategy.

Peter Aaronson, Matlock

Curiously, there is a logic to what you’ve experienced. Put simply, the fewer clubs in the bag, the fewer difficult choices have to be made. Crudely, the decision as to whether to take a five or six iron is much easier if you only have a five iron. The other benefit of having fewer clubs apart, that is, from carrying a lighter bag, is the requirement to be more creative with your shot-making. For example, taking a club or two more than you think you need teaches you to open the face, hit knock-down shots and generally use your imagination. In this way you become a better player and your handicap should come down. However, there obviously must be a limit because you can’t play to scratch with no clubs at all! Collating all the scorecards gathered from competitions in which the number of clubs permitted was restricted, Professor Norbert Shrimbold of the West Chiltingdon Institute of Sports Science, calculated the optimum number of clubs ranged from 3.7 to 5.8 depending on your handicap. As a five handicapper, you should ideally have 4.6 clubs in your bag.

My late father was an outstanding golfer, played off scratch, represented his county and was club champion for 11 years in a row. His only child, I was never very good at golf and my handicap has never been lower than 17. As I’m sure you can appreciate, I was therefore something of a disappointment to him. Anyway, he died 10 years ago and left all his considerable estate to me. However, there’s a clause in his will which effectively means I will only inherit his money, roughly £8m, if and when the name “Sneebold” re-appears on one of the winners’ boards at our golf club.

Thanks to his efforts, it’s up there 20 times already but it was always his ambition to reach 21. In a desperate effort to improve and claim my inheritance, I’ve dedicated pretty well every waking moment since my father died to working on my game. But, despite entering every competition for which I’m eligible, the nearest I’ve come to winning was joint 5th in the Grime-Lumley Trophy back in 2008. So obsessed have I been that my wife left me three years ago. There are no children, fortunately, but I’m nearly 60 and, despite all the practice and lessons, my golf is going downhill rapidly. Divorced and nearly broke, I’m desperate.

Simon J Sneebold, Littlehampton

Part of the problem must surely be the fact that the first prize in every competition you enter is effectively £8m, which would stress anyone. Although I suspect you’re unlikely to win anything, you nevertheless have one considerable asset and that is you are, potentially at least, an extremely eligible bachelor. What I suggest you do is find an outstanding woman golfer and propose to her. Not only should you offer her your hand in marriage but a generous divorce settlement of, say, £1m if she joins your club, wins a competition and gets the name ‘Sneebold’ up on a board.

I love both golf and my job as a male nurse in the local general hospital. However, I sometimes wonder if the two are incompatible since the miserable money I earn makes it hard to find the wherewithal to pay green fees, buy balls, etc. Nevertheless, I partner an orthopaedic surgeon in our hospital foursomes league. Partly because he was always urging me to get shot of my budget clubs and buy some decent ones, I bought a fabulous set of what obviously were custom-fitted clubs for an absolute song on eBay. However, although they look good, they’re not quite the right size for me and consequently I’m struggling with my game, which partly explains why we’ve lost our last three matches. My partner takes his golf rather seriously and hates losing but is too mean to lend me the money to have my new clubs altered.

P L Ravenscroft, Ashbyde- la-Zouch

Although traditionally clubs are adjusted to fit the golfer, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be the other way round. So what I suggest you do is ask your orthopaedic surgeon partner to tweak your body here and there so that it perfectly fits for your clubs.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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