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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 visited my son and daughter-in-law in Abu Dhabi at Christmas, stayed on for a bit and finished up going to the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Whilst there I met Tim Henman, the tennis player, and a fellow called George Gregan, who I’m told played rugby.

They were there, apparently, in their capacity as HSBC ambassadors; HSBC being the sponsors of the event. From what I could tell, all these so-called ambassadors have to do is smile, talk to the punters and pose for the odd photograph.

Furthermore, I gather that not only do they fly free in business class but also receive complimentary accommodation in a swanky hotel. On top of all that, they get paid! Although I’m quite happy being a traffic warden in the London Borough of Camden, I quite fancy jetting off around the world attending major sporting events and wonder if you know how I might go about becoming an HSBC ambassador, if only part-time.

B Willett, Tufnell Park

Tim Henman was Britain’s number one men’s tennis player for a number of years and George Gregan is the most capped rugby international of all time having represented Australia no fewer than 136 times. The common denominator between them, and all the other HSBC ambassadors I believe, is they have achieved an enormous amount in their chosen sport. For all I know you may hold the record for issuing the highest number of parking tickets in a year but you’re hardly a sporting legend and I therefore suspect the general public would probably be less interested in meeting you than they would a famous celebrity. I therefore suggest you set about achieving sporting greatness, in itself quite a tall order, before submitting your application to HSBC. Good luck.

I have only been playing golf for a little over 25 years and have just celebrated my 70th birthday with a wonderful round at my club, lovely Dale Hill in East Sussex. It was one of those rare occasions where everything went right. I didn’t go in a single bunker, hit pretty well every fairway off the tee, no shanks or double-hits and virtually all my makeable putts dropped. I like to think of the round as a sort of birthday gift from the Almighty. Since the 105 (gross) I scored is my best round ever, I have had the card framed for posterity. Anyway, my purpose in writing is not to boast but to ask what you think are my chances of achieving my ambition of one day shooting my age?

W K Gillingham, Wadhurst

Since you are evidently one of those rare golfers who are still improving and haven’t yet peaked, I would say that there is a genuine chance you’ll make it. What you must do is take care of your health, carry on playing the way you are and, provided you don’t die in the meantime, you should finally fulfil your ambition around 2048.

Like nearly everyone else who plays golf, I’m irritated by slow play. In my opinion, it’s hindering the growth of the game. However, unlike most other people, I’m determined to do something about it and have come up with what I believe is a brilliant solution which, if generally applied, should lead to significantly quicker rounds. The idea came to me whilst I was having a lesson from my local pro. According to him, I was tending to overswing. What struck me when I eventually managed to stop the club when parallel to the ground was how much time I was saving. I estimate I was shaving about a quarter of a second off the backswing and another quarter off the downswing.

Now, if you include a practice swing, that’s one whole second saved per shot. Assuming the average player has a handicap of 20 and takes about 94 shots per round, of which I reckon about two thirds are full shots, that adds up to roughly one minute per round saved. Naturally, for a fourball you have to multiply that figure by four, which means four minutes. Clubs could perhaps encourage players to shorten their swings by putting up signs on the tees similar to those urging players to replace divots and repair pitch-marks. They could say something like, “Shorten your swing and speed-up play.” Eventually, the message will surely get through.

Roger McFarland, Aberdovey

My only concern about your undoubtedly original suggestion is how much time would be wasted by golfers reading the signs encouraging them to speed up play. If it takes a golfer five seconds to read the sign and he does so on, say, 12 occasions during the course of the round, all the time save by shortening the swing will be wasted.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 
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