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The Secrets of Hacker Golf

Social media is awash with professional golfers selling video training courses to help you perfect your swing, gain 50 yards on your drive and cut your handicap. They might help a few desperate souls, but the rest of us hackers already know everything we need to complete a round of golf without worrying the handicap committee or appearing on a competition winner's list. What those pros don't realise is that for us hacking golfers who very occasionally hit shots that if you hadn't seen how they were hit, end up where the pros might have put them, we already know everything we need to know - and more. Unlike pros who know how to time the perfect swing in order to caress a ball 350 yards down the centre of a fairway, we hackers need to assemble a far wider set of skills and know-how to complete 18 holes, about which pros have no comprehension, need, or desire to learn. Here are some of them:
  1. Never select your shot until after you've hit it. A variation on this is to always hit your provisional first. Hackers never know what shot they're about to play. So instead of disappointing yourself with either the wrong shot selection or poor execution, simply define the shot you actually played either as the shot you were going for, especially if it's a good one, or admit you didn't really know what you were doing. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

  2. Never underestimate the value of a thinned shot. Firstly they usually travel further along the ground than if you'd accidentally managed to connect with the sweet spot. Secondly a hacker rarely plays in perfect weather. There's usually some sort of wind wrecking your game. Thinned shots travel under the wind. Another beauty of a properly thinned shot is that it doesn't matter what club you select. Indeed if thinning can be guaranteed on every shot, you actually only need two clubs in your bag. A randomly selected one and a putter (more about this later). Cheaper and less to carry. All clubs broadly work pretty much the same way if thinned correctly. But there are subtle differences in the outcomes according to what club you've selected. A thinned driver is most effective when the course is dry and the ball can run, especially if there's a wind. A thinned wedge almost always ends up over the green, sometimes on another hole, and usually in a bunker that previously wasn't in play, thereby adding to your range of new experiences, course explorations and shot challenges that a pro will never know. It's also a well known fact that it's impossible to either slice or hook a thinned shot. Dead straight every time.

  3. It's really hard to deliberately top a ball. Hackers, on the other hand, will generally top three or more balls in succession. Indeed it's about the only consistency in their entire game.

  4. Avoid the club's sweet-spot. Contrary to the belief of most hackers, every club in their bag does in fact contain a sweet-spot concealed somewhere in its head. If you've ever hit a shot where the ball effortlessly flies off the club, goes a very long way, and makes very little sound when struck, chances are you've accidentally discovered its sweet-spot. To the uninitiated hacker, this might sound ideal. But as every hacker knows, you've selected the club based on the shot you normally play. And that doesn't include connection with a sweet-spot. So a shot off a sweet-spot will travel to places you hadn't intended which is probably some sort of trouble. This is extra annoying since you hit a good shot only to get into trouble, which is hugely unfair. Another reason to avoid the sweet-spot is because you'll assume once you've found it, you'll always hit it. This is wrong. Chances are by actually hitting it, you've probably awoken it from its long slumber and scared the sweet-spot gods back into hiding even more securely than before. One way or another, the chances of ever finding it again are exceedingly small and you need to continue selecting clubs as though they contain no sweet-spot. Indeed I did hear a rumour that pro shops only contain clubs specially manufactured without sweet-spots... so you'll keep going back to buy the latest set in the belief that they will actually have sweet-spots. Pros all know this and have access to secret supplies of clubs complete with enormous sweet-spots. Scandalous.

  5. Putter selection is all about picking the ball up off the green once you've decided the final putt is a gimme. Every putter ever invented has a flat face. That's the bit you want to connect with the ball. And it will send it randomly anywhere it is pointing without much regard to the slope of the green and the distance to the pin. So every putter works exactly the same way on the business side. The only bit you therefore need to concentrate on when buying your putter is how smoothly and successfully the back of it will scoop up the ball to deliver it into your waiting hand without needing to bend down to pick it up. A hacker, by the way, rarely needs to worry about how to retrieve the ball from the hole.

  6. Most hackers will acquire many drivers over a lifetime of golf, all but one of which will reside in their garage. This is their punishment. They know why they're there. In time they will be joined by the one currently in the hacker's bag when it too inevitably forgets how to hit straight drives... assuming it ever knew in the first place. Most drivers are born without this ability but nonetheless tempt the hacker into believing that some sort of engineering magic has at last been introduced into the latest model. Deep down hackers know they only differ in price, colour and manufacturer logos.

  7. Another item of golfing equipment a hacker will probably have several examples of, are golf shoes. Reason being, hackers will regularly turn up for rounds without them, whereby the pro shop will gleefully sell them yet another pair. It's worth noting that the more expensive the golf shoe, the more likely it is to be forgotten. And once again, they all perform exactly the same way by preventing the foot that should be swivelling from swivelling, and allowing the foot that should be firmly planted, to slip.

  8. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, a hacker's bag usually contains a large numbers of balls. The reasons for this is because they're frequently in the rough where hackers will find more balls than they lose. Consequently no two balls in their bags will be the same make, model and number as any other (which would be the case if the hacker ever bought a box of new balls). Another fact is that every ball has the identical performance of every other ball. No matter the advertising spiel of  'more distance' or 'better feel' (what's that, FFS?), all balls go exactly the same distance, spin equally erratically, and miss the hole with the same regularity. Of course should a hacker ever believe a particular type of ball is performing rather better than its predecessor, it's going to be lost with the next shot. Do not have a favourite type of ball. If you do, it's one less thing to blame when everything else seems to have been in your favour. Wrong ball is a valid excuse.

  9. Sometimes at posh courses, there will be a starter to check you've paid, know the rules and dressed correctly. In addition he will usually explain about the day's pin positions and might even give you a sheet of paper detailing where the green-keeper has located the holes on each green. Pointless! What the hacker needs to know is where's the green... and the correct one for that hole (all hackers will in their day have aimed at greens which have nothing to do with that hole, although often it doesn't end up making much difference which green he's aiming at). Hitting and then staying on the green is the hacker's only ambition until he's on it. Following which only then will he turn his attention to worrying about where the pin is in relation to his ball. Should the golfer actually aim for the pin on the green, disappointment will only result when the ball inevitably ends up as far from the pin as it is possible to be. The hacker who didn't know or care where the pin was will be delighted just to be on it. It was always going to be at least three putts away anyway.

  10. Hackers know far more about playing amongst trees, inside bushes and other seemingly impossible lies than more sensible low handicap golfers might attempt - who are boring and take one shot penalty drops while declaring an unplayable lie. There is no such thing in a hacker's world. ALL lies are playable. The impossible shot does not exist. It's why they're called hackers. Caution, discretion and expediency are not words in their lexicon. What's called for is an almighty wild thrash known as hit-and-hope. One of several outcomes will result - none of which will be what was intended. My personal favourite is smashing the ball deeper into trouble - only inches away from where I found it. Other results will be playing pinball with trees, potentially killing anyone who had not taken cover, including the player himself (although nowhere is safe.... except on the fairway and green of course); bending the shaft of the club as it embeds itself into what had been assumed was loose terrain (hackers always believe their clubs will cut through rough like hot knives slicing through butter. One look at its blunt leading edge vs the shrub engulfing the ball should have led to a simple impossibility deduction); discovering branches previously assumed to be out of reach were in fact very much in play; finally managing to hit a miracle shot to somewhere near the fairway... only to discover the wrong ball was played.

  11. Finding the ball after a poor shot should be the first thing on a golfer's mind immediately after the strike. But instead of following the ball, a hacker will always look at his club after a particularly wayward shot. There are several reasons for this. Firstly it was the club's fault that the ball went that way. By looking at it accusingly, the hacker will be diverting the attention of witnesses from himself to the guilty party. Secondly the hacker knows that at least one other member of his party will be watching where the ball went, so why duplicate effort? Thirdly, the ball deserves to be lost. And finally it's far more important to focus on the outpouring of expletives which will include an explanation of why the ball behaved as it did.... "my head moved", "I teed up too high", "wrong club", "bloody wind", "I'm not rotating", and of course "fucking stupid game". Momentarily pulsing through his brain is also how much he'd get for his clubs on eBay, what he's going to order at the bar after the round, and 'have we really only played 4 holes... I've got another 3 hours of this shit'.

  12. The hacker's attire is far more important than his clubs. Many factors to consider. Firstly temperature maintenance. It is well known that despite the outside temperature remaining constant throughout a round, it will be necessary to put on and remove the sweater or jacket several times without ever feeling that the ideal level of warmth has been achieved. And then there's protection from rain. Waterproofs are not designed to keep moisture out, but to ensure it is trapped inside. Light rain will be ignored until the hacker is thoroughly soaked, whereupon he will reluctantly decide to don something waterproof, thereby not only ensuring he remains soaked but also that the rain will immediately stop. Waterproof trousers need careful consideration as well. Once on, they prevent the possibility of discretely taking a leak behind a tree should the need arise. Empty bladder before applying. There should be warning labels on them.
This is far from a comprehensive list. I intend to add such observations to future blog posts, thus assembling a canon comprising an anthology of important historical value to future generations of hackers. I'm also hoping that readers, especially the hackers amongst you, will contribute your own ideas in the comments below. I will then steal the better ones and incorporate them in future posts as though they were my own.

Having told a mate and fellow hacker that I was compiling this post, he asked whether I anticipated developing a large following with a view to making copious amounts of money through ads and sponsorship, just like the golf pros who have millions of followers hungry for their latest masterclass on Youtube. Two basic problems, and one opportunity. First problem is that hackers already know what I'm observing. So it's unlikely they'll be eager to subscribe for more. Second and most obvious problem is that Nike etc will want to discourage any association between me and their brands. Which leads me to an intriguing opportunity.... and one which might open up a completely new marketing industry. Would Nike pay me to use and recommend Srixon clubs and Titleist balls for example? And if they refused, I would then approach Titleist et al to pay me to use Nike stuff. The possibilities are endless! Brands fighting each other to a) prevent me from using their own products and b) encourage me to use a competitor's! The worse my game, the more they'll want to pay me. This is perfect. I think I'll buy another driver on the impending proceeds....


  1. An excellent reminder that being a high handicap golfer is an often undervalued achievement. It takes tenacity, effort, money, time, and delusion to build and maintain a 20+ handicap over many years. For every hacker hanging in there for that perfect drive there is a tennis player still waiting on that perfect topspin backhand pass. Would be great to read one of these on tennis (hackers to whackers).

    1. I'll have a go at a post for Whackers. Watch this space. Thanks Rupert


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