The Difference Between Writing Fiction and Non-Fiction


Non-fiction is as easy as falling off a piece of cake – excuse the mixed metaphor, compared to fiction………….in some ways. Particularly in one quite essential way………………. In terms of retaining your sanity.

I write golf books. Books about golf courses. I know. I know. How many ways are there to describe grass?. It’s a challenge. There is slightly more to it than that, but in terms of dramatic comedic effect let’s leave it at that. But once you’ve done the work it’s there. It’s pinned and nailed down. It doesn’t move.

However, writing a novel is like trying to nail water to a piece of glass.  Every time you get something sorted – you write a lovely little speech, describe something mystical or marvelous – something happens with the plot. A character needs to be in two places at once, or they disappear, or the location is wrong, or they’re in the wrong century. Look, I’m not trying to write ‘The Time Traveler’s wife’ here. It’s not complicated. Well, it’s not complicated in my head at least. I’ve got the characters on cards, on ‘Scrivener’ and in numerous, numerous notebooks.  I just wish these characters would just stay still instead of moving around all over the place. Whenever I want someone to just appear and say something pointed and plot-movingonly (it is a word), they are somewhere else. Sometimes they’re in Colorado having breakfast with a nun, or they may be dead or not yet born. All very, very inconvenient. So I change it and then the next crisis comes when the nun in Colarado turns up looking for someone to have breakfast with.

I hate it when people say that the characters ‘develop a life of their own’ as if that were a good thing. I’m on my 8th final draft at the moment and it’s driving me crazy. I want this done now. I want them to all stay where they should be whilst I finish the book. I can then go back to writing about grass, meadows, swards, pastures, weed, marijuana, green, mary jane, narcs and informants.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Nob

In a rare, I wish, diversion from writing, I started wondering what photo of myself I would put on the inside of my soon to be finished, yeah right, book cover.

This is vital to me now. I’m having a bit of a plot crisis. Without giving too much away, I’m stuck trying to get person A to tell person B something about event X without involving an element of time travel.  So naturally I need to put the book on hold and focus on the photograph I will select to put on the inside back cover.

I want to look intelligent, but not too academic. Funny with an air of gravitas at the same time. I want to exude a feeling of, ‘this is someone I would like to go for a drink with, or a game of golf.’ On the other hand I want to be a person you can identify with as someone who would be comfortable alone at times thinking really deep thoughts.

I just needed a photo of me that will do this. I looked. The photos I have of me make me look like, well – you tell me:

Exhibit A:


I’m not sure what feeling I was trying to portray on this day. Probably an air of aloofness, casualness. The jacket and the jumper (really?) should suggest some kind of rebelliousness. Not quite James Dean but a bit ‘hey look at me – I’m cool and hip’ (what! people don’t say hip any more?, nor cool?).  Note hands in my pockets. I would have been told off for that when I was younger but look at me now – Living on the edge. Edgy as f***.

Note background – wall. It says I’m urban. I’m down with the yoofs, living off my wits, off the streets. It’s my old house in Formby, Lancashire. A quote from Wikipedia explains the town in 10 words;

“Formby is affluent with high owner-occupation and car ownership”

But that was then. This is now. I don’t live there anymore man. I’m keeping it real now – back to my roots. Back to Welsh valleys – yeah. Which is actually sort of true, as it happens. Not a purely conscious choice but hey… let’s stay in the now, man.

So this photo doesn’t really fit the bill.

Exhibit B, m’lud.


In this one I think I was aiming for a little bit arty, a little bit edgy here as well. Black and white as well – rad eh?

Note the indistinct painting behind that should say ‘look at me I’m an artist’. In actual fact it was a drawing my young pre-school child did and, like the pretentious, nurturng , supportive parent I am – I put it in a frame and hung it on the wall.

That’s the image I think I’m going for here. Kind to children. Maybe I need a small animal to be rescuing, or a certificate of my support of the RSPCA somewhere, just on the edge of shot.

Also note my stern, unsmiling look. This is partly, mostly, based on being a serious artist. It’s also partly based on my arm getting tired holding the camera. This must have been the twentieth shot I had taken as it really is difficult to focus the camera at this angle. .

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, also note a radical change – indistinct clothing – proletariat clothing. No shirt and tie for me, man. I’m no slave to the system. You don’t catch me working for the man. Well, actually you do. I was working for the Civil Service office in Southport at the time.

Still, it looks a little better than exhibit A, even though it is 2,000% more pretentious. And it is probably one of the world’s first selfies. God I was so ahead of my time.

I shall continue my quest and get back to you ………………….

‘Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia’ Tom Cox – Review of Perfect Book With Perfect Title


“Here. Listen to this bit ….. After he was disqualified for playing the wrong ball he drove off thinking of the only consolation he had. The only hole he had played properly. Listen – “I smiled to myself: the first hole was supposed to be the hardest, and at least I could give myself a pat on the back for completing that. As if on cue, my clubs fell off the back of the buggy.’”. I stood there waiting for my partner to laugh or cry – she did neither. She didn’t really get golf.

“So what about his cat? “, she added. “This was before the cat… well he peed on his bag…. but it doesn’t matter. Oh forget it.” She really didn’t get golf.

Bring me the Head of Sergio Garcia’ is an amazing book. It’s the perfect blend of stupidity, humour, pathos, stubbornness and golf. It is the first novelish / biographyish book about golf that really works. I had, unfortunately, been given one of Dan Jenkins’ appalling tomes a few months ago and it had almost ruined my taste for any golf books.  I’m so glad I bought Tom Cox’s book. It restored my faith in writing about golf and made me incredibly jealous at the same time. He writes so effortlessly and apparently casually that you know it has taken a long time and a great deal of care. It’s pitched (pun intended) perfectly for all of us middle aged, used to be good at something once, sportsmen / writers who want to believe ‘they could have been contenders. It’s hilarious. Buy it. Now.

Learn Welsh With Byron – Lesson 1


Lesson 1 – How to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Welsh

It’s quite straightforward.

Just follow the table below (kindly provided by clwb malu cachu ( ) ) – assuming of course you know whether you want to speak in existential present, past or future, imperfect, imperfect preterite, or inflected preterite or, of course, inflected future.

We’re simple folk.

Next time – How to swear in Welsh.

Interrogative Yes No
Existential present
is/are there? oes? oes nac oes
Existential imperfect (past)
was/were there? oedd? oedd nac oedd
Existential future
will there be? fydd? bydd na fydd
am i? ydw i? wyt/ydych nac wyt/ydych
are you? (wyt) ti? ydw nac ydw
is he? ydy/yw e? ydy nac ydy/yw
is she? ydy/yw hi? ydy nac ydy/yw
are we? ydan ni?/(yd)yn ni? ydych/ydyn nac ydych/ydyn
are you? (y)dach chi?/
(yd)ych chi?
ydw/ydyn nac ydw/ydyn
are they? ydyn nhw? ydyn nac ydyn
Imperfect (written)
was i? oeddwn i? oeddet/ oeddech nac oeddet/ oeddech
were you? oeddet ti? oeddwn nac oeddwn
was he? oedd e? oedd nac oedd
was she? oedd hi? oedd nac oedd
were we? oedden ni? oedden nac oedden
were you? oeddech chi? oeddwn/oedden nac oeddwn/oedden
were they? oedden nhw? oedden nac oedden
Imperfect (spoken)
was i? o’n i? o’t/o’ch nac o’t/o’ch
were you? o’t ti? o’n nac o’n
was he? oedd e? oedd nac oedd
was she? oedd hi? oedd nac oedd
were we? o’n ni? o’n nac o’n
were you? o’ch chi? o’n nac o’n
were they? o’n nhw? o’n nac o’n
will I (be)? fydda i? byddi/byddwch na fyddi/ fyddwch
will you (be)? fyddi di? bydda(f) na fydda(f)
will he (be)? fydd e? bydd na fydd
will she (be)? fydd hi? bydd na fydd
will we (be)? fyddwn ni? byddwn na fyddwn
will you (be)? fyddwch chi? bydda(f)/byddwn na fydda(f)/fyddwn
will they (be)? fyddan nhw? byddan na fyddan
Inflected preterite (simple past)
did i…? -es/-ais i? do naddo
did you…? -est ti? do naddo
did he…? -odd e? do naddo
did she…? -odd hi? do naddo
did we…? -on ni? do naddo
did you…? -och chi? do naddo
did they…? -on nhw? do naddo
Preterite of ‘bod’
have I been (to)? fues/fu^m* i? do naddo
have you been (to)? fuest ti? do naddo
has he been (to)? fu(odd) e? do naddo
has she been (to)? fu(odd) hi? do naddo
have we been (to)? fuon/fuom* ni? do naddo
have you been (to)? fuoch chi? do naddo
have they been (to)? fuon nhw?/fuont hwy* do naddo
*more formal
Inflected future
will I? -a i? do naddo
will you? -i di? do naddo
will he? -ith e/o? do naddo
will she? -ith hi? do naddo
will we? -wn ni? do naddo
will you? -wch chi? do naddo
will they? -an nhw? do naddo
Galla – can
can I? alla i? gelli/galli/gallwch na elli/alli/allwch
can you? alli/elli* di? galla na alla
can he? all e? gall na all
can she? all hi? gall na all
can we? allwn ni? gallwn na allwn
can you? allwch/ellwch chi? galla/gallwn na alla/allwn
can they? allan nhw? gallan na allan
*elli di is more common
Medra (north) – can
can I? fedra i? medri/medrwch na fedri/fedrwch
can you? fedri di? medra na fedra
can he? fedr* fo? medr na fedr
can she? fedr hi? medr na fedr
can we? fedrwn ni? medrwn na fedrwn
can you? fedrwch chi? medra/medrwn na fedra/fedrwn
can they? fedran nhw? medran na fedran
*often pronounced ‘fedar’
Gallwn – could
could I? allwn i? gallet/gallech na allet/allech
could you? allet ti? gallwn na allwn
could he? allai fe? gallai na allai
could she? allai hi? gallai na allai
could we? allen ni? gallen na allen
could you? allech chi? gallwn/gallen na allwn/allen
could they? allen nhw? gallen na allen
Medrwn – could
could I? fedrwn i? medret/ medrech na fedret/fedrech
could you? fedret ti? medrwn na fedrwn
could he? fedrai fo? medrai na fedrai
could she? fedrai hi? medrai na fedrai
could we? fedren ni? medren na fedren
could you? fedrech chi? medrwn/ medren na fedrwn/fedren
could they? fedren nhw? medren na fedren
Byddwn – would
would I? fyddwn i? byddet/byddech na fyddet/fyddech
would you? fyddet ti? byddwn na fyddwn
would he? fyddai fe? byddai na fyddai
would she? fyddai hi? byddai na fyddai
would we? fydden ni? bydden na fydden
would you? fyddech chi? byddwn/bydden na fyddwn/fydden
would they? fydden nhw? bydden na fydden
Baswn – would
would I? (fa)swn i? (ba)set/(ba)sech na (fa)set/(fa)sech
would you? (fa)set ti? (ba)swn na (fa)swn
would he? (fa)sai fo? (ba)sai na (fa)sai
would she? (fa)sai hi? (ba)sai na (fa)sai
would we? (fa)sen ni? (ba)sen na (fa)sen
would you? (fa)sech chi? (ba)swn/(ba)sen na (fa)swn/(fa)sen
would they? (fa)sen nhw? (ba)sen na (fa)sen
Dylwn – ought to/should
ought/should I? ddylwn i? dylet/dylech na ddylet/ddylech
ought/should you? ddylet ti? dylwn na ddylwn
ought/should he? ddylai fe/fo? dylai na ddylai
ought/should she? ddylai hi? dylai na ddylai
ought/should we? ddylen ni? dylen na ddylen
ought/should you? ddylech chi? dylwn/dylen na ddylwn/ddylen
ought/should they? ddylen nhw? dylen na ddylen
Dylswn – ought to/should
ought/should I? ddylswn i? dylset/dylsech na ddylset/ddylsech
ought/should you? ddylset ti? dylswn na ddylswn
ought/should he? ddylsai fe/fo? dylsai na ddylsai
ought/should she? ddylsai hi? dylsai na ddylsai
ought/should we? ddylsen ni? dylsen na ddylsen
ought/should you? ddylsech chi? dylswn/dylsen na ddylswn/dylsen
ought/should they? ddylsen nhw? dylsen na ddylsen
Hoffwn – would like
would I like? hoffwn i? hoffet/hoffech na hoffet/hoffech
would you like? hoffet ti? hoffwn na hoffwn
would he like? hoffai fe? hoffai na hoffai
would she like? hoffai hi? hoffai na hoffai
would we like? hoffen ni? hoffen na hoffen
would you like? hoffech chi? hoffwn/hoffen na hoffwn/hoffen
would they like? hoffen nhw? hoffen na hoffen
Leiciwn – would like
would I like? leiciwn i? leiciet/leiciech na leiciet/leiciech
would you like? leiciet ti? leiciwn na leiciwn
would he like? leiciai fe? leiciai na leiciai
would she like? leiciai he? leiciai na leiciai
would we like? leicien ni? leicien na leicien
would you like? leiciech chi? leiciwn/leicien na leiciwn/leicien
would they like? leicien nhw? leicien na leicien

The Picture Non-Golfers Have Of Golfers


The picture most non-golfers have of golf is odd.

They believe that golf is a Victorian game of etiquette, politeness, civility and manners;
“After you.”
“No after you. Please. You go if you’re ready.”
“Well only if you’re sure.”
“Oh I insist.”
“Charmed I’m sure.”

They believe that golfers are the most polite people in the world. They are incredibly patient and especially helpful to newcomers. Golfers will  spend an entire round standing behind a new 28 (with a star) handicapper watching closely to determine which side of the fairway to begin the search. We’ll do this without a thought of resentment.

They believe that golf is an unusual game where winning isn’t everything. It’s a game where ,they have read, someone gave up the prize of a new car in order to retain their amateur status. They believe all golfers would do this. It’s a game where players call fouls on themselves. It’s the only game where you form a queue, wait your turn and smile.

This is not entirely true 100% of the time.

Some golfers are human. Some cheat – yes you heard it here first. Some golfers lie, complain, moan, grumble, curse and fight. They have their own agendas and will look to get away with things if they can.

I feel guilty now. I feel like the child in school who told you there was no father Christmas and your parents were, basically, lying to you. I’m sorry.

Golf is a game. Like all games it’s a test of character and there will be times when you will be tested. I know that but please.. some sort of reality check. If golf is played by such a wonderful divine bunch of angels why are there so many rules?

I do love the game but can’t really buy in to this sacramental vision of it though, as you may have gathered. People who play golf are frequently humans and as such are a bit like us – they have that fatal flaw – they are human. Golf has far fewer problems than many other sports – this is true. The amount of cheating and bad behaviour that goes on in golf is infinitely less than most other sports.

I have played with people who cheat – and heard about golfers who cheat. So, why are there less cheats at golf than at football?

I don’t believe it’s because it’s generally played by people with more money.
I don’t feel it’s because it is still an elitist sport in many places.
I think it makes a difference that it is a game that can be by people of all ages and abilities.
I also think that the way people are introduced to the game helps a great deal;
The game of football tends to be picked up as a child as you grow up playing against peers. The values are the values of your group – in most cases groups define their own rules, their own standards. As a child playing football it was acceptable, even expected, to shout and argue for throw ins, free kicks etc.. It’s what you do. In our version of football tough tackling was the norm and sending off’s were non existent.
In golf people tend to be taught one at a time. They are indoctrinated into the game through the mores and values of the group. Generally a group of established golfers who were inevitably introduced individually by a group of similar individuals. The values are handed down and generally these standards involve no cheating. Added to this the stigma of being caught cheating can be incredibly devastating. But hey let’s not be silly about it, Jack;

“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.” – Golf and Life – Jack Nicklaus



Golf, Luck, Karma, Dancing and Thinking


You make your way through the heather and mistletoe onto the 18th tee. It’s an enchanting, but daunting par three. You ease your way through the rowan bushes, hazel and willow trees to get a panoramic view of the whole arcane course from this elevated promontory. You smell the rosemary and cinnamon as the sun starts to fade on what has been a perfect autumn afternoon. Below you the horseshoe lake in front of the green glimmers as the setting sun’s rays play across the surface. The crickets chirp languidly as you shield your eyes to gaze down onto the crisp emerald putting surface and see a circle of your golfing fraternity performing the ‘lining up of the putt’ ceremony.

They alternate, criss-crossing the viridescent dance floor in a succession of ritualistic choreographed patterns handed down from generation to generation. It’s like watching some ancient gavotte or floral dance as they take their turns with their putters, bow to the flag and move slowly, gracefully around the green stepping nimbly over invisible lines. Slowly they reach the climax of the ceremony and you faintly hear a set of orchestrated incantations and hexes; “eyes over the ball”, “eyes over the ball”, “accelerate the clubhead”, “accelerate the clubhead”, “never up, never in”, “never up, never in”.

As the gentle breeze carries the last cry of the congregation into the light of the waiting clubhouse you make a mistake; you start to think.

You’ve had a decent round and you know you really should be enjoying this. Your swing’s been excellent for the seventeen holes so far. You’ve putting solidly all afternoon up to this point. So, why is it then that all you can think about is the passage in ‘The Right Stuff’ where Alan Shephard is waiting for lift off on the Apollo moon mission. He’s not thinking about the excitement, or even the danger of 7.5 million tons of thrust being generated beneath him. All he’s thinking as he lies waiting for lift off is “Please, Dear God, don’t let me mess this up. Please, Dear God, don’t let me mess this up.” (I paraphrase).

You take a deep breath and repeat this mantra to Jesus, Mary, Buddha, Parsvanatha, Tyche, Hectate, Dagda, Ganesh, Confucious, Allah and your Guardian Angel. There are two scenarios playing in your mind. In the first scenario you hit your 6 iron a mile in the air and it drops like a stone eight feet past the flag, bounces once and spins back to crawls slowly down the green inching toward the flag. It seems to be going in but suddenly stops. “Bad luck” you hear. In the second scenario you clear the pond by an inch. It bounces forward onto the green then spins back slowly, slowly into the enticing, alluring, watery hell. “Oh bad luck” you still hear.

But it’s not really bad luck, is it? Many would argue that it’s karma. This would teach that similar actions will lead to similar results; Buddhists would say, “Good actions lead to happy states”; Wiccans would tell you, “The harm you do returns to you threefold”; The Beatles would sing, “The love you make is equal to the love you take”; Confusians would pronounce, “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others.”; and many Christians would chip in (excuse the pun) with “What goes around, comes around”.

One of the few people who would disagree with this assessment would be Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins is not a big fan of luck, or God for that matter. He’s the ultimate “You make your own luck in this world“type of guy. Richard, should he be on the eighteenth tee with you would encourage you to spend less time praying to Fudo, Fortuna, Bastet and Saint Andrew, and more time considering the club/ball interaction where the energy of the club is transferred to the ball by the mass of the clubhead + the velocity (speed + direction) of the swing and the ball’s flight through the air in terms of the angle of the shot (taking into account the air pressure as it leaves the club (not forgetting, hopefully, the resultant change in pressure (and temperature)) and travels over land, water and land again before gently dropping on the putting surface).

Now you hear the voices of the modern day’s gurus, “Stay in the zone”, “Visualise”, “Take one shot at a time”, “Stay in the moment”, “Be of the game not in the game”. Oh no this is getting confusing. Stop. Relax. Breathe. Be positive. Calm. Seek Nirvana.

You breathe. You place the ball on the tee peg and step back. You pick up some grass and throw it into the air, yet have no idea where it comes down. You’re operating on automatic now. You take a few perfect practice swings touch the lucky rabbit’s foot in your pocket and step forward to take the shot.

The next thing you know it’s on the green, three feet from the hole. You have no idea how it got there. Your mind has been a total blank. Tiger Woods could have stepped up to you, taken your club, hit the ball and walked away and you would not have known. In fact you wouldn’t really care. All you can see now is your ball on the green.

After your partners have hit you walk nonchalantly down the path trying to pretend that you do this sort of thing every day. As you step onto the green and repair your pitch mark you notice that the putt’s a little downhill, and instead of three feet it’s grown to six feet. You make a mistake. You start to think.

How to Write a Successful Novel

Words Remembered, Not Said

Distractions of the week

…. Wednesday – release of kindle day-job book ‘Essential Management Skills’ – New update of Scrivener software – Golf competition at Cradoc Golf Club – excellent day, but no cigar – Coronation Street -Eisteddfod at Bala – ‘Fargo’ – Online poker – New books : ‘Child of God’, ‘Frank’ – Cat waking up at 4 a.m. – Su Doku – Twitter – Thinking of idea for golf article for Culture Cymru  -Still managed to write a chapter – result – reading an article on using writing style to predict the success of novels …………………….

I researched the research at …..

entitled Success with Style: Using Writing Style to Predict the Success of Novels

researched by Vikas Ganjigunte Ashok, Song Feng, Yejin Choi

Department of Computer Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4400

They have uncovered the secret of success. Their research concerned the analysis  of writing styles to predict if a novel will be successful or not. As part of the study there are a number of words analysed and determined as being successful or unsuccessful in novels.

Consider the following 2 paragraphs:

“Not really,” I said. “Words can say much about me, my unicorn and my turtle. Which to choose, that is the question? After the decision I ponder the questions – Where? What? Whom? Whenever I remembered my life, after my birth, I recognized the struggle within. So I must go up, out, into the void within.”


“Never take the risk. And worse never hit slaves hard. If a person is murdered, or even bruised on the arm or body the assailant will face a heavy prison sentence.  As I sat in my room on the bay near the beach, watching my boat outside the door, I wanted to promise that I would cry, shout, but never go down that avenue. As I resisted the urge, I became very breathless until I reached a state where I became almost sacred where the slightest thought would make me absolutely perfect. “

Apparently the first one will be the most successful. According to the study (Success with Style: Using Writing Style to Predict the Success of Novels ) there is a way to predict success.

The most successful words to include in novels are – not, said, words, says, I, me, my, and, which, though, that, as, after, but, where, what, as, after, but, where, what, whom, since, whenever, up, into, out, after, in, within, recognized, remembered.

The less successful words are – never, risk, worse, slaves, hard, murdered, bruised, heavy, prison, face, arm, body, skins, room, beach, bay, hills, avenue, boat, door, want, went, took, promise cry shout, jump, glare, urge, never, very, breathless, sacred, slightest, absolutely, perfect

I suspect this would apply doubly to book titles. I guess the more good words you can combine, the better. I did a little research –

My list of ‘should be’ successful novels  –

‘Me and My Brothers’. Technically not a novel but it was co-written by Charlie Kray so it’s technically anything it wants to be.

Who, What, Where, When, Die – Amanda M Lee.

Whenever They Call Me a Dreamer – Marsha L Sisk

Out – Natsuo Kirino

After Me, the Delude – David Forrest

Not I – Samuel Beckett. Again not exactly a novel but included because the list of successful words reads like Billy Whitelaw in a scene from a Beckett play.

List of ‘should not be successful’ novels –

Breathless – at least 10 different authors

Whenever Whenever – Richard Bradley

Beach, Bach, Boat, Barbecue  – Penny Oliver and Ian Bachelor

74 Seaside Avenue – Debbie Macomber – will be about boats, beaches, Bach and barbecues, I suspect

“Don’t Cry for Me Aberystwyth” Malcolm Pryce ( a legend) with one of the best titles ever being a complex mix of good and bad

So, what have I learnt?  – not much. Yes, you’re right – even with all the distractions I have got too much time on my hands. However my next book is going to be –

“Words Remembered, Not Said” – a romantic novel


 You can read the opening chapter of ‘Mynydd Eimon: Private Hell’ here, or you can get the book on Amazon and Kindle here

 You can get the ‘Essential Management Skills’ Kindle book here    


'Madam, could I sell you a collection of encyclopedias that you’ll probably never read?'

My agent said there should be a marketing campaign for my book. “Great,” I said, “where do we start?”

“We?” she said.

I did some research.

1. ‘Start your marketing before you write the book’. Bit late for that. How the hell does that work though? So, I’ve got an idea for a book so I should put the idea on hold and launch a marketing strategy ..… ‘Only 275 days to go before the launch of my new book. It will be something to do with crime and there’ll be a murder and a lot of thrills and excitement. No characters yet. ” Sign me up for that one.

2. ‘Write a Remarkable Book’. Good idea. Never thought of that.

3. ‘Word of mouth recommendation’ – sounds plausible. Sounds more that plausible. Sounds excellent. So how does this happen? I read more…“All you really need for word of mouth marketing is a book worthy of sharing, and a way to get it into the hands of people who will spread the word.” Right.  So, the first part. Have I got a book worthy of sharing? Well of course. I must be unique in this regard mustn’t I? I’m not? What. You say everyone who writes a book believes they have a book worthy of sharing?

So, let’s go for the second part… “Get it into the hands of people who will spread the word”.   Two parts to this – 1. Who are the people who will spread the word? And how do I get it into their hands? I have a think. People who will spread the word – Martha Whatsername from the Newsnight review show thingy on a Friday sometimes. She’d be good. Where does she live? I research. Martha Catherine Kearney. No email address though – shame. How do you get books into the hands of people who will spread the word? Even if I did manage to track her down and force my book into her hands who can I be sure she reads it? Short of a kidnapping and holding her eyes open with match sticks I can’t see how this tactic will work. Bad advice. Try another. Mariella Frostrup. Well I’m going to the Hay festival next week. I’ll take a book for her. I’ll let you know how I get on.

You can read the opening chapter of ‘Mynydd Eimon: Private Hell’ here, or you can get the book on Amazon and Kindle here

Golfers, Goats and Rituals

Sitting Tenant on Path to 14th Tee, West Mon

On the tee at the par 3 18th at Dewstow Golf Club I reached for a 7 iron. This was the first time I’d played the course but on meticulous investigation of the yardage (card), the wind (finger in air) and slope (downhill) I thought a 7 iron was perfect. I noticed my playing partner (a life long member at this club and a hitter of similar distance to me) reaching for an 8.

I put my 7 iron away and hit the 8. I was 10 yards short. My playing partner hit an 8 and was also 10 years short.

“I’m always short on this hole” he muttered as we walked after our balls.

Golfers are creatures of habit. We obey sets of regular, repeated behaviour often for no other reason than we’ve always done it – I leave a drop of tea in my cup even though I haven’t used tea leaves for 20 years, I read the newspaper from the back to the front even though the sports pages have long since moved to a special section of their own. I put 3 long tees and 3 short tees in my pocket at the start of each round. I always hit driver on the 8th – I think it’s the law.

“A golfer has more rituals than a catholic priest.” I’ve heard.

Consider this; the parable of the quiz show, the car and the 2 goats.

On a tv quiz show there are 3 prizes – 2 goats and a car. There are 3 doors in the studio and behind each door is either a goat or a car. The contestant chooses one of the doors. However this door does not get opened immediately. Instead the host of the show, who knows where all the prizes are, will give the contestant more information and allows them to change your mind, if they want to. The extra information you get is your host opens one of the doors not chosen to reveal a goat.

The intriguing question now is “Should the contestant stick with their original choice of door or change their mind?”

The initial thought may be that this seems ridiculous – surely your first choice should stay as you’ve a 1 in 3 chance of winning…. surely it can’t make any difference?

However it does and you should. You should change your mind and you’ll have a better chance of winning. Let me explain;

There are 3 doors – A B and C. Assume the car is behind Door A .
This means there are 3 possibilities;

1.You choose Door A. The host reveals the goat at Door B. If you now change your mind and choose Door C you only win a goat.

2.You choose Door B. The host reveals the goat at Door C. If you now change your mind and choose Door A you win the car.

3.You choose Door C. The host reveals the goat at Door B. If you now change your mind and choose Door A you win the car.

If you keep Door A you will only win a car 1/3 of the time.

The situation has changed. A few minutes ago at the beginning of the exercise you had a 1 in 3 chance of selecting the door with the car behind it. Now with the additional information there is a 2 in 3 chance.

OK – it’s a little contrived but the principle is the same – if you get more information don’t ignore it – reassess. Often I see players wandering off to chip with a wedge and find a bad lie. Instead of walking back to their back for a sand wedge they’ll try a ridiculous shot with the wedge then moan for the rest of the round. Or players will see their playing partners leave their putts short and will then hit their own putt short,and moan about it for the rest of the round. If things change – reassess and change with them.


Don’t Be Like Dai

David (not Dai) Kolb
David (not Dai) Kolb’s learning Cycle

Henry Cotton, talking about British Open Champion, Harry Vardon;
“He would not play any course twice in the same day. Why not? Because he was so accurate, that in his second round, his shots finished in the divot holes he had made in the morning, and that took the fun out of the game.”

Unless you’re Harry Vardon I guess you may need to get better;

“You can’t teach me anything about golf I’ve been playing it for 30 years.”
“That’s right. I’ve got 30 years experience.”

I suspect that Dai may be incorrect. I suspect that his 16 handicap is not the result of 30 years of experience but 1 year’s’ experience repeated 30 times coupled with the mathematical certainty that on a handful of occasions in those 30 years many of this better shots and his luck coincided in a beautiful day that resulted in a dramatic cut in his handicap – too harsh?

I think not. I think David Kolb (author of ‘Socrates In The Labyrinth: Hypertext, Argument, Philosophy’ exploring the nature of argument in linear and hypertextual space) would agree as well.
His (David’s not Dai’s) model of how we learn recognises that we have to do more than have an experience to learn anything;

New player on course to partner, “What do you hit from here?”
Experienced club member, “I generally hit a 4 iron.”
New player, “Well I hit the same distance as you so I’ll hit a 4.”
He hits a 4 iron short into the bunker.
New player “I thought you said you hit a 4 iron?”
Experienced club member, “I do and I always end up in the same bunker as you’re in.”

David Kolb believes you have to reflect after having had the experience – or the 90 little experiences that make up Dai’s game of golf. Reflecting is the key. For professionals it’s the job of the player, the coach, psychologist, nutritionist and manager to analyse everything about the game. For the likes of us it’s the 5 seconds thinking after we’ve hit a shot, the 2 minutes waiting on the tee, the 10 minutes in the car on the drive home and the 5 minutes before we go to sleep at night. My gut reaction is that we don’t have a particularly structured approach to this aspect of our game. The analysis may well be along the lines of “Sliced it again”, or “Couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo today”. I suspect Ian Poulter’s coaches would be more specific.

Reflecting and then drawing a conclusion from this is not as stifled, serious and difficult as it appears. To some extent we all do this, even Dai. On the first green if we hit it 20 feet past we’ll generally hit the putt coming back 5 feet short. At least we’re learning. The next hole is better and by the 18th we’ve just about got the pace of the greens ( A learning point here may be to have 36 putts of the putting green before we go out).

Apart from the putting though there’s little reflecting we do, and even less analysis and even lesser (not a real word I know) trying something different. We tend to adjust to our faults or rationalise them rather than try to change them;

Having gone through a phase of slicing the ball on every tee shot I starting aiming further and further left until I was practically aiming at my playing partners.

Dai always ends up in the bunker on the 10th ; “At least I get plenty of practice playing out of bunkers” – never any thought of changing.

To improve your game you need to learn. This means you need to reflect, conclude and DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. If you know you can’t reach the green with a 3 iron – hit a 3 wood. I know you’ll occasionally mess up and have a disaster but at least you’re trying something new and learning. It will be uncomfortable; “If you’re not churning, you’re not learning” is pretty much a truism. Constantly hitting a 3 iron short isn’t developing your game. Don’t end up like Dai.

Perhaps more importantly after a round take a little time to think about it. How did you play? What worked? What didn’t? Where did you lose the shots? Approach play?Putting? Driving? Work on this. I don’t mean spend 5 hours every evening on the putting green each evening, but just think about it. There was an experiment carried out by Dr. Blaslotto at the University of Chicago. He split people into three groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make. The first group practised free throws every day for an hour. The second group just visualized themselves making free throws. The third group did nothing. After 30 days, he tested them again; the first group improved by 24%, the second group improved by 23% without touching a basketball and the third group did not improve at all.

So, theoretically you could improve your golf by just thinking about it. I believe that’s true to some extent. Very often we can’t see what’s happening when we’re involved in it – we can’t see the wood for the trees to use a cliché. If you can work out what’s going wrong you can, at least, know where to start fixing it. As Einstein defined, “If you keep doing what you’ve always been doing again and again and expect a different result – that’s insanity.”

Try something different.