Alan Tait bringing together Scotland's underground cack-handed community

·4-min read
John Gallagher has flourished in the Scottish amateur game despite his cack-handed grip
John Gallagher has flourished in the Scottish amateur game despite his cack-handed grip

The way folk hold a golf club, and the way they unleash said implement on an unsuspecting dimpled ba’, has always generated much flooery phraseology.

The celebrated scribe, Peter Dobereiner, once likened Eamonn Darcy’s swing, for instance, to that of a man "picking a five-pound note from a grate with tongs."

We’ve probably all witnessed a playing partner unfurling a driver and adopting a startling, vein-throbbing grip which resembles someone wrestling with the thrashing tail of an alligator. This game is full of quirks peculiarities and occasional absurdities, isn’t it?

In this rich tapestry, golf’s cack-handers remain an enchanting old lot. For the well-kent Alan Tait, a man who seems to have so many Eureka moments they should call him Archimedes, a desire to showcase this motley crew has led to him creating a Cack-handed Scottish Golf Tour for those amateurs who adopt the left-hand-below-right grip, or vice versa if a lefty.

“I was on a Facebook page called Golf Courses of Scotland and a guy on there said he was a cack-hander and wondered how many others were out there,” said Tait, the former European Tour player who has set up numerous mini-circuits over the past 20 years to give playing opportunities to various walks of golfing life.

“He got bombarded with people getting in touch. That got me thinking. Golf is such a rich and varied game and we have events for left-handers, for blind golfers, disabled golfers; everybody. I couldn’t find anything for cack-handers.

"I sent a message out saying that I was thinking of doing a wee championship purely for cack-handers and the response was unbelievable. They all said they’ve been crying out for something like this for years. I was only going to do a 36-hole championship but the enthusiasm has led to me doing a mini-circuit of six events.”

Cack-handers reaching the giddy heights of the game are few and far between. The South African, Seesunker Sewgolum, won a trio of Dutch Opens back in the day and finished 13th in the 1963 Open during a sporting life shackled by apartheid.

In more recent years, of course, John Gallagher flew the cack-handed flag with great, idiosyncratic aplomb.

When the Edinburgh man reached the final of the Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale in 2005, fascinated observers would peer at his unorthodox grip with the same kind of whispering, intrigued reverence you’d adopt when filing past a body lying in state.

His opponent in the final, the Northern Irishman Brian McElhinney, had his eyebrows raised too. “When I told some of my mates about it on the phone, they thought I was taking the p***,” said McElhinney, who would eventually beat Gallagher and deny the Scot the chance to take his unconventional method all the way to Augusta for The Masters.

“When I was young, the only cack-hander I encountered was the Scotland cap, Jim Hay, from Kirkintilloch,” recalled Tait. “He was a fine golfer but then John came on the scene in later years. I did play with him a couple of times and there weren’t many boys who flushed it like him. Hitting a full drive with a grip like that is a huge talent in itself. I gave it a go and managed about 20 yards. In fact, the cack-handed grip was sore and when I tried it, I thought I was going to break my wrist.”

For the true cack-handers, though, it’s a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. A giddy mix of golfers – “I’ve had interest from a plus-four handicapper to those in their high 20s,” noted Tait – will assemble at a variety of venues throughout the season including Montrose Links, Glenbervie, Hayston, Spey Valley and Strathmore with the 36-hole showpiece taking place at Deer Park.

For Tait, who started the popular Get Back To Golf Tour for pros and amateurs when schedules were ravaged by the pandemic, this latest venture is another project to throw himself into.

The 52-year-old has never been short of energy and enthusiasm but the sudden, devastating passing of his big brother and “best friend”, John, last year, means his sense of purpose is driven by the pain of loss.

“All these projects are a coping mechanism,” said the former Tartan Tour No 1. “As long as my mind is somewhere else, I’m alright. The busier I can keep myself, the better.”

The cack-handers are the latest golfers to benefit from Tait’s tireless endeavours.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting