These are possibly the most dispiriting days of Winter League golf. These are the days when teams negotiate their way around the course, playing reasonable golf and posting a score of two or three strokes below par. There are no rewards for performances like that.
Last weekend, teams returning scores of four under par picked up a miserly two scoring points. That is just two points more than someone earns for ambling around the twelve holes and shooting something in the high 60s. It is only four points better than the teams that do not turn up at all.
Pairings hoping for serious points would do well to emulate Sandy Bruce and Eddie Mackenzie. Birdies on the Memorial and Caber/Foresters helped Sandy and Eddie to a one under par total at the halfway stage. A steady inward half with only one shot dropped gave them a level par gross total and, with a handicap of seven strokes, their nett 43 proved to be unassailable. Eddie and Sandy make a formidable pairing. Last season, their challenge was handicapped by Eddie’s fitness problems and the aftermath of Sandy’s tussle with a lawnmower, a mismatch comfortably won by the lawnmower, leaving Sandy fortunate to escape with his toes more or less intact. Attention to health and safety guidelines this winter could have the bonus of fifteen scoring points coming their way more often than other competitors would wish.
Two teams tied for second spot and collected eleven scoring points apiece. Alasdair Maclean and Willie Macaulay made up one of the few teams able to post low scores while playing in the morning. The improvement in conditions in the afternoon made little difference to Willie and Alasdair and nor did the supposed handicap of commencing their round at the Castle. Birdies on the Gunsite and Manor kept them in the hunt at the turn before a superb inward half. Further birdies on the Memorial and Caber/Foresters secured a level par gross round and a nett total of 44. That was enough to push them into fourth place in the overall points table.
Liam McGeoghegan and Bob Rankin were four over par after five holes but an eagle on the Caber/Foresters transformed their outward half. They made the most of it, dropping only one shot on home stretch and, with a handicap of 9, this will not be their last visit to the upper reaches of the weekly points table.
Five teams tied for fourth position on nett 45, with each team earning a hard earned six scoring points. Three of those partnerships occupy the top places on the overall leader board. Andy Macdonald and Arthur Macintosh equalled the lowest gross score of the day with 47. They opened with a bogey on the Miller, but a run of three consecutive birdies immediately reignited their challenge. A fourth birdie on the Caber/Foresters meant that Andy and Arthur completed the outward half with two bogeys and four birdies. Some semblance of normality returned with two pars at the start of the inward half but there was still time for a third bogey and two birdies to complete the round. Andy and Arthur are now in third place overall with 26 points.
The defending Car Hire Hebrides Winter League champions, Cal Robertson and Richard Galloway, had their own version of a rollercoaster round. They had one bogey, three pars, one birdie, on the Glen, and one eagle, on the Memorial, in their opening six holes. The inward half was much more like their customary consistency and Cal and Richard racked up enough points to consolidate their second position overall on 28 points.
It was tempting to think that Gordon Kennedy and David Gray would struggle to find themselves amongst the leading teams last weekend. Their exploits in the opening two weeks, in which they amassed 26 points after consecutive scores of nett 45, resulted in the first handicap cut of the competition. Undaunted, Gordon and David rose to the challenge to post yet another nett 45. The outcome of that performance is that they lead the overall competition by four points and lose one more handicap stroke. Gordon and David should understand the message more clearly now: unless they begin to play like the other normal human beings on the golf course, there is every likelihood that their handicap will be reduced by another stroke this weekend.
Duncan Maclean and Neil Macleod have picked up scoring points in all three rounds of the Winter League to date. A birdie on the Caber/Foresters was the highlight of their first six holes. The return leg was more daunting but their consistency has taken them into fifth place in the overall table.
The final partnership on nett 45 was Kevin Macrae and Griddy Macleod, making their first joint appearance of this campaign. As might be predicted, there were enough birdies in their round to ensure that they matched the lowest gross score of the day. Two under par at the turn after birdies on the Redan and Manor, they picked up another two on the return leg, at the Memorial and Caber/Foresters.
The tip of the week comes from Angus “Stoodie” Mackay. It is a pretty basic tip but clearly Angus needs to take his own advice. His opening round in the Winter League disintegrated when he accidentally hit his ball while practising and it disappeared into the trees adjacent to the Ranol fairway. Last weekend, with his ball lying on the fringe of the Memorial green after two excellent shots, Angus managed to knock the ball sideways as he took a practice “swing” with his putter. Having previous experience of this type of accidental stroke, Angus was less stunned than his playing partner, Graham Morrison, and promptly sank the thirty foot putt for an unlikely par.
Initially, Angus suggested that his advice would be never to take a practice swing at anything, ever. However, this was refined to standing well clear of the ball when not intending to hit it. In Angus’ case, this would appear to mean positioning himself no nearer than ten feet from the ball. Hopefully, his next tip will have nothing to do with missing the ball completely when actually trying to hit it by standing too far away from the ball.
Finally, some more free advice for any team hoping to pick up double digit scoring points: it cannot be done with anything worse than a birdie on the Caber/Foresters.