The golf course is proving very difficult to play this month. Usually, those with that opinion have been performing poorly and have run out of excuses. No explanations are required when golfers have a good score. No mention is made of the ricochet off a tree, which rebounded off a stone in the bunker and finished two feet from the flag for an unlikely birdie. Excellent scores are produced by excellent golfers.
On the other hand, terrible scores are not produced by terrible golfers. Instead, they are the result of breaking in new clubs, tiredness from working too hard, not enough grass on the course, a slight shoulder twinge, not seeming to follow through properly and so on. This time, however, almost everyone is struggling.
The Competition Scratch Score (CSS) is a fairly good indicator of how difficult the course is at the moment. The CSS matches the performance of competitors against their handicaps and adjusts the scratch score accordingly. In Stornoway, the standard scratch score is 67 but, for the past few weeks, the CSS has stood resolutely at 70, the maximum figure possible.
For many, even a CSS of 70 is not enough to maintain their handicaps. Their golf is so awful that not even a combination of maximum CSS and a golf bag full of excuses comes close to stopping the inexorable rise in handicap. What they need is a miracle and, last Saturday afternoon, it arrived.
There are two words that can transform a desperate round of miserable hacking into something verging on acceptable. The words are not “Unlucky, mate” or “Next time”. The magical words are “Reductions Only”: they are intoned when the CSS computes that scoring is considered so difficult that no handicaps will increase. Those who are not content with one miracle and score below the CSS have a handicap reduction as an added bonus.
As with most miracles, there are always stories that bring a tear to the eye. Iain “Boozy” Macdonald, who gave up after five holes – although he did secure an uncharacteristic eagle on the Redan as he meandered his way back to the clubhouse – discovered that even that level of participation did not merit a handicap increase. There was even less participation from Iain Mackenzie, who left the course at eleven over par after two holes: his handicap remains intact.
And there were others: Robert Rankin, by his own admission, played only two decent shots (one of them a putt) in a round cut short at the ninth hole; John R Gillies only went back out in the afternoon because he believed he could not play worse than in the morning – and promptly did; and Allan Macleod, playing his best golf ever this season, had used up more than his entire handicap allowance in the first three holes of his round. All of them escaped unscathed.
The event in question was a 36 hole competition for the Kenneth Mackenzie Jubilee Trophy and it was won by Colin Macritchie from a large field of over fifty participants. By his own high standards, Colin would not have been content with two rounds of nett 70 but, given the difficult conditions, it was an excellent performance. The morning round had a disappointing finish with three shots dropped over the last two holes, wiping out the benefit of three birdies in the outward half. A steady second round gave Colin a margin of victory of one stroke.
Ken Galloway led the competition after the first round with an excellent nett 66. However, it was his son, Richard Galloway, who eventually came through to claim second place overall, adding a nett 71 to his first round nett 69. Richard is maintaining his winning Winter League form with an enviable consistency this season.
Another in-form golfer is Griddy Macleod, who has reportedly been “in the zone” since the beginning of this month. Griddy took third place, adding to his first round nett 69 with a nett 72, including an eagle on the Memorial. Not only has Griddy reduced his handicap to 3 but he is demonstrating that he can comfortably compete at that level.
The juniors also played for the Jubilee Trophy. Michael Jefferson had an eight stroke lead after the first round and built on that with a superb nett 63 to take the trophy.
The ladies’ weekend medal was won by Mary Joyce with Liz Carmichael making yet another appearance as runner up.
The midweek Caledonian Medal qualifying competition attracted a sizeable field but only three golfers managed to break par. Mick Butterworth posted an excellent nett 66 to secure third place and make a large dent in his handicap.
Allan Macleod eased into second spot with an impressive nett 64, the highlight of which was an eagle on the Manor. That helped bring his handicap down to its lowest point since he took up golf.
The winner was another golfer making massive progress this season. Steven Bryden also posted nett 64, with his stronger inward half giving him victory. Steven has taken five strokes off his handicap in the space of a month.
Junior golf coaching classes have commenced again on Monday evenings. The younger age group have an hour of coaching from 6.30pm, while coaching for older juniors begins at 7.30pm. The coaching sessions are free of charge and are an excellent introduction to the game for young people. Those interested should simply turn up and enrol on Monday evening.