Firstly, an apology. Last week, the golf notes contained a smug comment on how unseasonal the weather has been for the opening rounds of the Winter League. That was a serious error of judgement. Barely two hours after committing these thoughts to paper, the first icy blast of winter blew across the Hebrides. History tells us that last year a similar premature comment on the mild winter saw the course closed for about six weeks.
Golfers, of course, are eternal optimists. Even the freezing conditions and snowfall of last Friday, not to mention a depressing weather forecast, could not stifle the hope that somehow the course would be playable on the following day. On Saturday morning, peering out through a chink in the curtains before dawn and seeing a dusting of snow covering the ground still held out the tantalising prospect that a sudden thaw might make golf possible. It was only when snow fell again that the inevitable cancellation was accepted.
Last Saturday became the day that golfers dread. Not only were they denied golf but they were more or less confined to the house. Those chores normally neglected became impossible to avoid and the rest of the day was spent attending to a lengthy list of things to do: replacing broken tiles, fixing loose fittings, clearing out accumulated rubbish from all corners of the house, flower arranging and cross-stitching. Perhaps the last two are limited in appeal and best kept quiet.
The demands of golf are such that homes can easily become dilapidated and, in some cases, derelict. In any case, golfers do not require much in the way of accommodation. Somewhere to store clubs is a necessity, as are a few radiators to dry wet clothing. A reasonably sized living room is a must for chipping practice and a long, narrow hall allows a variety of putting exercises. And a television to watch golf. And a remote control.
It may be more in hope than expectation, but preparations are under way for this weekend’s competition. The Winter League takes a break for the Ken MacDonald TeXmas Scramble. This is a hugely enjoyable event, particularly because it involves teams of four and allows some temporary respite from the constant bickering between Winter League partners. It also almost guarantees that competitors will not lose any money during the competition. Almost, because it is quite possible that Allan Macleod will invent some challenge with the intended outcome being some poor soul giving Allan a pound at the end of the day. If there is a hint of bitterness there, so be it.
Another added attraction is that after the Scramble, participants enjoy a free drink and buffet – or “dinner” as Stewart Macdonald calls it. If it goes ahead this weekend, the event will be taking place a couple of weeks earlier this year than last. The 2009 event finished in a flurry of snow and was the last meaningful golf until February. We can only hope that history does not repeat itself this winter.