First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 23rd November 2006
Golf on the coldest winter days normally follows the same pattern for me. I don six jumpers, waterproofs and woolly hat and step onto the first tee feeling warm and smug. I get through about three holes before my hands start to feel a little numb and, by the turn, sensation in my fingertips is greatly lessened. Early-stage frostbite begins to set in around the 15th.
I remember during one particularly Baltic round on St Andrews’ Jubilee Course I had to ask my playing partner to close my fingers around the grip of my 3-iron because my hands felt like they belonged to someone else. A wiser man would have taken this as a gentle prompt to walk in and find warmth, but I was only two down and quietly confident of pegging it back.
This week, however, I’ve discovered something fantastic that could make all the difference to my winter golf – hand warmers. I’ve never gone in for them before, dismissing them as something soft southerners might use. But, I’m converted. At one point on my way round Buckpool my hands actually got a bit sweaty.
It’s a long drive to Buckpool but it was worth the effort. The course provided clear proof that winter golf should only be played on the links. We were off the back tees playing to firm (mud-free) fairways and on to superb greens still running absolutely true. With little wind, no rain and my hand warmers, there were no excuses. I returned a fairly uneventful 75, Stewart shot 73 and won another fiver. Obviously I was still getting used to my hand warmers this week so couldn’t expect a serious improvement in my score. I’m confident that next week I’ll begin to reap the rewards.
My most impressive achievement of the day was not losing my temper until a three putt at the 17th. One of these days I’ll get through an entire round without stomping around like one of the irate toddlers on Super Nanny.
As the nights draw in it’s becoming increasingly difficult for all the Alliance competitors to finish before dark. For that reason a two-tee start has been adopted for the last couple of weeks. It’s been leading to inordinate amounts of confusion. People starting on the back nine and making it to the 1st while others are still starting from the 1st tee results in a major logjam. I heard reports that, at one point, there were eight groups between the 4th and 6th tees. It took my dad, Jim and Derek 2.5 hours to play the front nine and I don’t think any of them had hand warmers.
Derek’s been the victim of a vicious Secretary Ron handicap adjustment. He received a very polite letter congratulating him on his nett 62 at Turriff the previous week that went on to state the score “merited” a handicap cut. He’s come down from 13 to 11. Not entirely comfortable with Ron’s decision Derek returned an NR in protest.