It was four degrees below zero when I prised open the vertical blinds at 7am last Saturday morning. The ground was white and, despite clear skies, I knew that there would be no golf played in Stornoway that day. I went back to bed, expecting at any moment to hear my mobile buzz with that most depressing of messages: Course Closed.
Incidentally, I discovered that in some households, including my own, prising open vertical blinds is no longer acceptable behaviour. It seems that disentangling the cord and pulling open all of the blinds, even for the briefest of glances outside, is the only correct method: apparently, that is why the cord is there. It was going to be that kind of Saturday morning.
In addition to forgetting how to look out of the window in a proper fashion, I had also forgotten one crucial fact: many golfers are utterly unable to make a decision on whether or not to play golf. There may be a monsoon or six inches of snow but, unless the course is officially closed, they cannot stop themselves from heading to the first tee. They will complain bitterly that the conditions are impossible and, perhaps, that the course should never have been open in the first place. But they will be out there, in a futile battle against nature.
For some reason, the "Course Closed" message never came last weekend and so, just after midday, we stood under a huge blue sky on a rock hard tee, bemoaning the conditions. Martyn Macleod was first to play. His easy swing sent the ball soaring up the middle of the fairway; unfortunately, the ball did not stop there, bouncing on and on until it eventually ran out of fairway and came to a halt embedded in a grassy bank. Who knows what the course had been like for morning golfers but the surface in the afternoon was reminiscent of the road across the Braighe, including the potholes.
In the latest round of the CarHire Hebrides Winter League, it was no surprise that the teams playing on Saturday morning did not feature in the top places. Teams had to be at least two under par to earn even a solitary point.
Two pairings posted scores of nett 42, four under par, to share third place. Colin Gilmour and John M Morrison had picked up eleven points on the previous weekend and added another nine last Saturday. Despite opening with two bogeys, Colin and John recovered well and picked up a birdie on the Memorial to force themselves into contention in the overall competition.
Norrie "Tomsh" Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan had an inspired opening half, with four pars and two birdies, on the Heather and Short Caberfeidh. They were brought back down to earth in the inward half but a one over par gross total was among the lowest of the day.
Both teams in the top two positions carded gross scores of two under par, hugely impressive given the unpredictability of frost-covered ground. There were, of course, those who felt that the rock solid greens provided the best putting surface for months.
Angus Innes and Lewis Mackenzie have been picking up useful points every other week and earned another dozen with an excellent nett 41. Seemingly oblivious to how challenging the conditions might be, they opened with a birdie on the Avenue, immediately followed that with another on the Dardanelles, then another on the Redan and, finally, another on the Gunsite. Four under par after four holes soon became four under par at the halfway point. There were a couple of slips on the inward half but what was an outstanding round has lifted them into a strong position in the league table.
The winning partnership of Colin Macritchie and Innes Smith would be a threat every weekend but playing only sporadically means that all of their points have been collected in the past three weeks. The maximum points earned last Saturday came courtesy of a remarkably consistent round typified by a level par outward half; a birdie on the Heather was offset by a bogey on the following hole. The Dardanelles brought another birdie, as did the Redan in an excellent inward half.
In the overall league table, Iain Macleod and Norman L Macdonald lie fourth on 33 points, four adrift of Willie Macaulay and Donald Macsween. Angus Innes and Lewis Mackenzie are second on 40 points, four behind David and Michael Black.