For those golfers - and there are quite a few of us - who are regularly embarrassed by their standard of golf in the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League, there is a solution. Play golf on a Thursday afternoon. Last Thursday was the occasion of the annual Cheltenham Festival Golf Day, which proved that it is possible to enjoy the game while playing like a novice.
The two hour warm-up certainly contributes to the enjoyment, as does the knowledge of what you would be doing if you were not on the golf course. On a Saturday, poor play is made even worse by the realisation that you could be doing something more productive with precious time away from work.
The Cheltenham Festival format is skins golf, with the winner of each hole selecting an envelope that may or, more likely, may not hold the name of winning horses at the actual Cheltenham Festival. The standard of play was surprisingly high in the conditions. It truly was all four seasons in an afternoon: snow and hails showers, bright spring sunshine, a little summer warmth followed by autumn rain and high winds.
Peter Grant adapted best to the vagaries of the weather in the early part of the round, picking up four of the first five envelopes. The inward half was dominated by Norrie O Macdonald, who had a rash of birdies that appropriately, given his everyday role as a postman, left him in charge of most of the envelopes. For someone who has played one round of golf since the end of the summer season last year, it was an impressive performance.
By contrast, Saturday and the third last round of the Car Hire Hebrides Winter League had positively idyllic conditions. Underfoot, of course, the almost relentless rain during March has left the course saturated. Nevertheless, scores were again low and three under par was required for a solitary point.
The serious points were awarded to those at least five under par. Gary Murray and Eddie Rogers posted nett 41, a total matched by Scott Macaulay and Kenny Maclean, with each pairing earning eight points.
The current course format is thought to favour the big-hitting golfers in the competition and so it was a surprise to see Murdy Macdonald and Iain Macritchie in third place with a six under par nett total. A birdie on the Dardanelles was the highlight of an outward half that saw them turn for home only three over par. That was how they finished, having put together an excellent level par inward half.
On any other weekend of the competition, an eight under par nett total would have taken the top spot but, for Tom Danks and Iain Maciver, this was not any other weekend and they had to settle for the runner-up position. A bogey on the opening hole was quickly wiped out by a birdie on the next, the Ditch. Another birdie, on the Long Caberfeidh, saw them end the first half one under par. Despite a third birdie, on the Dardanelles this time, Tom and Iain were unable to find the extra stroke that would have given them a share of the spoils and, instead, picked up a dozen useful points.
Level par after their first three holes, Colin Macritchie and Innes Smith cut loose with a birdie on the Ranol, followed by a par on the Dardanelles and an eagle on the Cup/Foresters. The inward half proved to be even more dramatic, with birdies on the Ard Choille, Redan, Short and Long Caberfeidh. Their gross seven under par total, the lowest of the day, became a nett 37, just enough for maximum points and victory.
In the overall league table, last weekend has made some serious changes to the placings of those challenging the current leaders; it is also still mathematically possible for any one of thirty teams to win the Winter League trophy. Iain Moir and Pete Middleton have moved up into a share of eighth place on 37 points with George Macleod and George Mould. Three points ahead, Norrie "Tomsh" Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan share sixth place with Angus Innes and Lewis Mackenzie.
Richard Galloway and Cal Robertson have joined Willie Macaulay and Donald Macsween in fourth place on 41 points.
Colin Macritchie and Innes Smith have been catapulted into third position on 44 points, two points adrift of runners-up David and Michael Black.
Donald and DJ Macleod retain their slender lead on 47 points.