WEATHER WOES AND SCORING LOWS
Golf is a game that is affected by the weather to an extent that is replicated in few other sports. In competition, the time of day allocated for your round can alone be the difference between having a chance of winning and simply taking part. In the Western Isles, famed for its “four seasons in a day” climate, scores posted in golf competitions are often looked at in terms of not just how but also when the round was played.
We look enviously in the direction of the links courses in Scarista and Askernish, where snow and ice never last long and rain is treated like water off a duck’s back.
This winter, like any other, there is a fine line between whether or not the course in Stornoway is playable at any point of the day. The Car Hire Hebrides Winter League is in survival mode at the moment: even if Friday evening is calm, mild and clear, there is no guarantee that the course will be open eight hours later. Last weekend, fortunately, a little window on Saturday between a heavy band of freezing rain and a howling gale allowed the first Winter League action since before Christmas.
The weather did, however, have the last word as only ten holes were playable. As a result, a number of teams probably posted their lowest ever nett totals. With a par of only 36, scores of at least four under par were needed to pick up points.
Five pairings registered nett 31, each earning eight points. George Macleod turned up with seconds to spare, much to the relief of his playing partner, George Mould. He then seemed to underline the accepted view that preparation is key to performance by slicing his opening tee shot on the Castle into the middle of a plantation of trees. A few minutes later he had made nonsense of the “accepted view” by hacking his ball onto the fairway, floating a lob onto the green and rolling a par putt into the hole. There were a few other magical moments, as the two Georges doubled their overall points total.
Donnie Graham and Marten James made the most of a handicap allowance of nine strokes, reaching the halfway point only two over par. Needing a solid inward half, the pair made par on the testing Castle and held on to take a share of second place.
Neil Clayton shrugged off the absence of partner Darren Beattie and a double bogey on his opening hole and dropped only one more shot in the remainder of an excellent round. Neil has now picked up more points playing solo than as part of a team, so there will be some added pressure on Darren when he returns.
Paul Moorby and Robbie Ross reignited their Winter League challenge, despite a double bogey on the Castle. Another bogey on the Redan meant that they completed the outward half three over par and looked down and out as far as points were concerned. The inward half was a different story; five par holes and a birdie on the Short Miller transformed their round.
The final pairing sharing second spot comprised Pete Middleton and Iain Moir. Successive birdies on the Ranol/Dardanelles and Short Dardanelles contributed to a two under par halfway total. Despite a bogey on the Ard Choille, Pete and Iain birdied their final hole, the Cup, to post the lowest gross score of the day at two under par.
Chris Graham and Peter Grant opened their round with three successive par holes before carding a double bogey on the Glen, a hole that proved to be the downfall of many a team. There was another double bogey, on the Castle, but that was quickly offset by a birdie on the Redan. Chris and Peter held on to finish on nett 30, one ahead of the pack, winning their first points in this Winter League campaign in some style.
In the overall Winter League table, Andy Macdonald and Neil Rowlands retain their comfortable lead on 45 points. Their weekend performance has lifted Paul Moorby and Robbie Ross into the runner-up spot on 38 points, two ahead of Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald and Murdo Maclennan.
Ken Galloway and John R Gillies are fourth on 35 points, one point ahead of Allan “Biddley” Macleod and Al “Greens” Macleod.
Another cold snap puts this weekend’s Winter League round in some doubt but, as always, things change very quickly in the Hebrides.