Slow play is the bane of competitive golf. Next to bad play, slow play is the biggest drawback for anyone playing golf. In fact, some golfers find the snail’s pace of competition so excruciating that they would gladly exchange that for bad golf. Even worse is the more common combination of bad play and slow play, which can be the catalyst for depression that lasts for days.
The local problem is that, while the ladies at Stornoway Golf Club are able to complete their rounds in under three hours, the men can take anything up to five hours to amble around the course. The latest wheeze is to combat slow play by the introduction of a schedule that sets the time for completion of a round at approximately three and a half hours. Scientific research, time and motion studies, pure mathematics and probably the devising of a matrix have all contributed to the conclusion that it should take ten minutes to complete each hole, with a further minute allowed to transfer to the next tee.
A cushion of thirteen minutes has been factored in to cover miscellaneous delays such as looking for lost golf balls, waiting for dog walkers to move out of range, watching planes land at the airport, staring transfixed at the ball after playing a surprisingly good shot and so on.
As part of the pilot programme, the first two groups playing last Saturday evening comfortably completed their rounds within the allotted time. In addition, they provided proof that moving at a reasonable pace should not affect the standard of golf played: two of the players in those groups finished in the top four places in the overall competition. Admittedly, Bob Rankin and John R Gillies were so exhausted after their brisk rounds that oxygen had to be administered in the clubhouse. Bob’s condition was exacerbated by the fact that, having been accidentally locked in a club toilet a week previously, he understandably succumbed to an anxiety attack when he returned to the scene of the crime.
Those golfers who regularly play at a good pace took to the pilot round with gusto. In fact, such was the enthusiasm displayed by Paul Maclean that his playing partners at times thought he had left them to join the group playing ahead. Paul has developed what could be described as the perfect swing: as his weight transfers to his front foot on the downswing, his back foot moves forward, so that he is already moving towards the green. His golf bag is strategically placed slightly ahead of where he stands and his followthrough continues in one seamless movement to allow him to replace his club in the bag without breaking stride.
There is no doubt that a reasonable pace of play adds to the enjoyment of the game. There is enough frustration involved in attempting to play golf without unnecessarily adding slow play to the equation. Hopefully, the next few weeks will demonstrate that, regardless of how many participants there are in competition, it is still possible to complete a round in less time than it takes to travel by ferry and car from Stornoway to Inverness. That isn’t asking much.
The men’s weekend event was played for the Cancer Relief Shield and the winner was the in-form golfer in the club at the moment. Cal Robertson has carried his Winter League success into summer golf with three superb rounds to date. On Saturday, he followed up a level par first half with a scintillating three birdies in four holes, including successive birdies on the Whins and Dardanelles, for a nett 64.
The bracing wind was probably the main reason that scores were not lower on a clear day, with the course showing welcome signs of drying out after a long, wet winter. Bob Rankin picked up a birdie on the Ranol on his way to claiming second spot with a nett 65. That total was also matched by Kenny Maclean and John R Gillies in third and fourth positions respectively.
It was the Juniors who produced the low scores at the weekend, with Michael Jefferson having to accept that his excellent nett 62 would not be quite enough to win the medal competition. The winner was Adam Longdon on nett 61.
The Ladies’ medal qualifying competition was won by Rita MacDonald on nett 73, two strokes ahead of runner-up Jane Nicolson. In the midweek events, Donna Young deservedly won the SLGA Brooch with nett 72, well clear of her closest challengers.
The Caledonian Medal qualifying competition produced a clutch of low scores. Norrie “Tomsh” Macdonald is now shuttling between Stornoway and Scarista in a supposedly controlled experiment to discover if playing an excessive amount of golf is beneficial to his game. Early indications are that, somewhat surprisingly, playing too much golf is actually good for him. Norrie birdied the Heather in a round of nett 63 to shave a stroke off his handicap. That was only good enough for fourth place, with Cal Robertson discovering that his lowest total of the season to date, also nett 63, did not come close to the winning score.
Runner up Neil Morrison rides a rollercoaster where golf is concerned and that has been confirmed once again in his three outings this season. His ability is unquestioned and his performance in the Caledonian Medal, with birdies on the Ard Choille, Memorial and Ranol in a nett 62, should give Neil renewed confidence.
Donald John Mackenzie, by his own admission, struggled with almost every aspect of his game over the winter months. He was probably taken aback more than most by his own performance last week. Donald posted nett 58, cut his handicap by a full three strokes and became the first qualifier for the Caledonian Medal final.
The matchplay draws have now been made and the Galloway Aggregate and Perry Eclectic competitions are under way. Cal Robertson leads the Galloway Aggregate and it is worth mentioning that, even this early in the season, John R Gillies looks to have the Perry Eclectic competition sewn up. Pass the oxygen.