Stornoway golfers are a hardy breed. Over eighty of them will regularly brave the wind, rain and cold every winter weekend, often clad in so many layers of clothing that the golf course resembles a day out for the Michelin Man and his extended family. Many of those golfers complain bitterly on the rare occasions when the course is closed. They are willing to play on a skating rink or in a swamp, such is their dedication. And it is generally all for two miserly appearance points and a mild bout of pneumonia.
Those desperate souls explain their inability to score well by using the conditions as an excuse. It might be logical to assume, therefore, that when summer arrives suddenly, on a Wednesday in late May, that they will be able to demonstrate the full panoply of their golfing ability. When the wind is barely a whisper and the temperature climbs above 22° and our golfers are wearing less clothing than a Geordie on a night out, it might be logical to assume that the standard of golf will match the sublime conditions.
Unfortunately, and it comes as no surprise, that is not the case. Some golfers are prepared to admit that they are actually playing worse golf now than in the depths of winter. It is difficult to understand why, on a perfect day, only three competitors broke par in the TCB Trophy event. Those who played in the competition understand.
The ball bounces after it lands on the green, unlike the reassuring splat in winter. A firmly struck putt that misses the hole runs on for yards, rather than grinding to a sudden halt as in winter. There is too much rough in the rough. The freedom of movement that comes with ditching thermal vest, fleece, waterproofs and over trousers allows golfers to swing like a revolving door, unhinged of course. The unpalatable truth is that golfers are probably not as good as they think they are.
Fortunately, there are those who can exploit perfect conditions. Colin Macritchie’s solid performance in winning the Kenneth Mackenzie Jubilee Trophy two weeks ago presented ample proof that he is able to master the varied conditions that Stornoway throws up. That was underlined by his gross total of 65 (nett 63), which won the TCB Trophy last week.
Birdies on the Manor, Memorial and Short helped Colin reach the turn in two under par. Another on the Caberfeidh set up a superb score and he could have been forgiven for playing conservatively on the last; instead Colin picked up his fifth birdie of the round.
When one golfer is playing at the top of his game, it will often inspire his playing partner to a good round. Colin played alongside David Black, whose nett 66 was good enough for second place. David opened his round with a bogey but immediately went on a run of eleven pars and three birdies, on the Manor, Redan and Caberfeidh. Two shots dropped over the final three holes will be a minor irritation for David but he has the consolation that he is now returning to the consistent form he showed towards the end of last season.
Huw Lloyd took third spot with a nett 67, further proof that he is improving with age. A level par back nine, thanks in part to birdies on the Whins and Ranol, belied his double digit handicap and confirmed that Huw is comfortably playing to his lowest handicap for years.
The ladies’ midweek event was a stableford competition played off the white tees. The white tee positions on some holes present the ladies with distance problems they are unused to; none more so than on the Gunsite. To reach the fairway on this hole requires a drive that is beyond some men and is certainly a challenge to the ladies.
Liz Carmichael’s approach of attempting to hit her tee shot along the cart path leading to the fairway was unsuccessful this year, but congratulations go to Rita MacDonald, who was the only participant to complete the hole. That achievement helped her to second place in a completion won by Donna Young, for whom this was the third victory of the month.
Given that many Stornoway golfers have difficulty making their way over the ditches and drains that criss-cross the golf course, there is always some concern when they attempt to negotiate the Minch, albeit in the comfort of a seat on the ferry. Last Saturday was a glorious day for the annual away match against Ullapool Golf Club.
Whether it was heatstroke or anxiety about the journey home we will never know, but what we do know is that we badly need an excuse for another sound thrashing at an way fixture. Had the team been joined by some of the golfers who remained in Lewis, it may have been a different story.
One golfer certainly missed was Willie Macaulay, who won the Jackson Medal qualifying competition last Saturday. Willie secured victory thanks to a level par finish over the last six holes, which helped him to a nett 62.
Dave Rattray has a reputation for hitting form in the sunshine of the Algarve. Possibly confused by the weather at home in Stornoway, Dave produced his best round for a long time and his nett 63 gave him the runner up spot.
Donald Macsween was another competitor who played his best golf of the season, his nett 66 edging him to third place ahead of a glut of golfers on nett 67.