“Now are you absolutely sure you want to do this?”

Darren had this weird smirk on his face that made me feel quite uneasy – like I was somehow being fleeced.

I wasn’t signing my house away. All that was in my hand were two crisp £10 notes, my entry into this year’s winter league.

But, even so, he looked far too pleased to take them from my grasp – as if he saw me merely as an extra boost to the Emmerson new irons fund come April.

The winter league is our attempt at Sandburn Hall, my club near York, to stave off the boredom of golf during the cold.

We’ll whinge like crazy about all the medals and Stablefords during the summer season but, faced with the prospect of no meaningful action for the better part of six months, about two dozen of us pony up a score and try to make the snow and ice a bit more bearable.

It’s taken far more seriously than it warrants. Previous organisers have created extravagant spreadsheets showing every round and leaderboard positions.

Darren, who is running this show on the grounds that he won last year’s league, is also not averse to a touch of hyperbole when it comes to its importance.

As he pockets my cash, and hits a couple of practice putts, he’s struggling to understand why any of this year’s entrants would rather play in the latest round of York Union Cross Trophy matches that are taking place at Malton and Kirbymoorside.


I don’t have the heart to tell him the only reason I’m not among them is because I’m ‘between partners’.

I’ve come to the winter league party a little late this year and I’m already playing catch up.

It’s been on the go for a couple of weeks and some of the leading contenders, not least Darren, have been taking advantage of the mild autumn weather to put in some 40 plus scores off the yellows.

So I need to start fast.

Perhaps not the ideal time then to have committed to a couple of significant technical changes.

I’ve struggled with length, particularly off the tee, for as long as I can remember hitting a golf ball and I’m determined during this off-season to sort it out.

The prize for an extra 10 to 15 yards would be another step towards single figures.

Relieved not to have to go through a total swing reconstruction, the advice given during 45 packed minutes last Thursday revolved around the position of my feet in relation to which club I was striking and the subsequent arc of my swing.

When it works, it’s a revelation. I can now hit a draw or fade (which I have never been able to do before) and, even though it’s winter, I am already noticing significant distance gains.

When it goes wrong, though, I’m sending wildlife scurrying for cover.

My winter league debut saw something of both. I hit three glorious shots on a way to a par 5 at our opening hole and was full of confidence.

That was followed by a hybrid that went straight left and a couple of drives that were in danger of taking down passing planes.

When I bumped into Darren once again, waiting on the 13th tee, I felt like I’d been swindled in a PPI scam.

“Can I have my money back?” I asked as he later totted up a winning 40 points in the clubhouse and I stumbled home with 26.

But his smirk had been replaced by a giant grin and I already know I’ve done my cash…