My week in golf: Shaking those winter blues
I hate winter.
Seasonal affective disorder, the grumps – whatever you want to call it – when the nights close in and the mercury falls I find myself praying for a time machine to whisk us all forward to the spring.
Many who feel like me will just throw their clubs in the garage and wait for the snow to thaw and to feel the sun on their backs once again.
But the prospect of six whole months without golf is far more terrifying to me than sticking on a few extra layers and so I grin and bear it.
I was wearing five, by the way, as the winter competition season got under way at Sandburn Hall, my club near York, at the weekend.
There was a base layer, a polo shirt, a slip, an Insula top and then a waterproof outerlayer.
Add in the mitts, and the two pairs of trousers, and I should have been equipped to scale Everest. I looked like I’d put on 20 pounds.
I was still cold. It was seven degrees. God knows what I’m going to be like in January.
I find winter competitions an acquired taste.
We’re all off the yellow tees so everything suddenly looks a lot more compact than it did just a couple of weeks earlier.
Clean and replace is also in operation so we can’t even complain about a mud ball or a lie that’s anything less than perfect in the fairway.
Yet I found myself displaying rather too much indifference as the round weaves its way around our par 72 track.
Winter golf just fails to ignite my competitive spirit.
With a qualifier, you’ve got two motivations. You can post a good score and win a prize or, more likely much of the time, you wage the inward war as you fight against your handicap.
I reached the turn on Saturday, in our first winter stableford, with 16 points. A couple of doubles, particularly the one at the par 5 9th, had hurt but I’d played solidly enough.
Ambitions must always be tempered in winter golf if you are a shorter hitter – just another reason to despise the season.
When you’re only hitting 230 off the tee when the fairways are fast, firm and rolling, you’re barely reaching half way to a par 4 when the colder air slows up the ball.
I’ll hit more long irons and hybrids during the next few months than I will throughout the whole of the 2017 season.
So, with that in mind, 16 points was…well, okay.
Had this been a month earlier, I’d have gone into the back 9 knowing I was right on the buffer.
I’d need a strong display to avoid a painful .1 rise.
That’s a powerful motivator when you know you can’t get in the prizes.
But with the white tees safely stored away in the greenkeeper’s shed, and this competition not mattering a jot to my handicap, my competitive day was pretty much done with two hours of golf still to play.
Add in a heavy downpour that struck as I was at the furthest point away from the clubhouse on 14, and I was ready to run to the safe confines of the bar.
Proud as punch
I’m pretty proud, then, that I somehow managed to stir myself for a rousing finish.
When my handicap shrank from 13 to 11 in six mad weeks at the end of the summer campaign, one of the knock on effects was that I lost a shot on the par 5 17th.
That means I must now roll through the last 3 holes without having a handicap crutch on which to lean.
It’s not the easiest of finishes, either. 16, with a raised green and a pond waiting for balls that leak right, has always caused me problems despite being Sandburn’s easiest on stroke index.
The par 3 18th, which demands a strike over another pond to a small green, is a potential card wrecker after a long day.
So to finish with three pars (4, 5, 3) was pretty satisfying. Even though it meant nothing.
I’m hoping the advent of the winter league (of which you’ll hear a lot more in the coming weeks) will light the fire I need to warm me up.
Otherwise, my computer tells me spring begins in 133 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes and 57 seconds.
Not that I’m counting.