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  • Alistair Tait

The Joy of Winter Golf

“Dreich” is the best way of describing the weather outside my office window as I type these words. If there’s a better word to describe the dank, dreary, wet conditions we face at this time of year then I’ve yet to find one.

It’s one of many Scottish words which are perfect examples of onomatopoeia along with “midden,” “cludgie,” “footer,” “besom” and a host of others that give you a fair idea of their meaning even though you’ve never heard them before.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have gone for a walk in dreich weather never mind play golf in it. Yet as I sit here typing, I’m itching to go to the golf course.

I collected quite a few “rain checks” when I first started playing this game in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. I smile now when I think they handed those out to compensate for rounds foreshortened because of rain. I smile because if that was in play in Britain then many golf clubs would probably lose money.

None of the people I played with when I first started golf would have even ventured out on the course if there was even the threat of rain. I was that way too until I realised the best time to play Merry Hill Golf Club, where I learned to play, was when the weather was inclement. I still remember the incredulity of Merry Hill club professional Paul Cotey when I turned up one day in steady drizzle and asked if I could pay a green fee.

“If you’re keen to play in this weather then you deserve a free round,” Paul said, before joking: “And don’t hold anyone up!"

No danger of that: I had the place to myself.

I was met with a similar comment yesterday when I took to Woburn’s Marquess Course just before 2pm. As I walked up the path towards the first tee, one fellow member who was finishing his round said:

“You’re keen.”

He seemed to understand my reply:

“It’s either this or spend all day sitting in front of the television watching sport.”

It was true. With multiple football games on, the Grand Prix, the conclusion of the Hero World Challenge and NFL games, I could have sat in front of the television from 2pm to midnight just watching sports. A couch potato’s dream.

So the two and a half hours I spent on the Marquess, and the 12,000 or so steps of exercise, was well worth it.

I understand fair-weather golfers. I get it that they don’t like to play when the weather drops below a certain temperature – one Twitter friend says she packs the clubs away when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Ten degrees Centigrade for those of use already converted to the metric system.

I don’t blame her, and this is not a pop at fair-weather golfers. I used to be one myself. However, I’ve learned to appreciate playing in different conditions, even rain.

What I don’t understand is aspiring tour pros who refuse to play when the weather is a bit iffy. I’ve met a few of them over the years. Do they really think they’re going to get perfect weather and conditions every time they play a tournament?

Modern wet weather gear has made it easier to go out in sodden conditions. Although a dedicated walker and carrier so I can get as much exercise out of a round of golf as possible, I invested in a golf trolley a few years ago for dreich weather. That umbrella accessory on the cart handle is the main/only reason for my trolley investment. Keeping clubs dry pre-trolley days was a nightmare.

I’m grateful I can play all year round after beginning my golf playing days in Canada and a near five-month hiatus from the game every winter. The other reason I've grown to embrace dreich conditions is my dear-departed, four-legged, best friend Izzy. Rain or shine Izzy had to be walked, and it made sense to do so around the golf course for the win-win benefit: she got her walk and I got to play golf.

And Izzy never complained when the weather was foul although, as the picture above shows, there were times when she probably would have preferred to be lying in front of the fire than standing in the wet with a bunch of golf nuts.

One of the great joys of golf is being in the great outdoors. Indeed, surely one of golf’s challenges is the capriciousness of nature which makes the same course play arguably 365 different ways each year? Yes, I’d rather be playing in shorts and short sleeves, but wearing three layers, a bobble hat and having to negotiate wet lies is a challenge to be embraced, not shunned.

Hmmmm, my golf bag and water proofs should have dried out since yesterday, it’s 12:28 pm and doesn’t get dark until 15:52pm, the courses will be empty… Where are my car keys?

#JustSaying: “Golf is a bit like an exam paper. I like the fact that each day asks different questions of you even though you can be playing on the same course.” Rory McIlroy

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