He stood on the first tee, an iron under his left arm, an expectant smile on his face. It was the day after the clocks had gone back an hour in the UK, which is near enough the start of winter, and he was dressed for the occasion. Normally clad in a summery shirt and cotton sweater, he this time wore a polo neck underneath a thick woollen sweater and a tweed cap of the sort that was so common 30 years ago on his head.
Instead of lightweight trousers that settled comfortably over the top of his FootJoys, he had retrieved his plus fours from the back of a cupboard and was wearing them with great elan, complete with thick woollen stockings and a garter, red in colour, to keep them in position. Now he was dressed for golf, winter golf, as he might have been most winters of the past 60 years.
Where is my hip flask? Did I remember to fill it up before I left home? Just a sip or two will make all the difference.
We teed off and walked through patches of sticky mud, our feet slipping and sliding. It is impossible these days to buy a pair of golf shoes with metal spikes. They have fallen out of favour to be replaced by shoes with rubber pimples on the soles. Rubber pimples work well on the hard ground of a British summer but offer very little purchase in the glue of a muddy winter’s day. Bring back spikes, please. Few of us will fall over then.
Winter golf. Ground so frozen it is difficult to get a tee into the turf. Piles of leaves thick enough to crunch underfoot, deep enough to lose a ball in. The joy of winter rules and being able to pick up your ball, clean it and replace it on a tuft of nearby longer grass.
Foursomes played at a brisk pace on a cold winter’s morning when one’s breath freezes in front of one’s face and one’s hands are stiff and blue with cold. Where is my hip flask? Did I remember to fill it up before I left home? Just a sip or two will make all the difference.
And then the relief as the clubhouse comes into view and you know that in a minute you’ll be in the bar cradling a hot toddy, an Irish coffee, a whisky and soda, a Kümmel. Soon a bubble of noise arises from your group as the stories begin to flow. All the unpleasant memories of the standing water in the grassy bunker to the right of the 13th, the balls you lost in leaves on the fifth, the thimble-sized indentation your approach shots made on many of the greens which you did your best to repair – all these are but a memory, replaced by the pleasure of a morning’s exercise, the crack of club in ball, and the warm glow that spreads throughout the body as its temperature rises.
Winter golf. Without it, would summer golf be so pleasurable?