Those of us waiting for the weather to improve before we venture back onto the course can have nothing but admiration for our more courageous colleagues who are playing in the winter leagues.
I played in our winter league in the ten weeks leading up to Christmas but declined to face the bleaker months in the second half of winter.
I was not the only one. There were about 120 of us in the first half but only 88 are competing this time. In support, I go along every Sunday morning to see them return to the clubhouse bedraggled but proud to have braved the harshness of this winter. I even commiserate with them over a pint. It’s the least I can do.
Only once in eight weeks has the Glamorganshire course been unplayable, which is not bad considering the weather, and the event continues to produce dramas.
There’s been plenty of dramas at the top flight of golf where the European and PGA Tours have been playing in warmer climes but the beauty of golf is that you can get excitement and intrigue even at rock bottom level in cruel conditions.
And out on those cold, wet and windswept fairways is where you find the true spirit of golf — but not every one of those heroes appreciates that.
There are a few pot hunters at our club for whom the expression bleak winter has a whole different meaning.
Leon Reece was our captain last season and, following an unusual set of circumstances that saw us lose two secretary/managers, he has ended up as secretary/manager.
This means that he is no longer a member. He’s entitled to play the course if he ever gets time but can’t enter any competitions –apart from the winter league which is not rated an official competition.
Leon, who plays off seven, is partnered by John Letton, who is a dead-eye putter and off 14 is not to be taken lightly. They would have undoubtedly fancied their chances but came an early cropper.
But a bigger blow was to follow. When they turned up the following Sunday, they found that one of their opponents hadn’t turned up. This usually very good news for pot hunters because the man who did turn up has to play them on his own and give the full difference in handicap.
Normally, the handicap allowance is half the difference. Leon is off nine and John is off 13 which gives them a combined handicap of 22.
Their sole opponent, Rhys Lakin is off 16 which meant he had to given six shots, which is not fun when you against two better players.
But Rhys, a well-known local rugby player (his father, Bob, played No 8 for Cardiff), proceeded to putt the living daylights our of them and win 3 and 2. It caused no end of jollity and Rhys was the hero at the lunchtime raffle.
Leon reckons Rhys will be off single figures in a year. Not only did he hit the ball very well, he sank one putt from 25 feet and three from 20 feet.
In sharp contrast John, rated one of our steadiest putters, missed four times from four feet and their prospect of a prize has receded somewhat.
Better fate has befallen Maurice Flynn who, like me, carries the heavy burden of a 28 handicap. This leads to a lot of ribaldry. It would be so bad if we could play to this handicap occasionally but we rarely get to within five or six shots of it.
This has led us spending a large number of winter leagues sweating on the wooden spoon — I got close enough in December to win a sack of potatoes — which Maurice has collected a few times.
Fortunately, in this session Maurice has the benefit of playing with James Barnett, a young man who is a single figure golfer. They have won two games in succession and, by all accounts,
Maurice has acquitted himself very well. Back to back wins is a rare pleasure. Brave
There’s nothing like playing with a good player to improve a hacker’s game. What it does for the good player has yet to be established.
As it happens, Maurice and James’s first defeat was against Leon and John. These are the ups and downs of winter league life. There’s nothing comparable in golf anywhere in the world.