I’ve just had metal spikes fitted to my golf shoes after hearing a sad tale from an old friend and colleague Glen Gibbons who came a cropper when playing at his club Cawder GC, Bishopbriggs, nr Glasgow.
Glen was wearing rubber spikes, as most of us do, when he was walking up to an elevated green and suddenly his feet went skywards on the wet grass and he landed with his leg doubled up beneath him. He ruptured his quadriceps tendon and required an operation to put it right.
In our younger days we both worked on The Observer and he now writes a football column for The Scotsman, a job he can still do with a gammy leg but it’ll be a while yet before he can return to golf.
With saturated courses throughout the country, it is becoming harder to climb slopes without slipping and after Glen’s mishap Cawder’s professional Gordon Stewart has been encouraging members to change to metal spikes for a firmer footing.
We’ve had a few falls recently at Glamorganshire and when I asked our pro, Andrew Kerr Smith, if he could fit metal spikes he said he’d done his own a week earlier because of the conditions.
Soft spikes or cleats started to appear fifteen or twenty years ago when some clubs banned metals because of the damage they could do to greens. Most clubs didn’t ban them but golfers quickly adapted to them and the vast majority of club golfers now use them.
Some professional golfers have been slow to make the switch — Tiger Woods continued to wear metal spikes for a long time and Rory McIlroy still wears them — presumably because they want a surer footing when they swing. They don’t play on muddy courses often enough for slipping to be a problem.
It’s not that rubber spikes or cleats are unsuitable but conditions on most courses at the moment are far treacherous than they’ve been in living memory and it is worth taking precautions.
I’VE HAD A
While we are on the subject of the wretched weather, it is ironic to report that I played four rounds of golf in seven days last week and each was in brilliant sunshine, with blue skies above and hardly a breath of wind ……. and I never left the fair county of Glamorgan.
True, there was an abnormal amount of squelching under foot but it was incredible weather for November. Mind you, I was lucky because every other day was grey, wet and miserable.
A week last Sunday we had a lovely day for our winter league and the following Wednesday we played at Royal Porthcawl in weather that was bright and barmy. I even won the first hole in our four-ball better-ball.
I was partnering Bob Edwards against John Dodd and Steve Hamer and despite my good start we got hammered on the front nine. Fortunately, we were playing for the very modest stake of a pound, pound, pound.
We were five down at the turn but, largely thanks to Bob, made a spirited comeback and Bob won the 18th to win us the back nine which meant they won the game but we only had to give them a quid.
On Saturday there was a competition I don’t normally enter on principal. It was a four-ball better-ball medal which they insist is played with three-quarters handicap.
Every hacker in the land, and all right-thinking golfers come to that, was delighted when CONGU, the governing body, ruled several years ago that in all individual matches and tournaments the full difference in handicap had to be given instead of three-quarters as had previously applied.
But in four-ball better ball matche-play, three-quarters of the difference still applies. That’s fair enough. But when it comes to a four-ball better-ball tournament it is anything but fair.
Because Mike Hennessey’s partner pulled out I joined him to play with Andy Ferrier and Peter Wilson.
I play off 28 so, applying the three-quarters rule, I had to play off 21 as did Andy. Peter plays off 27 so he had to play off 20, and Mike who is 24, played off 18.
So, between the four of us we surrendered 27 shots. If there was a four-ball containing four players off four, they would have lost one shot each. So we would be giving a vastly superior four-ball 23 shots. It’s an absolute nonsense and probably why we play so many of them.
As it happens it was a beautiful day and I continued the improvement I’d shown in the previous two rounds that week. I only dropped two shots over the first three holes and Mike and I went on score a creditable 72.
It was difficult to work out because we were picking up if our partner was in a better position to score but Mike reckoned I would have been very close to breaking 100.
But it was a beautiful day again, shirt-sleeve weather, and with the other Peter playing well over the second nine it was very enjoyable game.
When we turned up for our 9am shot-gun start in the winter league the following morning there was a white carpet of frost over the course. But the sun soon got rid of that and we had another glorious day with brilliantly clear views across the channel.
My partner, Dave, was away in Las Vegas on business, so Martin Gray substituted for him and we faced a pair of young Toms — Tom Sitford, off 19, and Tom Parkinson, off 28. Martin is 14 so we had to give them three shots — not something I’m used to.
Both Toms are in their early 20s and play for the local rugby team. Tom 1 being a second-row and Tom 2 a scrum-half they have contrasting sizes but they both hit the ball miles further than they ought to.
I don’t know what they give the kids to eat these days but the way they bash a golf ball is ridiculous.
We were two down after three holes and quietly consoling ourselves with the though that we would soon be having a beer in the sunshine but instead we managed to feature in a bloody good game. Martin was hitting his fairway woods in splendid style and I was keeping my end up and we fought back to three up with six to play.
But they were good competitors and they whittled down our lead to one up with two to play. They had a shot on the penultimate hole, a long uphill par four, but while we 12 feet from the hole for three they were playing their fourth from trouble forty yards to the right.
It was a very difficult shot to save the game and we were trying hard not to look happy when Tom the scrum-half sent the ball towering out of the rough to land ten feet from the hole and they gained a half.
It was an unexpected blow and I proceeded commit my first atrocity of the day. Tom the scrum half had hit his tee shot at least 250 yards and I managed to send mine ten yards to the left.
We lost that hole and then lost the first extra hole but, in fairness, it had been an excellent game and we’d all hit shots to be proud off. Unfortunately, they hit a few more than us but I was able to look back on one of the best weeks of golf I’ve had for a long time. I’ll settle for that.