It’s amazing how you can chug along quite happily without something when you know it’s off the agenda altogether but then you can’t wait to get back in there again once permission is granted.  I found it remarkably easy to get out of the way of playing golf during lockdown – all those notions of using the orange whip on a daily basis, perfecting my turn, acquiring a backswing, practising my chipping and putting?  Lost on the road to hell like many a good intention.

Nature, I’m told, abhors a vacuum, so plenty of things popped up to fill the gap:  walks; lots of Zoom bridge; chats with friends; virtual singing via Zoom; more chatting; Christmas lists; cooking; watching cricket, footie, golf, rugby; reading; daily exercising with Esther Gokhale in an attempt to reverse decades of rubbish posture; virtual pep talk with Esther Rantzen….  This weird year has hurtled past faster than the promised speeds of HS2 – blink and you’ll have missed two of the buggers, empty more than likely.

HS2 cutting a swathe through the countryside…..Aren’t we meant to be planting more trees…..

Even so, the moment we in England were allowed back out on the golf course, I was off, with a tee time of 0740, alarm set for 0613, so I had time for some exercises, a bit of tai chi and a smoothie – organised, would you believe.  Except I wasn’t that organised.  I arrived at the golf club in the dark, got the clubs out of the car, then searched for my newly spiked golf boots – and searched again.  They weren’t in the boot, they weren’t on the floor, on the back seat, they weren’t anywhere.  So where were they?  Back home, in the kitchen, sitting shining on the floor, ready for action, just where I’d left them!

At least I remembered to bring the rake – free with a golf magazine 30-odd years ago, I think. At last I’ve discovered that it works!

It was getting light, so there was no time to rush home.  I played in my trusty, super cosy Celtic & Co sheepskin boots, made in Cornwall and they were ace, comfortable, warm and, amazingly, ideal for golf.  After a shaky opening drive, using a fluorescent Callaway, I played surprisingly well – or, more accurately, hit quite a lot of decent shots.  On the greens it was a different story.  My partner and I both specialised in what Mum used to call “ultras” – as in ultra pathetic, efforts that were woefully short.  Never one to mince her words, Mum.  And, as mums are wont to be, she was usually right!

Mum in full flow, driving off the 1st at Portstewart.

Some of you may have noticed that one of the blog’s loyal readers poured scorn on the very notion of winter golf, likening it to summer skiing, a daft, idiotic pursuit that no sane person would consider.  Much though it pains me to agree with him, there are days that are not made for golf.  Yesterday was one of them and my plans to play a few holes before going to the osteopath (routine maintenance, nothing too dire at the moment) were ditched the minute I peered out the window and saw the rain tipping down and ever-expanding puddles on the road.  It was also, according to the radio, very cold, with snow up in Scotland – in Ayrshire, for goodness sake, not too far from the coast.  I cried off the golf and had a cuppa in bed, thumbing through my tatty copy of Bridge For Complete Beginners in the hope of getting a nugget or two to stick.

It’s the Friday Frolics this afternoon, weather permitting – most of us are well beyond the stage of playing in the pouring rain unless we absolutely have to, no matter how good our waterproofs – and we’ve already had great fun sorting out our tee times.  Everybody is desperate to get out again, so we’re restricted to two advance bookings a week and we’re down from 10-minute intervals to 8.  There have, of course, been moans and groans, so the club sent out an email explaining, very reasonably I thought, why things are as they are:-

“We are fully aware of the limitations created by the booking system and know just how frustrating it can appear, when all we want to do is play a game of golf at our own club.  However, we currently remain duty bound to continue with a booking system – which allows us to open the course in a safe and compliant manner, by providing a robust recording system for COVID tracing.  Without such a system, we would not be seen to be protecting our members and could face fine, sanction or shut down for the duration of the pandemic….”

We now also have volunteer starters whose job is to keep us on time and, if possible, the straight and narrow……Good luck with that!

There’s still loads of professional golf going on around the globe and I was wondering where Dai and I would have been at this time of year – probably Australia after a couple of weeks in Japan.  It seems a lifetime ago, at a time when golf was a mainstay of the sports pages and there was no internet with never-ending coverage and enough websites to make you dizzy.  Happy days.

Images of Japan, clockwise from top left: Mount Fuji, a lift on the golf course, sumo in Fukuoka, the marvellous clock at Miyazaki airport, Hiroshima, eating out.

Finally, congratulations to Annika Sorenstam, who’s been elected president of the International Golf Foundation, successor to Peter Dawson.

Annika, the new president of the IGF [Getty Images]