The 75th US Women’s Open Championship started yesterday, at Champions Golf Club in Houston and it has a very different feel in this pandemic-disrupted year.  It’s being played in December for the first time, on two courses, the Jackrabbit and Cypress Creek, for the first two rounds, with two-tee starts.  The final 36 holes will be on Cypress Creek and, of course, there are no spectators, so those of us glued to our telly screens will have a great, unhindered view of the action and large brown swathes of dormant Bermuda – the grass not the island; it’s described as having wiry rootstock and it’s tough to judge your shots out of it, so look out for a few glares and frustrated swipes as players seeking perfection have to accept that Dr Bob Rotella is right and golf is not a game of perfect.

This looks like being a proper US Open test, favouring patience, pars and from the look of Cypress Creek’s huge greens, a sublime touch with the putter.  At the end of the first round, the leaderboard was a vexillologist’s delight, featuring, in no particular order, the flags of the United States, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Germany and England – come on you Charley Hull. The total purse is $5.5 million with a first prize of a million dollars, well worth staying in a bubble for before heading home to celebrate.

My teammates entering into the spirit of the season.

Back in Staffordshire, at the less rarified level of WHGC’s Christmas comp, we were colourful and creative in our attire but our scoring was less festive and we finished well down the leaderboard despite hitting plenty of decent shots between us.  Suppose it was that Eric Morecambe thing:  all the right shots, just not necessarily in the right order….Most of you will have the good sense to realise that that is a bit of an exaggeration, verging on gross….And playing 18 holes again was a bit of a shock to the system after several weeks out, it could take a while to get back to match fitness.

Talking of shocks, a few days ago I looked a bit too closely in the mirror and decided to treat myself to a facial, telling a friend who’d never had one that they were wonderful, so relaxing, a real indulgence, pampering at its best, a real winter reviver.  I opted for something called the Caci Synergy signature facial that promised simultaneous skin rejuvenation and facial toning.  Just the ticket, I thought.

The instrument of torture…I should have paid more attention…

Well, it pays to read the small print.  What I’d failed to notice was the phrase:  “using microcurrent, microdermabrasion and LED light therapy”.  There I was, comfortably settled, waiting for some deep cleansing, followed by delicious lotions and potions, applied with the sure, soothing touch of an expert in her field.  What followed was more like torture, perhaps devised by the people who designed the electric chair.  There were electrodes involved, designed to tighten and tone and at one stage an amazing light show, like being at the optician’s.  I did make the mistake of opening my eyes at one point, to see bundles of wires descending towards me.  I didn’t open my eyes again until it was all over.

I concede that there may have been a firming up of a bit of cheek at one stage but I spoiled it by bursting out laughing, although mostly I was thinking of dungeons and the Gestapo and how it wasn’t at all what I’d expected.  As I was leaving, I picked up a brochure and read phrases like “non-surgical face lifting”, “tiny electrical impulses that mirror the body’s own natural bioelectrical field”.  Ah.

The FAQs section started with “how many treatments should I have?”  The answer?  “Although a remarkable difference is seen after the first treatment, the benefits are cumulative and typically a course of 10-15 treatments will be required for optimum results….After a course of treatments you will see real improvements in how your skin looks and feels.  Your facial contours will look lifted and toned with a fresher, more youthful appearance.  A monthly top-up treatment is then recommended to maintain results.”  Aaaagh.

The brochure is now in the recycling.  I’m close behind.

No visitors allowed but the Santas are on parade.

Talking of recycling, the LET have just launched a sustainability initiative called “Celebrating the Green”, presented by Dow and also supported by the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf.  The aim is to make a real difference, helping to conserve “our fragile biodiversity; reduce pollution of air, water and oceans; and address climate change….”   Among many other things, they’ve teamed up with OCEANTEE and will be using the company’s bamboo golf tees.  I’d never heard of OCEANTEE but founder Ed Sandison has big plans:  “By working with the LET not only will we continue to increase the use of bamboo sustainable tees but we will also be able to educate the golfers of tomorrow about the importance of sustainability and the impact of pollution.”  They’ll also be working with the Marine Conservation Society and all being well, several events are planned for next season.

Have a look at the LET website for more details, it’s quite impressive.  All that flying about is not too eco friendly but, for instance, Aberdeen Standard Investments offset all player and caddy travel to and from this year’s Ladies Scottish Open and is working with ClimateCare to support the Golf Rainforest protection appeal in Sierra Leone.   So, we can all do our bit, the planet is not yet lost.

Sadly, we have lost the incomparable Peter Alliss and Mo pays her own tribute to a lovely man.  As the lowly editorial assistant at Golf World (UK), I used to have to transcribe his tapes and corral his flights of fancy into some sort of order.  Not always easy but great fun and great training.  In memory of those days Dave Oswald, GW’s former art editor, posted this picture on his Facebook page.  He recalled that it was an Open preview recce at Royal St George’s in 1981, very windy and he and Alliss played from the roped-off championship tees and barely reached the fairway at the 1st.  Still, Peter managed a 75.

Dave O, Peter Alliss and Peter Haslam, editor of Golf World. The late, great Phil Sheldon was the photographer.

If you get a chance, have a look at Alliss speaking at his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012 and his priceless pay-off.  I won’t spoil it for you – it’s too delicious to butcher – but it involves Mrs Weymouth (sp?), the teacher who told his parents that Peter would never amount to much…..

Finally, if you’re finding it hard to drag yourself out on these grey, winter days, wrap up warm, head out and revel in the conditions on a round with Alice.

Cold, wet, muddy, freezing? Not if you’re from hardy, working lab stock.

Season’s greetings and all the best for 2021.