Tee-time again: Relief as golf returns to Isle of Skye club

Golf was one of the first sports to return after restrictions were eased

John Marshall writes about the return of golf at Sconser

That doyen of modern orchestral conductors Arthur Nikisch is said to have exerted such control over the musicians in his charge that he is reputed to have started a performance of Weber’s Oberon Overture by simply raising one of his eyebrows.

It was with considerably more difficulty though that the current occupants of the Big Hoose in Edinburgh decided to begin the easing of the coronavirus lockdown on certain selected outdoor sports by quite properly granting ‘God’s own game’ the go-ahead to resume – albeit in a very strictly controlled and non-combative environment.

There has been much consternation, nay metagrobilisation, among the rank and file of Scottish golfers that courses, particularly those in the environs of our urban cousins, were being widely used as exercise areas for a myriad of recreational activities satisfying the necessity for the athletic requirements of assorted walkers, runners, joggers and even horse-riders.

And all the while ‘the chosen’ were denied access to their very own sporting sward!

And so it came to pass then that eventually the great and good of Skye and Lochalsh golf were once more able to tread their hallowed turf down Sconser way – access having been denied to them since late March.

Ten long and lonely weeks had passed and lots of long walks had been necessarily wasted when striding out mile upon mile along the highways and byways without being able to pause even momentarily in order to hit a wee white ba’!

However,what a spectacle greeted the returning players.

Keeper-of-the-green John Cunningham – all the while working in absolutely splendid isolation – had lavished care and attention on the 55 acre enclosure, the viridity of which despite near drought conditions for many of the lockdown weeks, was indeed a joy to behold.

In the interim the compact but admirably sedulous committee had worked tirelessly to prepare mountains of perspicuous materials in order to put into place the government-required protocols for accountability at the club should ‘track and trace’ become necessary somewhere down the line.

Consequently, a work of art, the online tee-time booking system metamorphosed and that particular stipulation for the resumption of play was completed both satisfactorily and timeously.

The government edict was that initially only the members of golf clubs should be allowed to play on the courses for both social distancing and accountability purposes with no member’s guests or visitors to be allowed access to the course in the easing of the phase one lockdown.

Incidentally could the prize for the ‘biggest lock-down turkeys’ be awarded to the peregrinating dudes who pitched their tent on Staffin Island in full and glorious view of the good folk of the village and its surrounding townships!

Phil Cunningham needn’t have worried too much though as ‘The Tent on Staffin Island’ doesn’t quite trip off the tongue?

Car parking with social distancing was to be easy. The auld yins used the on-course site while the large overflow parking space easily accommodated the youngsters.

Hand sanitising gel dispensers were installed and made available outside the clubhouse which like all others in the land is closed for business for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, although our clubhouse generates a decent amount of money from sales of teas, coffees, confectioneries but most importantly club logo-ed items of clothing we will not suffer quite as much as the larger clubs who maintain essential bars and restaurants.

On the actual playing surfaces greenkeepers were required to make provision for golfers to be able to ‘hole’ their golf balls without requiring to touch either the cup, the flag or the pin.

Creativity came to the fore and what would our fellow dream up for our edification and delight – but much more importantly for our health and safety?

Sadly, unlike our local dominies for this year’s SQA exam diet he wasn’t allowed to ‘mark his own homework’ so his efforts were subject to public scrutiny.

Effort #1: He decided to insert some of his old CD’s just below the lip of the hole to prevent players having to touch the edges in order to retrieve their balls but this wasn’t a great success as his choice of music did not seem attractive to the Titleists and Callaways of this world.

Born on the wrong side of the River Forth our man’s musical integrity was questionable to say the least and with the greatest respect if you were a golf ball would you rush to be anywhere in the vicinity of wee Cliffie Richard’s Greatest Hits or Daniel O’Donnell Sings Sacred Songs?

Effort #2: His musical theme continued as he experimented with plastic piping in the holes to make it ‘touch-safe’ for players to retrieve their balls without fear of contamination – but methinks neither Fred Morrison nor Dr Angus Macdonald need have any fears there either?

And so with health and safety requirements plus traceability suitably concluded play duly started on Friday 29th May at 8am – prompt (since amended to 7am each day by popular demand).

Play would necessarily be limited to solo or dyads of players with 15 minute intervals between groups teeing off in order to maintain social distancing.

Apparently there were some horror shots off the first tee and indeed ‘yours truly’ playing that first morning as a ‘lone-ranger’ was mightily relieved to see his opening biff – following an enforced 10 week lay-off – fly straight and true down the middle of the fairway.

That doesn’t happen very often!

Social media pictures provided evidence of a rich harvest of players the length and breadth of the land sclaffing and indeed in some cases actually missing the ball completely much of course to the great amusement and consequent delight of their respective playing companions and assorted onlookers.

With the restrictions on playing golf eased well before local football and with the shinty season already all but over before it has even started the golf club is delighted to see that some of their fellow sports enthusiasts in Skye and Lochalsh have decided to give their ‘second’ game a wee bit more attention pending the resumption of their own particular athletic activity of choice.

Many of the shinty and football boys have paid their green fees for a round on the course in the past to both stimulate their interest and improve their golfing skills in God’s own game but now that there’s no choice of sport the membership numbers at the club have started to grow and develop-and all are most welcome.

Although it could still be a wee while before the ‘rubber once again hits the road’ and the competitive golf resumes the situation could be much worse.

Consider the dilemma facing a much larger Highland club with c.1000 members and the problems associated with trying to accommodate these golfers desperation to return to their ‘links’?

Teeing off from 7am till 9:30pm in ten-minute intervals playing either solo or in pairs only c.150 players per day get the chance to grace their fairways.

Whereas down Sconser way our members can now book their slot, play their game, savour the view, enjoy the company then travel but a short distance home only to return day-after-day should they so desire?

Stay safe, keep healthy and best wishes to you all from the Isle of Skye Golf Club.

PS:As I write there have been no reports from CalMac of any stowaway golfers being found hiding on the Raasay ferry.