As one of the few members of my golf club who play regularly right through the winter, I find the transition from off to on season a little trying.

Over the last five months or so I’ve been able to roll up at the first tee whenever I’ve liked and been able to stroll straight on. Now, as spring begins to spring, I have to phone to book a time – sometimes to be told there are no times!

From October to March golf clubs are populated with like-minded spirits: true golf lovers who don’t let poor conditions put them off. But, as the swallows begin to return, so to do people for whom golf is not necessarily the principal reason for being member of a golf club.

Yesterday, for the first time this year, every green was in play at my course (though we’re still off mats on the fairway until the end of next week.) I got out for a game, as did a group of guys I know who’ve continued to play all winter. Behind them was a group of members enticed out by the clement weather – I’m sure for many it was a first outing of 2009.

As we sat in the clubhouse afterwards reflecting on how pleasant it was to have enjoyed a game on an (almost) full course, one of the non-winter golfing members came in and made a snide comment inferring one of the group behind us had not used a mat on a fairway.

We were taken aback. These guys are golf’s heroes. They’ve spent almost half a year playing off mats to temporary greens across mud and snow, through wind and rain. They’ve enjoyed great camaraderie and good feeling in the clubhouse during the cold months as they’ve shared tales of their battles with the elements. They finally get the chance to play the summer course and, after one round, they’re being subjected to all that’s worst about golf clubs – stuffy and pedantic behaviour designed to intimidate and belittle. Not nice and not clever.

I seriously doubt one of those guys failed to use a mat on a fairway as they’ve been doing it for five months. Even if they did, it would have been an honest, one-off, mistake and surely something to be overlooked rather than brought up loudly and maliciously in public.

For me, and I’d guess most people reading this, golf is about competition, good company and, above all, fun. It’s a shame some people still view it as simply a way to exert their authority.