Week 19: Cruden Bay
Date: March 7
Weather: lovely
Greens: summer
Mats: yes
Preferred Lies: yes

Most golf gurus agree that, beyond a certain level, the game becomes a predominantly mental one. My game is definitely mental. I?ve more demons than Dante?s Divine Comedy and I suffer violent mood swings on the course. My mental state can shift dramatically from a sort of delirious and confused happiness when things are going well to a dark and sinister depression when they?re not. I generally manage to stop just short of self-harm.

One of the more irritating mental issues I have relates to the golfing venue, I?ll term it ?course association.? With some tracks, Newmachar for instance, I have very poor ?course association.? My brain believes I always play badly there so it will do everything in its power to ensure this is exactly what happens. If I?m ever on anything approaching a good score at Newmachar negative synapses are automatically triggered to create a raging slice out of bounds or a duff into water. Conversely, I have very positive vibes when it comes to Cruden Bay. It was the site of my only ever Alliance scratch victory and I tend to return fairly good scores there. So, I felt there was a chance I could make amends for the atrocities last week at Newburgh.

There are approximately 16,000 recognised routes between Banchory and Cruden Bay. Stewart and I are confident we have now discovered the best one. I can?t divulge it in its entirety or it may become too popular. What I can say is we go through a place called Whiterashes (sounds nasty doesn?t it?) and use at least two roads that don?t appear on smaller route maps. Our navigation was so successful we arrived at Cruden Bay a full hour before our time. Excellent, a good chance to warm up on the driving range. Or, just sit about in the clubhouse eating bacon rolls. Yeah, we didn?t want to overdo it.

The weather yesterday was sublime, (relatively speaking.) There was warm sunshine and little wind: All in all very un-Alliance like. The greens were fast and true and the course was generally in good shape. I?ve just about reached my limit with winter golf this year so it was refreshing to enjoy a round in something approaching spring conditions. I played acceptably and was happy with my 73. It may have been six shots behind the winner, but it was a good confidence booster and a reminder I can play the game to some extent. I was particularly cheered as my effort was sufficient to win the fivers.

I have to mention the fiasco that took place at the short par 4 second (sorry Cormack.) With hindsight it was probably driveable but, instigating my new policy of trying a little course management, I hit a four iron off the tee for safety. We all put our drives in roughly the same place and faced an approach up a steep slope to a raised green. We turned to Cormack, the custodian or our strokesaver, for guidance. ?118 from the back of that bunker.? He said with confidence. 118? It didn?t look it but I hate being short so I went with a full gap wedge. We all hit what we thought were good shots but on reaching the summit no balls were in sight. We were 20 yards through the back. A further look at the strokesaver confirmed the bunker we were beside was just 70 yards out, it was a bunker further back that was 118. Stewart and I decided we would have been better off calling 118 for a yardage.

I think you can get far too caught up in course management. There?s a good case for going with your instincts and just hitting the natural shot. In fact, every time I tried to really think about a shot yesterday I screwed it up. At one point I even attempted to lay-up on a par 5: unprecedented. After thinking very carefully about where I needed to put it I proceeded to put it in ankle high rough. I?m going back to thoughtless bludgeoning next round ? it?s far more fun.