Venue: Edzell
Date: 31 October
Weather: Windy but fair and mild
Greens: Summer
Mats: No
Preferred Lies: Yes

The vast majority of the UK?s four million golfers hang up their clubs in late September and don?t see them again until early April. I feel sorry for them as they?re missing out on some great golfing opportunities. OK, you?ll get days in mid January when you feel more like Bruce Parry racing to the Pole than Tiger Woods racing to his 14th Major. But, on a clear crisp winter?s day on a dry links you can enjoy perfect conditions for golf.

Non-winter players come back to the golf course in spring sorely out of practice. Their first medal outing will be experimental rather than competitive. Those who?ve battled on through the winter months are at a distinct advantage. They?ve kept their swings well oiled and can make the most of the high CSS in the early season competitions.

Having said this, I certainly don?t want the summer-only golfing wimps to change their feeble habits. The lack of people heading out onto the course through the year?s colder months is why winter is my favourite time to play. I raised a glass last Saturday as the clocks went back.

Golf is a sociable sport, you tend to form a bond with your playing partners over a four hour round. You feel their pain when a three footer slips past the edge and share their joy as a drive booms down the middle. But I?ve noticed the camaraderie generally only extends to the members of your group. During the busy summer months the other groups on the course seem more like mortal enemies than fellow golfers. How often will you hear someone say, ?Oh dear, that poor chap up in front has lost his ball again. He?s having a difficult day, perhaps I?ll buy him a drink afterwards?? More likely would be, ?Oh for god?s sake that dreadful hacker is in the munch again. Come on mate, do everyone a favour pick up, walk in and get yourself a lesson.? During slow rounds a favourite pastime of mine is scouring the fairways trying to spot the, ?B*st*rds who are holding up the course.?

In the winter you?ll have no such trouble as there?ll be nobody else on the course. Only your brave group fighting the bitter north wind and testing your Galvin Greens to the limit. You can cruise round in less than three hours and never wait on a single tee. Having putted out on the 18th green you can make use of another facility improved by the winter: The clubhouse. Go in as it?s just beginning to get dark and enjoy a quiet and cosy pint by the fire. The barman will be relaxed and keen for a chat as you?re only the second group in through the day. He?ll even bother to listen as you recount the crucial six foot putt on the last that secured an honourable half.

I?ve had proof this week about the importance of the shaft when selecting a driver. Stewart and I have always hit the ball relatively similar distances (I?m probably a yard or two longer,) but after Stu bought a new driver earlier this season he?s been trailing behind. At first he put it down to making a poor swing or not finding the middle of the club but I and, more recently, he have been convinced the shaft was to blame. It was too soft creating too much back-spin and thus less distance. Yesterday he tried a new driver with a Grafalloy ProLaunch Red extra stiff shaft. He was instantly back to hitting it, very nearly, as far as me. The club manufacturers would argue against it but, in my opinion, modern driver heads are much of a muchness, it?s getting the correct shaft that will pay dividends.

I haven?t mentioned the Alliance because I?m getting decidedly bored with my bad play. For those keeping a record of my performances I?ll summarise: 77, six over, out of the prizes, lost the fivers, can?t putt, can?t chip.