Venue: Cruden Bay
Date: 5 December
Weather: Fine but windy
Greens: Summer
Mats: Yes
Preferred Lies: Yes

Taking inspiration from Dame Ellen MacArthur and Sir Ranulph Fiennes I embarked on a solo expedition to Cruden Bay yesterday. With Stewart on holiday on the west coast and our other intermittent partners indisposed, I was on my own. No doubt phrases like, ?implausible bravery? and ?unrivalled heroism? are tripping off your tongue as you read this. Yes, yes I know. I expect notification of my Knighthood is imminent.

Seriously though, I?m not a solitary person and I don?t relish ?alone time.? In fact, I quickly get bored when I?m on my lonesome. I tend to last about an hour before I start ringing people in a desperate attempt to organise company. When it comes to golf, I see it as a sociable activity. I?m not someone who enjoys going out to play nine holes as a singleton. There?s nobody to compete with and no-one to show off to. Skiing is my second favourite sport and I know people who love spending a day on the mountain alone. But with no witnesses, who?s going to believe them when they say they tackled a perilous couloir or landed a twenty-foot cliff jump? No, I need back up: Someone to corroborate my tales of derring-do.

There were perks operating as a lone ranger yesterday: I didn?t have to make any arrangements for lifts, I could listen to The Clash at full volume all the way there and back and I munched an entire bag of Haribo Sour Strawberries without having to share. But I missed out on a key part of my normal Alliance experience: the banter. Of course I wasn?t playing alone, I was partnered by Dave. An ex University Research Technician who plays off 8, he?s a thoroughly decent chap. But, having just met Dave I didn?t feel I could ask him to play for a fiver. I certainly wasn?t in a position to make any carefully constructed and well timed jibes like I usually direct towards Stewart at key moments during the round.

Dave and I enjoyed a pleasant, windswept game and we got on very well (I think.) But, he?s not a member at Banchory so when I went back to our clubhouse to compare notes with the other Banchory Alliancers I had nobody to verify just how good my tee shot was at the par three fourth or how unlucky it was that my birdie putt stayed out on the 16th. Damned shame.

As Dave would testify, conditions at Cruden Bay were tough. It was surprisingly mild but very strong winds were making club selection tricky. Downwind the ball was travelling ludicrous distances, at one point I hit a nine iron 175 yards. Into the gusts it was going nowhere. I always try to remember the mantra, ?when it’s breezy, swing easy,? unfortunately my brain has an automatic override to this mantra. It convinces my arms to hit the ball as hard as possible to try and force it through the wind. As experienced links players will know, this doesn?t work. It does make for impressive hang time but for the last few seconds the ball is travelling backwards. I hit a full wedge to the last (too hard) that went straight up in the air. At one point it had moved forward about hundred yards but by the time it touched down it had gone just fifty.

Despite my battle against the breeze I actually played pretty well. I finished with a 74: good enough for joint second and another voucher (value uncertain as yet.) After an atrocious start to the winter season I?m beginning to find a bit of form so it?s bloody typical that the Alliance now goes on a break until the start of January.