Flawed glory of golf a bigger handicap than the weather

In its former manifestation the Dunhill Cup was blessed with some of the balmiest weather

A generous banker friend of mine called me a couple of weeks ago to ask whether I fancied playing, at his expense, in the inaugural Dunhill Links Championship, as one of the amateurs paired with 156 professionals over three days at Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews. Fancy it? I said I would have bungee-jumped naked off the Forth Road Bridge to play, and he said that wouldn't be strictly necessary, which must have come as a huge relief to the good people of South Queensferry, who have a clear view of things dropping off the bridge.

A generous banker friend of mine called me a couple of weeks ago to ask whether I fancied playing, at his expense, in the inaugural Dunhill Links Championship, as one of the amateurs paired with 156 professionals over three days at Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews. Fancy it? I said I would have bungee-jumped naked off the Forth Road Bridge to play, and he said that wouldn't be strictly necessary, which must have come as a huge relief to the good people of South Queensferry, who have a clear view of things dropping off the bridge.

As it happened, other commitments meant I had to decline, which I did with a heavy heart, aghast at missing a rare opportunity to play in the same golf competition as some of the game's all-time greats, such as Ernie Els and Jimmy Tarbuck.

However, my sorrow has since been tempered by reports of the appalling weather conditions in Scotland, which prompted one of my journalist colleagues to observe that another competitor, Sir Steven Redgrave, was in greater danger of drowning on the Old Course, St Andrews, than in his entire Olympic rowing career.

St Andrews, incidentally, is said to have been founded by a monk called Regulus, who in ninth-century Constantinople was warned in a dream that heathens were about to desecrate the sacred bones of the apostle Andrew.

Regulus was duly told to leg it with the holy relics to "the uttermost ends of the earth" – and if Kenny Dalglish, Boris Becker and Hugh Grant had been on hand when his boat ran aground on the north-east coast of Fife, they would doubtless have confirmed that he'd made it. They were all up there last week, getting a lashing from the elements. Nonetheless, for the media criticism of the Dunhill Links Championship to focus largely on the weather, as it has done, seems more than a tad unfair to the organisers. They have been flayed for their naivety in organising such an event towards the end of October, but I would counter that in its former manifestation as the Dunhill Cup, the competition was frequently blessed by the balmiest conditions imaginable. Anyone who has lived in north-east Fife, as I have, knows that balmy weather is almost as likely in October as June. Conversely, piddling rain is almost as likely in June as October.

Moreover, Dunhill are generous and committed sponsors of tournament golf (the prize fund last week was £3.5m, making it the richest event in Britain) and one hopes that commitment will not waver before an onslaught of criticism, some of it justified, but a lot of it mealy-mouthed.

That said, any golf competition in which the fortunes of professionals are married to the performances of their amateur partners is bound to be fraught with problems. And so it proved last week, with several instances of amateurs playing suspiciously better than their handicaps, notably the country and western singer Clay Walker, a decidedly dodgy 11, whose new song "Stand By Your Handicap" will doubtless play to a packed Grand Ole Opry before the year is out.

The handicapping system is one of the glories of golf, but it is a flawed glory. Those of us who regularly play in invitation days know that there is always some bandit who carries off the cut-glass tumblers with 46 Stableford points, an "official" handicap of 23. Indeed, the former West Ham manager Harry Redknapp – "a genuine 19" – told me the other day that he was once so embarrassed to have won a golf competition, thanks to a so-called 24-handicapper in his four-ball team who somehow managed to wallop every drive straight down the middle, that he snuck away before the prize-giving. Last week, Dunhill sought to reduce this problem by imposing a maximum handicap of 18, but could not eliminate it.

Still, at least it was an anticipated problem, unlike the refusal of Americans, both amateur and professional, to cross the Atlantic (hence my own late invitation). A few weeks ago I wrote in this space that the Ryder Cup should have gone ahead, and I now believe more than ever that even a muted Ryder Cup would have struck an important blow for what the Americans call normalcy. At the time I received an angry note from a Mr McNickle of St Albans, who wrote: "Some American golfers don't feel that their minds would be on the competition ...it has nothing to do with security concerns...who are you to tell them how to feel?" Well maybe, Mr McNickle, but professional sport had resumed in America by Ryder Cup week, tournament golf is again in full swing over there, and still they decline to come. And if you won't listen to me, then consider the speech made by Michael Douglas in St Andrews last week, in which he accused his compatriots, in effect, of being a bunch of scaredy-cats.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine