Martin Dempster: The shank didn’t matter, just playing golf again was enough

Sun shines on Scotland’s golfers as sport resumes with new safety guidelines

Eddie Travers, left, and Martin Dempster in the Aberdour sun.

Good to be back? You better believe it. Especially on a day when Mother Nature shone on Scottish golf and the nation’s golfers.

With the sun splitting the sky, members returned to golf clubs for the first time since lockdown restrictions were introduced on 23 March and, boy, did I feel blessed to be among them.

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Untouched for more than two months – okay, I’d done a little bit of chipping in the garden early on in lockdown – the clubs had been given a wipe in preparation on Thursday night.

It was a day to follow Scottish Golf’s guidelines for the game’s return and, after arriving at Aberdour for my 8.30am tee time a few minutes earlier than the suggested 15 minutes, a short sit in the car seemed the right thing to do.

By the time myself and Eddie Travers, my two ball partner for an eagerly-awaited return to the picturesque Fife course, arrived at the first tee, the group in front had already teed off.

At the same time, the first two-ball of the day, having set out at 5.30am, was just coming off the 18th green, the smiles on faces hinting of the treat that was in store.

The club captain, Steve David, had been up at the crack of dawn to see them off and he was still there three hours later along with the pro, Allan Knox, to welcome members back and remind them about those important new guidelines.

Those familiar with Aberdour will know it starts with two par-3s, both of which are intimidating due to the Firth of Forth being in play.

The opening tee shot was always going to be a worry after a long lay-off for everyone, and it was only made more difficult by a social media post on the club’s Twitter page on Thursday.

It showed a beautiful photograph of the first hole from the tee but had five different spots picked out, including one that represented a duff, another on the rocks on the left of the green and one in similar trouble on the right!

Thankfully, my return with a 6-iron was relatively straight, albeit finding a greenside bunker, but a rusty pull that ended up in the Forth followed by a full-blooded shank with the reload at the second was more what I’d been fearing.

In truth, what followed for the next 16 holes wasn’t too bad, particularly with a driver in my hands, surprising myself with one blow that ended ten feet from the hole at the 273-yard 14th.

Unfortunately, the two ladies playing in front were still on the green at the time and, though it wasn’t until a couple of holes later that I had a chance to apologise, it was nice to hear they had been more impressed by the shot than feeling angry about my indiscretion.

In truth, this was one of those games where it didn’t matter how you played. It was about simply enjoying being back out on the course, where it was strangely comforting to hear the cry of ‘FORE!’ every now and again.

On this evidence, it was the correct decision to restart with mainly two-balls. It’s easy in terms of social distancing and, with the course flowing well, we were round in two hours, 45 minutes.

All in all, a day to remember and a very safe one, too.

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