As a new ice age has now officially started in northern Scotland, golfing opportunities are continuing to prove elusive. My only chance to get any sort of golf is now on a Wednesday when the Alliance gives us snowbound inland types an excuse to travel to the coast for a knock.
So, I felt considerable relief when I realised this past weekend that the European Golf & Leisure Show was taking place at Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre. It was the perfect reason for a brief escape from my white prison as well as to get a, much-needed, concentrated shot of golf.
The Exhibition Centre (AECC) is the North East's leading venue for shows, events, concerts and exhibitions. It lies at the north end of the city - pretty close to both Royal Aberdeen and Murcar golf clubs. The last time I visited the AECC was for the Premier League of Darts a couple of years ago. I was anticipating this trip to be slightly different - I was pretty confident that, this time, I'd leave with my voice intact and without beer stains all down my shirt.
Within minutes of walking through the front door I'd tried out Letham Grange's golf simulator and been handed a flyer advertising a cocktail mixing display by Aberdeen's Malmaison Hotel - this was clearly my kind of event.
There was an impressive range of exhibitors (over 70 in total) showcasing golf courses, resorts and hotels - including Lough Erne, Carnoustie and the Old Course Hotel, there was golf fashion, equipment and gadgets as well as nine driving range bays where instruction and custom fitting were being offered by pros from local clubs.
1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie and Dunhill Links Champion Stephen Gallacher were in attendance. Paul had a stand promoting, and raising money for, the Paul Lawrie Foundation and Stephen was offering personal lessons in exchange for donations to a leukaemia charity.
Some highlights for me were:
- Al Johnson's football skills display (& leisure show - it wasn't all about golf.) This was pretty awesome - He suffered an injury as a teenager that stopped him pursuing a playing career but he's developed an incredible talent for freestyle football. For about six or seven minutes he kept the ball off the ground using almost every part of his body. Just how he was getting it to bounce straight up off his shin I'll never know.
- Jeremy Dale's trick shot routine. More supreme skill on show here. Right handed, left handed, off five foot tees, any which way but conventionally - great fun.
- Hearing that my pal Adam had won the longest drive competition at Inchmarlo Golf Centre's driving range bay. He'd pinged one 305 yards that, apparently, had ripped the net at the end of the bay and ended lodge in the far wall.
- Getting to lift he Eisenhower Trophy. The SGU had a stand and they brought the huge cup along. It's awarded to the world amateur team champions and was won by the Scottish trio of Callum Macaulay, Wallace Booth and Gavin Dear back in 2008.
- Doing a double-take when I walked past Emmerdale star Chris Chitell (he plays Eric.... Pollard? I think), as I turned back he gave me a look as if to say, "Yes, I am that soap actor." I really wish I'd kept eyes front.
Anyway several thousand attended the exhibition and it was clearly a great success. We have a superb array of golf courses in the north east of Scotland and anything that forwards this area as a great destination for golf tourism is fantastic.
This week's Alliance travelled to one of those top-quality courses - Newburgh on Ythan. They were snow free but, unfortunately, Tuesday night was clear and cold so the course was white with frost first thing. That meant, yes you guessed it, winter greens.
It was a glorious sunny and still day though, and it was great to smack that wee white ball around. I smacked it a few too many times I'm afraid but, even I, was able to simply enjoy being out there.
There are no golf exhibitions scheduled for this weekend and there's still no chance of a game at Banchory. I think it's time to set up some sort of pitch and putt course around the house.
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and it was concentrated by his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?