Fergus Bisset: It's raining again

Fergus recalls the long hot summers of his youth and wonders if we'll ever see the sun again.

The weather continues to disappoint. Summer just hasn’t happened here this year. I woke today to an all too familiar noise – the monotonous rhythm of rain beating down on my roof accompanied by the occasional drip, drip coming from the leak in my conservatory.

A few years ago I used to boast to Jessie (wife) about how dry Deeside was. That rain moving in from the west would be deflected and diminished by the Cairngorm Mountains, leaving the Dee Valley largely untouched by precipitation. As I grew up, this geographical trait held true and summer after summer was dry and hot.

Jessie says my memory has become selective and I’m just remembering the hot, blue-sky days while banishing the rest to the dustbin of my personal history. But, I’m not and I have good evidence to confirm it – my golf course.

Through the 1990s when I was a junior at Banchory, the course would be baked brown through the summer months. I remember playing from dusty lies to rock-hard greens and the ball rolling for miles down runway-like fairways.

As it’s constructed on an old riverbed, Banchory has always been a fast-draining course but this year it’s absolutely sodden. There are permanent puddles on many of the fairways and the greens are like sponge (could be something to do with the lack of sand and top-dressing put on them but that’s another matter).

Neither I nor anyone else at the club can remember the course being so wet through the summer. Whatever’s causing it (global warming, wrath of god, bad luck…) it’s not conducive to creating good playing conditions. Here’s hoping for an Indian summer.

This Monday Paul Lawrie kindly invited me to Deeside Golf Club to attend a golf day for the press and sponsors of his Foundation. The Paul Lawrie Foundation was launched in 2001 and its aim is to promote and develop junior golf at all levels, from beginner to elite player. Paul is extremely generous with his time and dedicates a huge amount of effort to giving something back to the sport that’s been so kind to him – a shining example for all pro golfers.

The Foundation has been a great success and a number of talented players have come through it. David Law, winner of both the Scottish boys and Scottish amateur championships this year is one of Paul’s protégés.

For Monday the forecasters had predicted, yes… you guessed it, heavy rain. But fortunately they got it wrong, the heavens remained closed and we were able to enjoy a dry, if overcast, day’s golf.

Paul began by giving a short clinic, demonstrating his warm up routine and running through some of the changes he’s made to his swing since he began working with Bob Torrance. He’s trying to promote more weight transfer and is lifting then planting his left heel in the style of Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson to encourage this. Third place in the Johnnie Walker Championship would suggest it’s working.

When you watch a top pro hitting shots the game appears so simple. Paul’s swing is slow and smooth with minimal moving parts. He just concentrates on the basics and tries to deliver the power as he reaches the impact zone.  

After watching, I tried to imitate Paul’s seemingly effortless action on the range then out on the course and, surprisingly, it worked. I played some of the best golf I have for weeks. I just concentrated on keeping it slow and not rushing the transition from backswing to downswing.

No doubt things will have gone to pot next time I venture onto the course but, at the moment, I’m going through one of those wonderful spells I mentioned last week when you think you’ve answered all your golfing problems. That’s one good thing about this rain I suppose - it’s prolonging my blissful ignorance.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during 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 history section of "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?