More than a game: The end is nigh

The Alliance season is coming to a close, but there's one final meeting. Fergus is keen to do a Jon Bon Jovi and go out in a blaze of glory.

Week 20: Fraserburgh

Date: March 21

Weather: very cold, no rain

Greens: summer

Mats: no

Preferred Lies: yes

As the daffodils begin to bloom and the grass starts to grow, most golfers are filled with a sense of enthusiasm and excitement because the season is fast approaching. I feel it too, but my anticipation is tinged with a hint of melancholy. The reason being, the start of the summer means the end of the Alliance.

I admit that winter golf is inferior. Shortened courses, mats, temporary greens and generally horrible weather often combine to make the game more like an endurance test than an enjoyable pass-time. But, the Alliance is great fun and our Wednesday excursions are the highlight of my week through the colder months. From planning the route using navigation techniques that wouldn?t be out of place in the Paris-Dakar rally, to dissecting our rounds over a pint back at Banchory Golf Club, the Alliance is an important element of my golfing life. My Tuesday evenings are spent checking the weather forecasts and preparing my kit accordingly. Will I wear three jumpers or four? I spend Thursday mornings reflecting on Wednesday?s game and writing about my successes or failures in this blog. Of course I prefer playing with the sun on my back around full courses in good condition but the Alliance has something special. It?s rugged golf requiring grit, determination and luck as much as skill and ability. Therefore, I have a vague chance.

Sadly yesterday was the final meeting of this season?s Alliance. We made our way to Fraserburgh ? pretty much the most distant venue we?ve visited. It was the second round of the Championship and I wasn?t in the running having missed last week?s first round. I could still pick up a prize for the second round though.

It was a disappointing day for all three of us. Cormack was in with a shout of victory after a solid 67 last week, but he just couldn?t get it going around the soggy links at Fraserburgh. A 74 saw him finish tied for fifth. Stewart could have had a good score if the putts had dropped. He gave himself a number of chances but didn?t convert them. He finished with a 73 but it could have been considerably better. I was going along fine and was in contention to win the fivers until the 17th when I made a pathetic double bogey five. I missed a putt shorter than a child?s shoe. I played the 18th in silence and returned a 75.

We decided we would go for a few drinks to mark the closing of the season. Unfortunately a few turned into many as we became embroiled firstly in an extended pool competition in The Stag then got caught up in the fringes of a darts match at The Douglas. There are three pubs on Banchory High Street: The Stag, The Burnett and The Douglas. Together they make up the ?Banchory Triangle.? It?s a dangerous and mysterious place with many myths and superstitions attached to it. There are stories of people entering the ?Banchory Triangle? and disappearing completely.

To finish I?d like to pay a quick tribute to the members of the North East Alliance: a brave and noble breed. They follow in the tradition of our country?s great adventurers: Raleigh, Cook and Shackleton. Throughout the winter at venues across the north east they can be heard echoing the words of Captain Lawrence Oates as they prepare to forge out into a sleet filled gale, ?I am just going outside and maybe some time.? Men like these are the heroes of our sport. A dedicated and passionate band of champions with a never say die attitude. Don?t worry boys it?s only seven months until the first Alliance of the 07/08 season.

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?