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Dreich weather causing golf clubs to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence

It's a well-known fact that we on these shores are absolutely obsessed by the weather.

Have an amble down the sodden street and what do you see? People leaning on railings, muttering about tightly packed isobars, occluded fronts and deep lows while peering forlornly to the sky and ending an infuriated curse with the words 'since records began'.

From the moment Noah went out to varnish the poop deck of his ark, gazed up to a particularly gruesome-looking cloud and said 'crivvens', our meteorological musings have known no bounds.

And is it any wonder? The days at this time of the year are shorter than a scunnered sigh, while the summer tends to pass in the brief moment it takes you to burn one side of a sausage on a hastily cobbled together barbecue.

It gets to the point where pulling back the curtains each morning is akin to waking up in a Victorian prison; nothing but grey, unrelenting gloominess to greet your blinking eyes.

Trying to play golf in these parts, in the face of Mother Nature's fury, can be a monumentally difficult task. Not that it is only here that the weather has wreaked havoc with this Royal & Ancient game.

In the supposed sunshine paradise of Hawaii at the weekend, they lost three days of play in the PGA Tour's season-opening Tournament of Champions because of the extreme conditions.

And it's been the same the world over, be it wind, rain, sand storms, lightning or a plague of locusts.

On this side of the pond, we had the soggiest summer in a century and, for Scotland's beleaguered golf clubs, the deluge was dispiriting. Hardly any course was immune to the ravages from above and the inland, parkland courses in particular seemed to be permanently submerged.

"Like all Scottish courses, we found 2012 to be a bit of a challenging year, weather-wise," said Scott Fenwick, the golf courses and estates manager at Gleneagles, in one of the great understatements of the season.

"Our greenkeeping team recorded a total rainfall of 1566mm for the year, up 400mm on the average. In June, for example, 193mm of rain fell, compared to an average for that month of 78mm."

Goodness knows what the water levels will be like come late September of 2014 when the Ryder Cup heads for Perthshire. With countless thousands being lavished on drainage over the PGA Centenary course – the elaborate SubAir contraption that sucks moisture out of the greens has made a remarkable difference – the battle to beat the elements will continue.

Not every course has the luxury of an open cheque book, though, and this is a worrying period for a large number of the Scottish Golf Union's 578 affiliated clubs that are eking out a hand-to-mouth existence.

Instead of bustling fairways during the height of the playing season, the wretched weather left many courses closed at a time of year when they should have been at their busiest. It all has had a domino-like effect. Take away playing opportunities for both members and green fee-paying visitors and you lose out on valuable bar and catering income.

With a reduction in the number of people coming through the door, the club professional in the shop suffers, too. The fact that some golf club members simply got out of the habit of playing during a stop-start season and will continue to question the value for money of their annual subscription adds to the general concerns.

Figures released by the SGU revealed that the overall adult male membership in Scotland dropped by 1.8% in 2012. Nothing new there then. Given that the number of golf courses in this country has increased by 20% over the past 20 years, you don't have to be a canny businessman to figure out that the supply has outstripped the demand.

Something will have to give. These are extremely tough times for golf clubs across the country. The fairly desperate weather over the past couple of seasons has certainly not helped the cause but there remain a whole series of wider social and economic factors that are threatening their very existence. A barbecue summer in 2013 surely wouldn't do any harm, though.

The possibility of Rory McIlroy not teeing up in the Rio Olympics of 2016 will have those who lobbied so ferociously for the game's inclusion in a lather of despair.

The world No.1 from Northern Ireland is eligible to play for Great Britain or Ireland but, given the sensitivity of his situation, he recently indicated that he may not compete at all.

"Play for one side or the other or not play at all because I may upset too many people?" said the 23-year-old in a BBC Northern Ireland documentary. "Those are the three options that I am considering very carefully."

This correspondent has never been enamoured by golf in the Olympics anyway. The Games should be about reaching the pinnacle of a sport and we already have that with the four golfing majors.

For those who said golf's Olympic bid had the backing of the game's global stars, the prospect of a McIlroy no-show would be extremely damaging.

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