IT’S a well-known fact that the golf writers regularly enjoy the kind of scholarly, high-brow, convivial chinwags that used to be the reserve of an ancient Greek symposium.

This endlessly fascinating and flabbergasting game, after all, tends to lend itself to chinstroking analysis, expansive examination, deep-thinking dissection and erudite exploration.

“Oh, for **** sake,” muttered one of my learned colleagues with the cultivated philosophising you’d hear when Socrates stubbed his toe on a marble plinth.

The catalyst for this agonised outpouring, of course, was provided by a drawsheet for the weekend tee-times at the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield.

For Saturday’s third round, the final group blasted off at 15.45. On the Sunday, it was 15.50. Peering at tee-times for big events these days is about as uplifting as leafing through the Protect and Survive pamphlet which detailed the grisly impacts of a nuclear attack.

Yes, we all know that television rules the roost and these times are put in place to suit the markets in the USA.

If that means a final tee-off just before 4pm, then poor old Ronnie and Irene from Tranent, with their rucksacks and thermos flasks, are just going to have to grin and bear it.

As for the young audience that golf so desperately craves? Well, they’ll be tucked up in bed as players in the last group mull over a testing 10-footer on the 16th.

I always remember a former sponsor of the men’s Scottish Open – which is also thirled to US TV times – saying that they didn’t care how many tickets the tour sold, as long as the company got their name splattered on American television.

That almost summed up the contempt in which spectators can be held. When Ashleigh Buhai, the eventual Women’s Open champion, put the finishing touches to her excellent 64 on Saturday, there were precious few folk around to welcome her up the 18th.

For a championship that has had its status elevated into a new stratosphere, with a 125-per-cent increase in prize money since 2018 and a rota of revered venues, the sparse scene didn’t make for a great spectacle.

At least the grandstand remained full for the thrilling denouement on Sunday. Buhai finally emerged triumphant after four play-off holes against In Gee Chun.

Had the sparring duo not been separated at that point, there was a genuine fear, in the fading light, that they would’ve had to return in the morning to finish the thing off.

That would’ve been a highly unsatisfactory scenario but it’s one that always remains a possibility with such preposterously late starting times.

Buhai’s champion’s press conference was just about conducted in candlelight while the sight of cursing golf scribblers, with mobile phone torches beaming in the blackness, shuffling back to the media car park in one of the fields that border the links looked a bit like some sombre, satanic procession of the damned.

I genuinely thought that I, or least one or two of my comrades, would come a cropper in the undergrowth. “They died as they lived … moaning about the ruddy tee-times.”

Anyway, back to the real troopers. Golf fans can be a fairly stoic, loyal bunch but you often feel like this dedication is taken for granted. Even the most ardent of followers will have their enthusiasm tested after 8pm on a weekend.

Back in June, during a media day for the championship, the R&A stated that they were planning for an attendance figure of around 35,000 over the four championship days.

The official figure released on Sunday night was 33,033. So, us lot moaning that crowd figures were low is tempered by the fact that this is what they were expecting?

We should expect more, though, because this is a cracking event in every way. Tapping into the London population at next year’s championship at Walton Heath should see a significant hike.

Here in Scotland, we may all just have a bit of golf fatigue. A five-week run of world-class events in a relatively condensed geographical area – the Scottish Open, The Open, the Senior Open, the Women’s Scottish Open, the Hero Open and the Women’s Open – is a heck of a lot to take in.

People, in times of ticht purse strings and the lingering impacts of a pandemic, can only go to so much. For what it’s worth, I thought the general feel of the first female professional event at Muirfield was lovely.

I’m not a great fan of cheekto-jowl crowds anyway and the relaxed, respectful atmosphere of the Women’s Open was a nice escape from the lairy, blokey, boozefuelled rammy you can get at other golfing showpieces. The stage was perfect and the women responded with some tremendous golf.

Think of the utter selfishness of the current LIV Golf tumult and then watch the smiling Hinako Shibuno willing Buhai’s birdie putt to drop in the final round – even when Shibuno was still in the title hunt – and your faith in the game is restored. The women’s game, in these isles, still has a long way to go.

As other female sports in the UK flourish in the mainstream and garner unprecedented levels of coverage, golf continues to muddle on in the margins. Hopefully, though, it’s onwards and upwards… and a bit bloomin’ earlier, too.