Green keepers at the internationally renowned Castle Stuart Golf Links are testing both their long and short game skills due to unpredictable weather.
While expected severe conditions mean staff are preparing for the arrival of snow, spells of milder December weather means they will be cutting greens and fairways right up until Christmas.
Even then, wild fluctuations in the temperature have meant daily changes to the cutting regime and preparations for the start of next season.
In one extreme case temperatures plummeted to -6 degrees C, only to rise to 14 degrees C the very next day.
A flurry of birdies in November coincided with Castle Stuart starting winter maintenance work to have the course ready to re-open on 24 March 2017.
A flock of grey lag geese, which stops off on farmland next to the golf course on their winter migration, arrived early, suggesting colder weather was on its way.
Chris Haspell, course manager for the Inverness links that hosted the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open this year for the fourth time in six years, said: “The geese normally arrive in mid-December, but they came early this year, signalling an early cold snap.
“We use a range of different forecasting techniques, including nature’s indicators, to inform us of weather patterns and we got our maintenance programme under way quite early this year.
“Since then we have had a period of milder weather, punctuated by spells of sub-zero temperatures. Such wild fluctuations can affect your decision-making and means you are working day-to-day and just have to react to the conditions.
“Some days we have had frost on the ground, but then warmer conditions which means the grass is still growing. Normally the last cut of the year is done by late November, but this year we will still be cutting greens right up to Christmas for only the second time since the course opened in 2009.”
He said pests that are normally killed by frost can thrive and this increases the risk of disease in the grass: “It’s something we are managing and will be ready when the snow does come.”
Castle Stuart Golf Links www.castlestuartgolf.com