Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Help For Heroes Charity Day - West Hill Golf Club

Yesterday saw the Golf Monthly Forum (http://forums.golf-monthly.co.uk/) annual charity day in aid of Help for Heroes. This has been a regular date in the diary since 40 forum members went to the inaugural day at Luton Hoo and raised over £2,200. That was three years ago. It returned the following year to Luton Hoo and 55 golfers raised £6,500. Last year 80 players played at Blackmoor Golf Club and raised a superb £11,500. This year it was even bigger and for the first time West Hill Golf Club was playing host to 103 golfers.

West Hill is one of the triumvirate of courses in the area, along with Woking and Worplesdon, that regularly feature in the top 100 courses in the UK (this year West Hill was 88th in the Golf Monthly top 100). West Hill is truly one of Surrey's oldest gems, a heathland course, designed in 1907. It's protected by brook, trees, heather and gorse and the changes in elevation provides an enjoyable test of golf. From the moment you enter through the imposing wrought iron gates it really is golf from a bygone era.

The Help for Heroes charity for founded by Bryn and Emma Parry after a visit to the Selly Oak hospital. It is a charity which provides direct, practical support, primarily to those wounded in recent and current conflicts. It launched on 1st October 2007. Help for Heroes don't care about the rights and wrongs of war, but believe that if young men and women are prepared to volunteer to serve their country on our behalf and are hurt whilst doing so, they deserve our support. They want the support to be the best and the be there for life

In order to get into the spirit of the day and pay my own humble nod of gratitude to our troops, I dressed in patriotic red white and blue. I was paired in the esteemed company of the Golf Monthly Editor, Mike Harris and a couple of fellow forum members, Preet and Stuart or LIG and El Bandito as they are known on the forum.

The masses are gathering as I get the pace of the putting green

I've known Mike for a number of years and was privileged enough in April 2009 to be offered the chance to edit the forum pages that still appear every month in Golf Monthly's magazine. I've played a few times with the great man but not for several years. It was a shotgun start and we were lucky enough to be off the first, a tricky 393 hole, going down hill before a second shot to a raised green.

The view from the 18th. The 1st green nestles to the left between the trees
Mike and I took on LIG and El Bandito in a little match alongside the stableford competition with the losers putting £5 per man into the charity bucket. Mike took the opening drive under the gaze of a small crowd of competitors, club pro and the photographer there to record the days events. He cracked one away and then it was my turn. I got it away perfectly and it sailed into the blue sky and wandered down the dew covered fairway. I was left with a seven iron to the elevated green and hit the front edge. Two good putts and I was away with an opening par

In patriotic colours for the H4H day I crack an opening drive straight down the middle
My driving was very solid over the opening few holes but I was having issues with my iron play, similar to the first round I'd played at the recent day out at Woburn Golf Club. It was frustrating. I went right at the second, although it was off a hanging lie but recovered to make a net par. However luck ran out on the pretty 465 yard par four that runs along the main line railway into London. I'd cracked a good drive away and was left with 225 yards. I decided to go for it but carved it way right. Despite the ground being open amongst the imposing pine trees I couldn't find it.

I recovered at the next, a long 193 yard par three. I was the only one who managed to find the putting surface. Both LIG and El Bandito chipped onto the putting surface. Mike was next to go from the left of the green and duly holed out for a birdie two and a win in our match. I left my first putt five feet short coming up a steep slope and missed the next. Still, it was a net par and I was going along reasonably well.

As the round progressed, the inability to capitalise on good drives, along with the odd errant tee shot heavily punished by the vast swathes of heather meant the score card was taken a hit. I was finding it hard to make a good swing with my irons and it was beginning to play on my mind. In the end the outward score of 14 points was about right but had I managed to hit a few greens with approaches it could have been a bit better. Mike had been the study of steady play and in the match we were one up at the turn.

My swing deserted me around this point and by the time I made an up and down from sand at the twelfth I had only added two measly points to the half time total. Fortunately, there is a superb halfway hut at the back of the green and we adjourned for a welcomed sausage bap and a drink.

Refreshed, we continued to the pretty 13th, a short par three measuring just 149 yards. This hole was designated as a charity hole and anyone missing the green had to pay a £1 fine into the bucket alongside the tee box. I took a six iron as the wind was into my face and took a swing. I made a good contact and the ball found the target. A good par got the scorecard ticking along again

The 13th which carried a fine for the H4H charity for anyone missing the green
The back nine seemed to fly past and we were soon on the 16th. From the tee this visually looked one of the best holes on the course. It plays through an avenue of trees with a ditch and brook awaits anyone going too far. From there it plays slightly uphill to a green that tilts from front to back. We all hit great tee shots and I found a swing with an iron to deposit a seven iron safely on the green. I hit a good first putt but the contour of the putting surface caught me out and it curled away from the hole and left a five foot putt I couldn't hole. It also allowed LIG to tie the match up with two holes to play

Another beautiful hole. I found the green in regulation but couldn't find a par
The eighteenth was also a charity hole. Playing off the white tees it measures a massive 440 yards and there was a £1 fine for anyone not making par. That's harsh! The club website describes the hole perfectly

"A fitting finishing hole that requires two good shots to make the three level green. From the tee the middle or just left of the centre is the line, followed by an approach which must avoid the deep bunker guarding the front right of the green and the rhododendron bushes on the left. The green itself presents a further challenge to overcome as it has three tiers and being too bold will leave a very difficult two putts and a flirtation with the OOB which is not too far over the back. Finish with a par and you can reward yourself with that well earned drink in the bar!"

I didn't hit a great drive, leaking it right into a heathery lie and had resigned myself to opening the wallet at the green. I chipped out and left an eight iron in. As if to put a line under my woeful iron play I hit a poor shot, thin and slicing right of the green. Not wanting to finish with an ugly double bogey I was pleased that my chip and run with a seven iron ran out perfectly to leave a tap in from less than a foot.

A long par four closing hole and a fine for the charity for anyone not making par
Our charity match was all square. Mike Harris had missed the green left with his approach was fortunate not to nestle under the rhododendron bush. LIG had smacked a drive away and was unlucky to see it roll a foot off the fairway as the 18th was also the designated long drive hole and his effort would have moved the marker on and won him the prize. His second found the front portion of the green and he and El Bandito were in prime position. Not for the first time, Mike played an exquisite chip and left it four feet away. LIG could only manage to three putt and so it came down to this putt. Mike made it for a win on the last green. In truth, my contribution had been negligible throughout. An odd half here and there and winning one hole.

After the golf there was a two course dinner followed by a charity auction. There were some terrific lots up for grabs including a great one from Golf Monthly offering one person a chance to be Editor of the magazine for the day, including lunch and drinks after work. I thought for one moment my bid on the night was enough but sadly a higher bid had been lodged by someone who couldn't stay. Curses. I had some cunning plans!. I did manage to acquire a four ball voucher for a game at Bramley Golf Course near Guildford and another for the Army Golf Club. I'm hoping to use these next summer during Royal Ascot race week when my golf club is reduced to twelve holes and the racing traffic makes access incredibly hard. A good way to still get my golfing fix.

It was a fabulous day, marked by perfect weather at a great venue. The organisers presented Help for Heroes for a cheque for £15,500 last night but with the money for auction lots still to come in, side bets still to be honoured and other monies due, that is set to raise higher. I can't wait for next years event. Hopefully it will be at the same place but wherever it is played it is set to be even bigger and even better.

From a personal perspective I am a little down. My game isn't firing. I played in the usual Saturday roll up and couldn't string any consistent holes together. There were some good holes and several bad ones. I played nine holes on Sunday afternoon and spent a couple of hours on the practice ground but can't find that missing link. I feel that I am constantly fighting the swing and despite trying to work hard on the changes from my last lesson it is proving hard to bed in. On the plus side, the changes I made to my address position for the tee shots is paying dividends and I am much happier with the way I am getting it off the tee.

I'm off to the range tomorrow to try again. I know what I am working on and when I get the club in the right place it is falling into place and I can turn onto the ball, compressing it perfectly and getting it away straight and true. Yesterday it felt the club was too shallow. As it was a charity day and my handicap wasn't on the line and it wasn't all about the golf. With a club match and the monthly stableford at the weekend I need to find something that can get the ball around.

That however is a quandary for another day. Yesterday was all about helping a worthy charity raise as much money as possible. There are plenty of days out organised by the Golf Monthly Forum members. There are also some wonderful prizes and opportunities put up by the magazine exclusive to forum members and so if you aren't already a member, what are you waiting for? Get involved and hopefully we can be pegging up together at the next Help For Heroes day next year.

1 comment:

  1. Don't worry, playing me on the 20th will get you back on track!