Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Good Courses, Good Company, Good Cause

Salutations and welcome to another epic blog entry (or not depending on your point of view). Despite the nights drawing in ever quicker now making it impossible to get to the club after work to work on my game and play, I’ve had the opportunity in the last few weeks to play two very enjoyable rounds of golf. on courses rated in the top 100 UK courses.

As many may be aware, I have had a long standing acquaintance with Golf Monthly magazine and especially their internet forum (Golf Monthly Forum). The forum has long been a melting pot and discussion space for all things golf (as well as non-golf) related. Perhaps though, its single greatest triumph though has been its support of the Help For Heroes charity (The Help For Heroes Charity Website).

Before this years event, being held at Liphook Golf Club in Hampshire, the total amount raised was already close to £100,000 and we were certain to break that barrier. A fantastic effort since the initial day held at Luton Hoo in 2010 with a handful of players. Sadly the main driving force, a wonderful man and forum stalwart Rick Garg was tragically taken from us a couple of years ago at no age at all. His presence both on the forum and especially on Help for Heroes day is sorely missed and there is always a hole in proceedings. We do now have the Rick Garg memorial trophy which is awarded annually for services towards the H4H day and the charity. This years winner Robin Hopkins was a close friend of Rick and visibly moved to receive the award.

Golf Monthly editor Mike Harris (left) presents Robin Hopkins with the Rick Garg Memorial Trophy for 2018

Liphook was founded in 1921. Not perhaps the longest course but it places a huge premium on accuracy and thinking as thick heather awaits for any wayward shot. (Liphook Golf Club website) Perhaps the greatest defence though are its greens. Not only is the pace of them some of the quickest around on a regular basis but there are so many subtle breaks and borrows that no putt can be considered truly “in” until the ball actually drops. When you add in undulating fairways and the odd blind tee shot, it really makes for a magical blend. The quality is a real testament to their green keeping staff and the course presented to us on the day was in perfect condition.

As a result, apart from one player in a field of seventy odd, the scoring was challenging for most myself included. I was playing with one of the Battleback guys Rich Cross who Help For Heroes assist to get back into normal life. Rich injured himself in a UK parachute accident, trying to prevent himself crashing into the public crowds when his display went wrong. He’s been virtually rebuilt top to bottom and although there are some ongoing issues he has to deal with for the main he’s able to lead a “normal” life and judging by his early showing including his first drive on the second hole (it was a shotgun start) his golf is coming on.

My group. I'm second left and Rich Cross our Battleback Golfer is on the right
The course was too tough for me on the day along with some very erratic playing but the greens in particular for fiendish and I can imagine playing those on say club championship weekend present the sternest of test. However the day is never about winning. It’s about meeting old friends, new faces and raising as much money for a great cause. We were treated to a great carvery and dessert and then we had returning professional auctioneer Mark Head back yet again to try and prise more money in a charity auction. As always he kindly gave his services free of charge

Golf Monthly editor Mike Harris presented the cheque to Barrie Griffiths, a Beneficiary Ambassador for Help for Heroes. He gave a poignant speech about the charity and how it helped bring him back from a very dark place. It certainly left an impression on everyone in attendance and reinforced just how crucial the work of Help for Heroes is.

 As always it was a marvellous event and on this year has already raised a marvellous £17,500 the current amount raised now stands at well over £110,000 and everyone is eagerly anticipating the announcement of next years event.

The cheque being presented
It’s open to all forum members, so simply register, get involved on the forum regularly and get your name down. That applies to all forum meets that are arranged which brings me neatly onto my other game. The day before Liphook, I travelled the relatively short distance to West Hill Golf Club. As so many travel so far for the H4H day, there is usually a pre-cursor arranged to make it a more viable and enjoyable few days rather than a long drive there and back for one game of golf.

There were around 40 golfers on the day at West Hill. We were blessed with glorious autumn weather and another gorse lined heathland course. It’s another course that has hosted a H4H day (West Hill H4H Day at West Hill - blog report). I was playing with three others, well known activists on the Golf Monthly forum and although we’d enjoyed an online friendship and seen each other at various golf courses up and down the country this was the first time we’d played together. To say it was fun was an understatement. I was partnered with a South African, capable of prodigious length off the tee, but equally capable of hitting the adjoining course or the main rail line into London. Add in his penchant for multi-lingual swearing and the scene was set.

We had a friendly game against the “Scouse Mafia” a Liverpudlian and a staunch Liverpool fan. We lost not helped by my erratic play, my partner unable to always find the course and some more tricky greens that were a perfect rehearsal for those we’d face at Liphook. Again, scoring overall was very mixed and a testament to the challenge West Hill presents. Again it’s not long but needs planning and a steady nerve on the greens.

So, all in all two very enjoyable days of golf in some fantastic company. My own form may have been pretty in and out, but when you are playing great courses in great company, does it really matter? It’s a shame the season is drawing to a close, but with a two day Golf Monthly forum meet already planned for Sunningdale next year, preceded the day before with a round at The Addington (a UK top 100 course) as well as another great H4H day, there’s still loads to look forward to.

Thanks to everyone that played over the two days, but more so to those behind the scenes at Golf Monthly and the forum members who give up huge swathes of their time each year to make sure each years event goes off perfectly and surpasses the previous year. There are far too many to name individually (although the forum members know who they are). We're really lucky to play some great courses so why not join the forum, get involved and maybe I'll see you at an event in 2019

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