Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Stonegate Solvita, a fine example of an Orlando Golfing Experience.

The last leg of our 30,000 mile trip saw us return to our Florida villa for a fortnight. To all intents and purposes both Karen and I effectively feel our journey is over, even though we have the Atlantic to cross before we can say officially we traversed the globe. so whilst it was a good chance to have some R and R, see what damage the Floridian Frost had done to the garden, not a pretty site. For me it had some important golfing matters to conclude the Golfing Odyssey. Firstly I would play in the season opener at Black Bear on the Edwin Watts Tour. In view of my restricted schedule this year, this event was far more important than a normal event as it would be imperative I finished up the field to gain vital points towards the end of season Nationals. I only intend to play both majors on tour so I have my work cut out. Secondly and very important on a personal note my final commitment was to meet up with my great buddy Brew to celebrate an important date in his ongoing recovery. as it turned out I also had opportunity to meet up with two great old golfing buddies, my Toys for Tots winning team partner Scott Ramey and Rich Poore from London who I first met 12 months ago at Championsgate. It gives me particular pleasure as The Social Golfer to meet up with fellow SGs ongoing. I also as part of important practice added to my Orlando resume by playing Kissimmee Oaks and Solvita Stonegate. I have now virtually played every Public or Semi Private Course in the Orlando Area giving me an unrivalled tourist position from which to comment.

Black Bear is a fine links style course just south of Eustis with undulating fairways and fast hard, quick breaking greens. A fine clubhouse, enhances an enjoyable experience. My fourball featured some of the best in our class on tour, my good mate James Rearden, third on last years standings and still waxing lyrical about our sessions at Hilton Head. Big Hitting Alberto Esperon and Steady Eddie, Jerry Harris. To be in the running, I clearly needed to win this particular 4 ball.

Jerry, Alberto and James

Jerry, Alberto and James, three great guys on tour. James in particular started like a house on fire then on the 12th when 5 ahead of me, put his approach ob and from then on imploded Alberto who led me all the way till the 15th where I get up and down from 130 yard bunker for a par 5 and he 3 putts from 3 feet for an 8. Not without some trouble the water on the fantastic 18th contributing to a 7, I come home one clear of both james and alberto and two clear of jerry, which enables me to finish second in the class, pick up 250 ranking points and my first check of the year. I go now to defend the first major of the Year, this time at Grande Pines in May in good heart and look forward to locking horns with these great guys again.

I played two new courses leading up to the tour event, in Kissimmee Oaks and Stonegate, Solvita. Both were fine tracks but had clearly suffered from the bad winter the Floridians had encountered, I will return in Summer when I feel both will have a lot more to offer. The bird life around Solvita literally had me salivating with pleasure. A final point there was no signs of economic recovery on either estate, no Legends or Ridgewood which I also played, with he no of foreclosures and sales growing from my last visit in October.

Kissimmee Oaks, fine track, super vfmoney.

As I stated earlier, whilst in Orlando I was contacted by two fellow Sgs down in the area for a bit of sun. Scott, whi I last saw when we won the Annual Toys for Tots at Mystic Dunes back in DEc 2008 invited me to Clermont for my second go at the Legends and with two business mates of his down from the North Ted and Mike two damn fine SGs we had a great day. I was also contacted by my Oxford pal Richard in Orlando for a break with his good lady and we had a fine day ar Ridgewood joined b John and Carol, snow birding down from North America. This day ended with Karen and I joining Rich and his party at Bergamos, to have a Great Italian and listen to the singing waiters. Social Golf at its best.

Mike, Scott and Ted at the impressive Legends Complex

Glorious Day at Ridgewood, John, Carol and mi good pal RICH
Carol is some putter, she made the Greens notoriously difficult look EASY!!!!

My final golf was a magical day up at Orange County near Jacksonville. My good Mate Brew had kept in regular contact during the RTW Trip and it had always been my intention to try and see him. He is for those not fully aware of his story a remarkable 45 year old who had a near fatal auto accident twenty years ago which he his still recovering from. A remarkable chap he pointed out it was exactly 20 years since that fateful day. He sent me the following...........
Friday, 12 March 2010
Greetings my friend!
I pray this note finds you and your loved ones eager in spirit and full in health. I have a few thoughts I wish to convey. I’m hopeful you find words of much interest.
…”when your new box of balls begins to disappear at a rate of knots; when the weather is as bad as your game, golf can seem both an aimless and costly game. No other sport has such a disparity in talent between the successful practitioner and the social golfer. However, when you’re faced with the realistic possibility that you have played your last round, then your worst round is better than no round at all”…
(Ian Halliwell – The Social Golfer)
My near- fatal, life-altering motor vehicle accident occurred on March 21st, 1990 (the first day of spring that year). I’m told I had a tee time scheduled the next day (22 March 1990). Instead of spending a glorious spring day in Florida, leisurely hacking my way through 18 holes of golf, I would spend that day comatose in the Critical Care Unit tenuously clinging to life. In fact, I would spend two comatose weeks fighting for my life.
At the time of my automobile accident I was an invincible 25-year old aspiring Naval Aviator and full-time student. I was also working full-time. What precious free time I had was usually spent at the beach or on a golf course.
When putting out that last hole, I never dreamed I may have just played the last round of golf in my life… “When you’re faced with the realistic possibility that you have played your last round, then your worst round is better than no round at all”. Ian, truer words have never been spoken!
I’ve spent two decades of prolonged, painful rehabilitation desperately rebuilding and recovering “me”. I’m reclaiming my physical, intellectual, and spiritual self neuron-by-neuron, synapse-by-synapse. My goal has always been to not merely learn to live with traumatic brain injury (TBI), but to conquer traumatic brain injury. It has never been easy. It is still not easy.
If your schedule allows, I would consider it a great honor to golf with you and my golfing instructor, former PGA TOUR Professional Charles Raulerson, at the Country Club of Orange Park ( on Monday, 22 March 2010.
Albeit 20 years late, I will finally make that tee time I had scheduled two decades prior.
I cannot think of a more fitting way to mark an anniversary of my near demise than to celebrate life on the links with my good friends, Ian and Charles!
Your pal –
The Day after his accident he had booked a tee time at 12.15pm which he of course never made. Exactly 20 years to the day he did make that tee time and I was privileged to join him and a wonderful PGA PRO, Charles Raulerson, Head Pro and General Manager at the magnificent Orange Park Country Club, to celebrate his recovery by playing this long awaited round. In a trip of many highlights, this was up there with them all. Truly memorable and a Sensational ending to my once in a life time global golfing extravaganza.

20 years on, Brew tees off pushes into the water left recovers
to card a bogey 5 after sinking a 25 footer.

The TSG, Brew and Charles Raulerson who has played with TIGER,
NICK FALDO, SEVE and now The Social Golfer his resume is complete.

If in North Florida you must visit Orange Park, you wont regret it

AND SO THE END IS NEAR and so I reach the final curtain, and what a journey it was, Memorable in so many ways, Fantastic Golf, Sensational Vistas but for both Karen and I our long abiding memory will be the wonderful people we met along our travels, some I now consider much more than passing acquaintances. You all touched us deeply and I sincerely hope that was reciprocated.To each and every one of you, THANK YOU!In times of Economic and Social Turmoil, this trip gives me considerable optimism for the long term well being of our planet.

I have learned a lot about myself, a lot about my golf..... and a great deal about this majestic green and blue globe we call home. The work starts now as i try and take all these experiences and put them into something worth calling literature, naturally when published I will be in touch with you all.

I have swam in every ocean

watched the sun set from east to west

walked the lush green fairways

were my heroes have took the Test.

but I am pleased to back home in Wigan with my family

cuz they are simply the Best.

Despite my workload, Golf is still foremost in my mind....

I am pleased to say next week, The Social Golf Team returns to action in THE PUBLICAN Knockout hoping to go one better than last year.

The first ever SOCIAL GOLFER OPEN takes place at Hever Castle in Kent on Friday 16th April with over 60 competitors.

I return to the Celebrity Golf Tour in June at Henley in Arden.....

my Edwin Watts Tour will see me play both majors in May and August at Grande Pines and Mission Hills hopefully culminating in a return in Oct to Hilton Head. Failing that the Barney Barnato in Kimberley could beckon.

I expect to return to the British Par 3, hopefully to improve on the 5th position of last year

Also my annual trip to Tenerife in Sept to try and regain the Wild Geese Trophy is very much a goer.

So plenty to keep you updated about over Summer........



The Social Golfer...... keep on LIVIN THE DREAM My friends

Full pictures for thi trip on FACEBOOK..................................

Friday, 12 March 2010

GOLF In the Desert Las Vegas Style

Golf on the Strip

Back to Vegas and at last some Golf to report.
Once again choosing the course closest to the City, led me too THE BALI HAI and a fantastic day and experience with two great German Guys Jens and Manfred and Jim from Wisconsin a fine 2 handicap golfer. Joined by our Caddy Mike, we had a wonderful day, some magic golf mixed with mediocrity as is SOCIAL GOLF. Established firm friendships and in Mikes case some exceptional Green reading gave me my best putting of the trip. Thanks!!!

Jim, Jens, Manfried and Mike, Gentlemen it was a pleasure

The course was in the shadows of the strip and despite being directly under the airport flight paths is quite stunning visually. Some Sensational holes and Course Conditioning despite unseasonable weather for Nevada was exceptional. Like everywhere this trip course bookings are down leading to some sensational offers available.

The stunning 16th aka sawgrass... just 110 yards and two balls lost

and a 6 for The Social Golfer

San Francisco No Golf Sadly

US Open Course at THE OLYMPIC Lakeside

As mentioned previously, I had been very much tied by dictates of the travel side as well as the Golf and San Francisco proved to be the most difficult to arrange. During our 3 days there, I had considered as usual the two main criteria for the Social Golfer.

Closest to the city, in this case the Presidio.....

Walking in the footsteps of heroes...... Hardings Park a Public Course that hosted the last Presidents Cup, The Olympic, regular US Open destination and the top twenty rated San Francisco Golf Club.

A mixture of atrocious weather, it hardly stopped raining and once again private non reciprocal arrangements... ie members only made it impossible to get a round in the small window of opportunity I had.

The Presidio redesigned by Arnold Palmer and open to the public since 1995 meanders thru the hills overlooking the city and golden gate and Alcatraz. For less than $90, George Fuller in Calafornia Golf places it in the top 30 in the State and describes it as a MUST PLAY. I tried but the weather beat us. A rolling Thunderstorm of the bay put paid to that.

Narrow fairways of The Presidio

According to all info I collected on San Francisco, The 3 finest courses were all located on a small stretch of land in South San Fran along The Pacific Coast. This terrain clearly similar to the Sandbelt in Melbourne hosts The Olympic, Hardings Park and The San Francisco Golf Courses.

Hardings Park, good enuff for Tiger, would be for me

It is also San Franciscos most affluent of Residential Areas. The former and latter are Private Courses and I was simply unable to sort out a Tee Time in the timescale we had. Hardings Public, was sadly another victim of the Terrible weather.

Hardings Park was available at the amazing price of $88 for a round, what value.

The Olympic has two courses. The Lakeside which hosted the Us Open in 1955,67,87 and 98 and the shorter,tighter and still highly rated Ocean Course. Guests can only play with a member.

San Francisco is rated the best of the three in all ratings I examined prior to the trip. Tom Doak renovated the course in 2002 and its now accepted as a true great. Hosted the 1974 Curtis Cup Match which no doubt the USA thrashed GB. Again Guest can only play with a member. Again disappointingly there is no reciprocal policy in place.

A place I must re visit in good weather and tie in with a trip up North to Oregon and Bandon Dunes perhaps. Dont tell Matron.

San Francisco, pretty and highly rated but not easily accessible

Monterey final comments inc the biggie of them all Cypress

Cypress Point, probably the most scenic and beautiful golf course in the
World. The Best........debatable..............

The problem when traversing the globe in 80 days and competing at the same time is that inevitably there has to be omissions from the golf itinerary which you would not normally consider. Similarly as principally this is a golf vacation, I was tied by the necessity to write about the problems the traveller would encounter and ultimately this particularly reared its head in Monterey and California and to a smaller extent in Vegas.

Throughout Singapore, Australia New Zealand and Hawaii although all golf sorted whilst back in UK, I am pleased to say there would have been no difficulty in playing at any of the courses documented previous had you just arrived in the cities and as I will show in the book at a wide range of accommodation suitable to all budgets. Not so in California, in particular.

Lets complete my tour of the fabulous Monterey Peninsula. There were many other courses on this splendid headland that a tour of 5 days on the pebble beach resort precluded. GRANDADDY OF THEM ALL of course the prestigious, reclusive, private enclave of Cypress Point. Now of course in any top 100 this course will feature in the top 3, more often than not this Alister MacKenzie Masterpiece head the list. Is it as magnificent and sensational as they all say. Yes without doubt it is visually stunning, immaculately manicured and set up but No 1, never in the Social Golfers opinion. Let me justify that. If you had the Mona Lisa in your house, would you cover it up or open it up so your neighbours could enjoy its beauty. Would you stop visitors taking photos, I doubt it. Part of Cypress mystique is its total exclusivity, ask any golfer to describe the course apart from the well documented and pictured coast holes they would struggle, why because they cannot play it nor have they seen it played on TV by our peers. Tiger, Big Phil, Rory et al would likely eat it up and the allure lost for good. Secondly a course which features two succesive par 3s at 15 and 16 is at best unique at worst simply a distraction in that the terrain takes precedence over the golf hole. Spectacular they are, I kid you not, possibly the most sensational views you can encounter on a golf course but better than New South Wales another MacKenzie Classic or Kauri and Cape in New Zealand, as good but no way significantly superior. The 18th is certainly not a hole befitting such a quality course, a simple short par 4 dog leg which even this mid handicapper played as a 4 iron and 8 iron, mackenzies greens did me I 3 putted. My research tells me this was not the Grand Docs original design, I will investigate further for my book review. My main criticism is its exclusivity, I had to pull favours to get a round and I cannot name the member I played with, had to smuggle my camera in. I love beautiful courses and this certainly is, play it if you have the opportunity. I like to walk in the footsteps of my heroes not Monterrey's richest. The social Golfer represents all Golfers and supports opportunities to play. I could understand limiting opportunity due sometimes to ability but not to have any reciprocal playing arrangements to even say St.Andrews is pompousness at its highest. THE BEST, not in my opinion, one of CERTAINLY.
The 18th, a disappointing culmination to a visual extravaganza

The bunkering is strategically placed as good as anywhere
I had ever played part of a super design in general and
definitely were the finest conditioning I have played
Possibly because of little use!!!!

There are several cheaper alternatives I am delighted to say are available easily accessible and exceptional fine quality course within a few miles of the Majestic, exclusive Cypress. In particular, The Pacific Grove Golf Course, quite a bargain, this semi hidden gem is worth the fee less than 50 bucks for its views from 11 thru 17 when all the magnificent coastline, its wind comes into full play and magnificence. The front nine weaves thru the forest and an old lighthouse enhances the courses appearance.

Pacific Groves and the lighthouse

Next consider the two courses at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. The Dunes Inland is extremely picturesque as it meanders inland thru the Forest whilst the Dunes with its large undulating greens as had you would expect has some sensational vista.

The Dunes, right on the coast, sensational

Finally and I am grateful to mein host at Lefty ODouls in San Francisco, who alerted me to Poppy Hills Public Course, Inland on the Peninsula often used by the PGA for the A and T. He describes it has the hidden star, very pretty, long and tight, well bunkered lots of hail mary holes. best he says its half, about 130 bucks, one hundred quid of normal Pebble Course Prices.