Golf Monthly Forum - Help For Heroes Fundraiser 2023

The Golf Monthly Forum - Help For Heroes Fundraiser 2023 raised almost £10,000 for this brilliant cause. Rob Smith was there…

Golf Monthly Forum - Help For Heroes Fundraiser 2023
The Forum and friends gather outside the clubhouse at Hankley Common
(Image credit: Future)

Golf Monthly Forum - Help For Heroes Fundraiser 2023

Staged a little earlier in the calendar than its thirteen predecessors including last year's event at Hayling Golf Club, the annual charity event arranged by the Golf Monthly Forum took place on a gloriously bright late-Summer’s day at Hankley Common on the Surrey/Hampshire border. The course, 30th in the Top 100 for the UK and Ireland, was a riot of purple with the heather still at its most vibrant and dazzling. A packed field of 80 golfers were therefore able to fully enjoy this beautiful Braid/Colt design that has in recent times improved still further under the expert guidance of Mackenzie and Ebert.

The Titleist Gazebo at Hankley Common

Eager golfers queue up to take (temporary!) ownership of some fresh ammunition

(Image credit: Future)

Following coffee and bacon rolls and a chance to reacquaint with golfing friends from all over the country, there was the opportunity to visit the Titleist gazebo for advice on the correct ball to use and even the very generous provision of some supplies for the round.

Forum golfer at Help For Heroes

A fine attempt to recover from the hungry heather

(Image credit: Future)

It would be interesting to learn how many of these very welcome gifts are now hiding in the resplendent heather, barely used, over what is one of the best golf courses in Surrey and indeed the country!

Hankley Common - Hole 7

An aerial view of the superb par-3 seventh at Hankley Common

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The course plays to a par of 71, with its sublime par-3 7th the star of a very special show. Happily, the yellow tees were in play, a far more manageable prospect for most of us than the almost 7,000 yards available from the purples.

As a small part of the fundraising, the Forum members attending were offered the chance to pay an extra £25 for the dubious pleasure of playing with one of the four Golf Monthly team members taking part including new editor, Neil Tappin. This alone raised £300, while it was great to see representatives from Help For Heroes and a good number of veterans enjoying their golf.

Golfers at Hankley Common Help For Heroes 2023

Friendship and laughter is very much a part of the annual Help For Heroes day

(Image credit: Future)

As you would expect, there was a nearest-the-pin and long-drive competition to keep everyone interested all the way, and with the shotgun start, everyone was back in the clubhouse at roughly the same time in order to compare notes, and more importantly, take part in friendly mickey-taking and a beverage or two. A common theme was praise for the course, while I thought I overheard the three who paid to play with me asking for a full refund. I even heard some mutterings about compensation!

Help For Heroes - Talker

John Carpenter from Help For Heroes addresses the forum

(Image credit: Future)

Following a delicious carvery lunch, Help For Heroes Fundraising Manager John Carpenter talked briefly about some of the organisation’s invaluable work and how the charity has a community model of support that takes their services out to the locations where veterans and their families can access them most easily. He also explained how donations can make such a vital difference. For example,

  • £68 could pay for a veteran to have a one-hour session with a mental health counsellor, to help work through the difficulties that have put their life on hold
  • £206 could provide a wraparound knee brace for a veteran in need of leg stability to take part in physical activities once again
  • £405 could provide a course of mental health therapy - seven sessions - with one of Help For Heroes’ Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners

Derek's Story

Derek Derenalagi - Help For Heroes

Derek Derenelagi - a real hero

(Image credit: Future)

John then introduced us to Derek Derenalagi, who in 2007 was very seriously injured by a landmine in Afghanistan. He told us his chilling and graphic story - he was actually pronounced dead on an operating table before a medic found the faintest of pulses. Nine days later, he awoke from a coma to the news that both his legs had been amputated. “I said to my wife, let us be thankful that I am alive today. A lot of my colleagues wanted to make it back, but they couldn’t. I made it back. So, let’s start again. Adjusting to life without my legs was difficult and very traumatic for both of us. I was told I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, that I’d never walk again.”

Help For Heroes

Signage out on the course at Hankley Common

(Image credit: Future)

Derek’s determination meant he was able to push himself further and harder than most people could imagine. He then found inspiration. “I was watching highlights of the Beijing Paralympic Games. I said, I can do this, I’m qualified, I’ve got no legs.” That is when Derek reached out to Help For Heroes who, as well as physically and mentally, helped get him into sport as part of his rehabilitation. “They even funded the prosthetic legs that took me to the 2012 Paralympics where competing was one of the proudest moments of my life. To go from that to represent my country at the Paralympic Games five years later… all I can say is, I am thankful. I’ve had so many opportunities through Help for Heroes. My wife Ana and I have met some wonderful people, other injured veterans and their families. We share experiences and learn from one another.” To listen to Derek was a truly humbling experience.

Going Going Gone

Help For Heroes Auction

Work experience auctioneer Simon Bratt alongside the day’s main organiser, Richard Hart.

(Image credit: Future)

Following Derek’s harrowing but ultimately encouraging story, it was time for the charity auction. Unfortunately, regular auctioneer Mark Head had been called away to an emergency while on the course. This meant that a capable and willing stand-in was required. Happily, forummer Simon Bratt bravely stepped up to the microphone with his virtual gavel and gave a rousing performance, part David Coleman and part Olivia Colman. In honesty, Simon was brilliant, eliciting just the right level of competitive bidding but somehow knowing exactly when to hook his fish. Lots included vouchers for golf at a variety of courses, golf equipment and clothing, a Tower of London ceramic poppy, a framed print of an early and somewhat shaky Golf Monthly Top 100, and much more.

In The Prizes

Help For Heroes Prize-Giving

Champion for the day, Jacob Lilliehook, flanked by Richard Hart and Karen Garg

(Image credit: Future)

Getting back to the golf and the main competition, the Vickers Trophy was awarded to Jakob Lilliehook, also known as Lilyhawk and a 9-handicapper at Essendon Golf Club, who recorded a very impressive 41 points. Runner-up was newly-qualified auctioneer Simon Bratt with 39, and in third place on countback was Dave Papas with 37. The guest prize, courtesy of a massive 44 points, went to Gareth Dutfield. The scratch prize with an excellent 3-over gross of 74 went to Phil Coumbe from Leighton Buzzard Golf Club while Gordon Ross from Broadstone won nearest-the-pin-in-2 on the tricky 4th. In a development that surprised everyone from Golf Monthly as well as all those who know him, content editor Nick Bonfield picked up the nearest-the-pin prize for his tee shot on the short 2nd, while the day’s star golfer, Lilyhawk, also recorded the longest drive on the super-tough closing hole. This was an obscenely long hit that many of the field, myself included, were short of in two!

Help For Heroes Prize-Giving

Paul Nash receives the Rick Garg Memorial Trophy

(Image credit: Future)

A highlight of these annual get-togethers is the awarding of a trophy in memory of Rick Garg, a golfer forever linked with the Forum and Help For Heroes fundraising who sadly passed away in 2016. This beautiful piece of woodwork, along with various other carvings including the stretcher bearers for the forum and guest winners, was carved by Ted Granger of Veterans Woodcraft. This Yorkshire-based organisation was set up by veterans to deliver woodcraft courses to help people who are battling against suicide, PTSD, mental health issues and physical disability. This year’s recipient was Paul Nash in recognition of his ever-present and enthusiastic contributions to the event.

Help For Heroes Cheque

The all-important cheque presentation with John Carpenter, Karen Garg, and Vicky and Richard Hart

(Image credit: Future)

The most important activity of the day was the presentation of the cheque to Help For Heroes by main organiser and stalwart supporter Richard Hart. Further input shortly after the event raised the day’s total to £9,839, a brilliant result in these tough economic times. This means that the 14-year grand total is now up to a brilliant £170,000.

This year there was one extra and very touching presentation. It was made to Karen, Rick Garg's wife, who was finally able to attend the day as it was held during a school holiday. She handed out the prizes before receiving her own special carving of Rick. For Karen, as well as for plenty of forum stalwarts, this was both moving and very lovely.

Hankley Common - Hole 7

A final look at forummers on the glorious par-3 seventh at Hankley Common

(Image credit: Future)

Enormous thanks go as always to organisers Richard and his wife Vicky, ably assisted as ever by Kate Cave. Thanks also go to all the hard-working volunteers from the Forum, many of them behind-the-scenes, and of course to Derek and John from Help For Heroes, as well as to everyone at Hankley Common Golf Club including friendly general manager Ed Richardson, for their brilliant and generous welcome to their exceptional club.

Help For Heroes Logo

Help For Heroes

(Image credit: Help For Heroes)

Why not choose Help For Heroes as your Captain’s charity of the year

Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service, so they feel valued, supported, and recognised. If you feel inspired to support Help for Heroes, then why not choose them as your Captain’s charity of the year for 2024. You’ll get your own dedicated member of their team to give you personalised support, all year round, who will offer fundraising hints and tips, and more, to make the most of your year. To find out more about becoming a community partner, please contact area fundraising manager John Carpenter, email:

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,170 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during the year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but nine. During the 2021-22 review period, Rob has played 34 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at