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The Up and Downs of a Life in the Sky: East, West, Earth & Fire

30 March, 2023
Alex Frolish

Alex Frolish has been a pilot for approaching 20 years and now travels to all corners of the globe in his role as a commercial airline pilot. His passion for flight is only equalled by his passion for golf and golf travel. Having picked up a golf club over 35 years ago when aged just 3 years old, Alex has played over 550 courses across every continent on planet earth furnished with a fairway. Over the next few months you’ll be able to follow Alex’s golfing travels as he brings you anecdotes of his life both in the air and on the course.

East, West, Earth and Fire

From 40000 feet above the Earth, you get to see our planet from the most privileged of positions. Whether it be the vastness of the oceans or the sheer scale of the rainforests, there are sights that can only truly be appreciated from seven miles above the ground. You also become pretty attuned to the weather in the places you fly over, and it turns out that, in the main, the Northern Hemisphere is a bleak old place in early February.

With that in mind, my northern hemisphere heavy February flying roster provided plenty of potential for cancellations and disruption. However, after a bad run of exactly that over the last few months, it turns out that if you keep making golf plans, eventually some of them will come together.

It started with a flight to San Francisco and a trip to a course that had been on my radar for a while. Yocha Dehe means ‘home by the spring water’ in the Patwin language spoken by the Wintun tribe from this area of California, and this golf course attached to a resort and hotel is rapidly gaining critical acclaim as one of the best newer public courses on the west coast of the USA. For most normal people, that round would have been enough for one day. But it was something that the starter had said to me that had peaked my interest. ‘You going back to San Francisco today? You want to check out Rancho Solano on the way home if you have the time, some of the best greens in the area’. The answer really was that I didn’t have the time, it was already 8pm on my UK body clock and I had a two hour drive back to my hotel, but as I found myself staring down the 1st hole at Rancho Solano some 30 minutes later having filled a last minute slot on the tee sheet, I knew I had done the right thing. When there is golf to be played and light left in the day, play it I will.

My next layover was a couple of days later on a flight to Nashville. We landed on Super Bowl Sunday and only had 24hrs off and to be honest, it felt only right to focus on other sports for this trip. I took the decision to leave the clubs at home and instead, I got my sporting fix from the vantage point of a bar stool in Kid Rock’s bar on Broadway.

St Enodoc, photo credit: Stuart Morley

I said that the February weather had been kind to me, but there was an exception. Back in the U.K, there is one course I had failed to play having had games arranged there more than any other. Twice I had sat in the clubhouse at St Enodoc watching the weather curtail my plans, and as I sat in the car park once again, watching the lashing rain envelope my windscreen, I thought I may never get to play this wonderful golf course. However, the rain eased (for a few minutes) and we ventured into the mist and finally, I got to see why so many people love this characterful golf course. The rain came with a vengeance as we encircled the church on the back nine, but no finer compliment can be paid to the course than that I would have happily ventured straight back out to play again if I hadn’t had a 4 hour drive ahead of me.

A quick trip to a place where the weather is rarely in question, Dubai, allowed me to go inside the ropes for the very first time at the home of the DP World Tour, the Earth course at Jumeirah Estates. My summary is that Greg Norman clearly likes the beach; the scale of his bunkering on this golf course can not be fully seen from the TV, but it is extensive. Very much like my San Francisco trip, the opportunity for more golf came suddenly and once presented, seemed inevitable. Both courses at Jumeirah Estates are Greg Norman designs and when one of the staff mentioned a tee time had become free that same afternoon to play the Fire course, I felt it only right to go and spend another 4 hours in the sand.

Rustic Canyon, photo credit: Patrick Koenig

My final trip of the month was possibly my most surreal adventure for some time. As we crested the mountains encircling the Los Angeles bowl in our descent into LAX, the snow covered more than just the peaks. The weather had been so foul that snow had sprinkled the streets of downtown LA (a rare occurrence indeed) over the preceding few days, and I expected we might not even venture out of the hotel, never mind onto the golf course. But a friend was in town, plans were made and we set off with hope to Rustic Canyon, a golf course that had been mooted as one of the best value green fees in America. Gil Hanse and Geoff Shackelford have created a wondrous masterpiece out in this valley north of LA, but it would have been even more pleasant to see it without rain water running down the inside of my underwear. Move forward 24 hours, and surreally, we found ourselves standing on the putting green at Los Angeles Country Club, a site where just 72 hours before, snow had covered the ground and now conversely, was bathed in warm spring sunshine. The North course has been renovated in recent times by Gil Hanse, and although Rustic Canyon and LACC North sit at opposing ends of the golfing spectrum in many ways, they are bound by the way they elicit pure enjoyment from those that experience them. We were the last set of visitors to play before the course was closed to non-members prior to the US Open later in the year. I can confirm we are all in for treat in a few months time.

That was it for my February adventures, a month that for the first time in a long time, was complete in terms of plans fulfilled. Looking forward to March, my travels are planned to take me to Japan, Mexico and to Oregon. In the U.K, I have some more early season links golf in the offing. Wherever you are and what ever you have planned, I wish you the straightest of drives, well negotiated four- footers and happy rounds.


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