Just loving our beautiful game - Interview with Alan Hansen
It’s rush hour at Hansen HQ.
The clock’s ticking as his
mid-week tee-time fast
approaches and the footballing
legend-turned TV pundit is in
full swing, juggling phone calls
and receiving visitors. It’s a
hectic schedule that’s showing
little sign of slowing down.
For almost 40 years,
Hansen’s career has allowed
him to live and breath every
football fanatic’s dream since
signing for Partick Thistle in his
late teens. Little could he have
known that a move to Anfield in
1977 would be the start of 621
Liverpool appearances, along
with 26 full caps for Scotland.
Then, in 1990, came the
change in career – but not the
sport. Over the last two
decades Hansen has become
a permanent fixture on BBC’s
Match of the Day, alongside
regular golfing partners Gary
Lineker and Alan Shearer.
Hansen’s forthright views and
knowledgable analysis of the
game have made him one of
the country’s most popular
broadcasters. And yet his
most passionate views are
reserved for his first love – golf.
Carolyn Nicoll tees up the
What’s your first golfing memory?
When I was five years old I’d follow my
brother, who was ten, to the local course
in Sauchie, Clackmannanshire, just 100
yards from our family home in Scotland.
I’d pick up a golf club and swing it and
swing it...and I’m still swinging it.
Who taught you to play golf?
Nobody taught me to play. From a
young age I simply watched what my
brother did and I’d just keep on hitting
Is it true that you played alongside
Sandy Lyle as a teenager?
In 1972 I was first reserve in the
Scottish Boys Team and that’s when
Sandy was playing for England. So we
never actually played alongside each
other, but I caddied for Scottish international
Steve Martin and he knew
Sandy, so our paths did cross.
What is your current handicap?
I’m off 3 at the moment. When I
signed for Liverpool in 1977 I was 2.
The lowest I’ve been is 1.7, back in
2001. I was 45 years old, playing a lot
more golf, and I was still relatively fit.
This was probably the period in my
life when I enjoyed my best golf.
Where is your home club?
I live very close to Hillside Golf Club,
Southport, and that’s where I play when
I’m up north. It’s a great course, one of
the best in the country. Many of the
game’s greatest players rate it highly –
in fact Greg Norman once described the
back nine hole as the best he had
played anywhere. It’s absolute perfection.
Hillside’s a competitive club, and
that suits me fine. I try to play in the
competition every Wednesday and I’m
at the range at least a couple of times a
week. When I’m in London I play at
Queenwood, a very private club which
makes it easy to get out and play quickly.
I can’t stand slow golf.
Who do you play with?
I’ve played a lot with Kenny Dalglish,
but he’s pretty busy now he’s managing
Liverpool. We’re a good partnership
– we take some beating. [Laughs.]
Do you miss playing regularly in
Scotland – will you ever move back?
I’ll never go back to live. I’ve been in
England now for 35 years but I never
forget where I came from and still play
golf there whenever I can. I go to the
Dunhill Links Championship every
year, if I’m lucky enough to be invited.
St Andrews is a sensational place, I
love it there. I also still play back at
my local childhood course at Sauchie.
What are your ambitions in golf?
Like everyone else I just want to play
the best golf I can. We all know this
game can drive you crazy. Anyone
who has played sport to a high level always believes he can maintain that
performance as he grows old – I want
to play golf as well today as I did 20
years ago! Sometimes you come off
the golf course and feel you’ve done
so well that you’ll never hit a bad
shot again, then another time you’ll
come off and think I’ll never hit a
good shot again.
Favourite golfing destination?
Definitely Pebble Beach in
California. A group of eight
of us go every year from
Queenwood and play
Cypress Point. It’s absolutely
the destination for golf heaven.
Many Americans say that
if they had just one day left to
live, they’d spend it playing
golf at Cypress Point.
You’ve been lucky enough to
play Augusta National?
I’ve played at Augusta three
times now, once with my son,
Adam, once with Gary [Lineker]
and most recently, in 2008, with
my wife Janet. It is a very special
place. You feel that history and tradition
the minute you get there, it
has that aura of a great sporting
theatre from the moment you walk
through the gates. Playing at
Augusta is like winning the lottery.
You’re very good player – how
difficult is the course to score
Let’s put it this way, after
our round Gary and I found
ourselves agreeing on the
fact that golf is the sport
with the biggest gulf
between the amateurs
and the pros. The standards
and sheer mental
toughness of the
professionals is just
I think that if you put a talented
amateur footballer into a good
Liverpool team, he may not look
great but he could possibly get by
without disgracing himself. This is
not the case with golf. If you put an
amateur into a high level golf tournament, such as the Masters, you are
talking light years of difference. I’ve
played at a lot of different golf courses
over the years, but Augusta really
does present unique challenges.
Nick Faldo, a three-times Masters
winner, described the pressure as like
trying to drop a 7-iron on to an area
the size of a dining-room table, and
that’s from one of the greatest golfers
of all time. There’s a lot of skill needed.
A dream fourball – who would you
Rory McIlroy, the late, great Seve
Ballesteros and Tiger Woods. McIlroy
because he’s young and exciting with talent
oozing out of his ears and so exciting
to watch it was a privilege to have
been around in his era and to watch him
in his prime. Woods, circa 1999, when he
was winning everything in sight.
A lot of your contemporaries enjoy
golf – who has some ‘game’?
Gary Lineker plays off 5, Alan Shearer
6, Lee Dixon 4, Kenny Dalglish 5 and
Gary Gillespie 2 – there’s the scratch
team. When we get together we all
play what you can only describe as
‘kamakaze’ golf – always off the back
tees, we want to play the hardest test.
We don’t play to have fun, it’s got to
beat you up. I mentioned to Darren
Clarke recently that Alan [Shearer],
Gary [Gillespie] and I were going to
the Fontana Golf Club in Austria. He
said that we had to play it off the
tips. We did. The day after a EuroPro
event, the greens were like lightning.
None of us broke 90!
Golf or football – if you had your
time over again which would you
choose as a career?
I’ve always been a realist and knew
that I’d have a better career playing
football than if I’d chosen golf, even
though golf’s my first love.
What golfing gadget could you not
Whether or not this qualifies as a
gadget I don’t know, but it would
have to be the long putter. I’m a bad
putter and about 15 years ago I
reached a point where my hands
shook violently when I picked up a
short stick – it was like I was using a
pneumatic drill! It’s fun and games
for me, putting, but in all honesty if
they banned the long putter I don’t
know what I’d do. I seriously think I’d
struggle to continue playing.
What's been the best new piece of
equipment or technology in golf that
has helped your game?
Specialist club fitting. At the Callaway
Centre in Chessington they have a
computer that does a test to ensure
you get the right driver shaft to suit
you as an individual. It’s called the
CPAS – the Callaway Performance
Analysis System. It uses a ball-flight
simulator and two high-speed cameras
that look at your launch angle,
your ball speed and your spin rates.
The guys there are fantastic and they
use this technology to come up with
the shaft that suits you perfectly. I’m
a better driver of the ball than I’ve
ever been as a result.
Do you follow the pro game?
Absolutely, I follow every tournament.
I look at the results – especially the
Scottish players, and I follow guys I’ve
played with. I look at the money lists
online and where the tours and players
are going. I can’t get enough of it.
And I quite literally sit glued to the
Masters and the Open.
Your favourite tournament?
The Open Championship, every year.
It’s a fantastic tradition for me. I first
went back in 1970, it rained so heavily
and I got soaked but it was great.
This year it’s just up the road, at
Royal Lytham, and I can’t wait.
Who is your favourite professional
golfer past or present?
Jack Nicklaus, he’s an absolute hero
of mine. To my eyes he plays golf the
way it should be played. What a gentleman
he is, with the greatest humility
when he lost a game and the greatest
humility whenever he won. That’s
how it should be done.
Who are the best three celebrity
golfers you know?
Tim Henman, Jamie Redknapp and
Kenny Dalglish are the ones I’d
choose, because for me, they are all
What’s your best golfing memory?
Winning the Scratch Championship at
Hillside in 2001. It was as tough as it
could get and I won. What an amazing
feeling that was, for me to get my
name on the board.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine