Golf is this
all-rounder’s passion - Interview with Darren Gough
The spearhead of England’s bowling attack through much
of the 1990s, Darren Gough’s glittering career saw him
become the first Englishman to take 200 wickets in one
day internationals (the final tally being 234) and he took
229 wickets in 59 Test appearances. The former Yorkshire
captain has enjoyed success off the cricket pitch, too. In
2005 he stepped out in lycra and sequins as he strutted
his stuff on Strictly Come Dancing with partner
Lilia Kopylova. They waltzed off with the winning trophy.
Caroline Nicoll caught up with talkSPORT’S Goughie
How did you get into golf?
From being around 14 to 18 years old I had
a trusty 7 iron and I’d take it to play on the
local school playing ground. I’d putt with it,
chip with it and I’d tee off with it – and
that’s all I played with until the head eventually
fell off. That forced me to buy my first
set of clubs when I was 19.
Who taught you to play golf?
I taught myself to play, but the international
cricket umpire Peter Hartley really got me
into the game. I’d be travelling all over with
him on cricket tours and whenever there
was the opportunity he’d say “Come on, let’s
go play a round of golf”.
What is your current handicap?
It’s 13 and that’s the best it’s been. I’m desperate
to get it lower, but I’m on the radio
everyday from 4pm to 7pm with talkSPORT,
so I have to try and fit the golf in. I play Pro
Am and charity club days whenever I can.
My handicap is getting better though. Just a
few years ago it was 18, so I am improving.
Where do you play?
My local is the Three Locks Golf Club near
Milton Keynes. It has a variety of holes and
excellent facilities. I’m also a member of The
De Vere Club, allowing access to 11 golf
clubs and 16 courses all over the UK.
What are your golfing ambitions?
I’d like to get down to 5. I know I’ve got the
potential to get there. I truly feel I can do
anything with a golf ball, although the most
difficult thing for me is chipping. I really
need to improve that aspect of my game.
What rule of golf would you change if you
were in charge of the game for a day?
I would make the fairways wider [laughs].
Actually, on a more serious note I do know
what I’d change: I’d put a stop to the snobbishness
of some golf clubs. I can’t stand it! There
are a lot of golf clubs out there losing members
because of it as there are a lot of would-be
members bothering to join certain clubs. Some
of them seriously need to relax their rules. It’s
one of those things that really winds me up.
Favourite golfing destination?
I love the golf in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The
Emirates Golf Club and The Montgomerie, I
seem to play my best golf out there. The
courses are so well manicured, the ball sits
up nicely and the greens are fabulous. The
Abu Dhabi Golf Club is something special
and so too is Saadiyat Beach – they’re just
stunning courses. Closer to home I enjoy
playing traditional English clubs. Wentworth
and Sunningdale are fantastic, plus I love
Woburn, which is only six miles from home.
Tell me about your charity golf day.
This year is the second Darren Gough
Celebrity Golf Day and it will be on
November 9 at Wentworth. It’s for the Alex
Bolt Foundation. Alex’s parents first contacted
me by letter to say that their son was a
big fan of cricket and he’d followed my
career. Alex had a brain tumour and I went
to visit him. He was having chemotherapy at
the time, and I was fortunate to get to know
him and discover what a great kid he was.
Tragically, at just 16 years old, Alex passed
away. I’m still in touch with Alex’s family
and we have an arrangement whereby I fix
the golf part of the day and in the evening
there’s a dinner that is arranged by Alex’s mum. It’s a great event and last year we had
lots of big names – athlete Iwan Thomas,
strictly dancers Anton Du Beke and Brendan
Cole played, Freddie Flintoff turned up in
the evening and Teddy Sheringham also
came along. Last year tickets sold out in five
days, we raised £70,000. Hopefully it will be
another great success this year.
Do you follow the pro game?
I watch it on TV and I go along to tournaments
whenever I can. In May, I went to the
Scottish Ladies Open and it was brilliant.
That really got me interested in following
the ladies tour. You can learn so much
watching the ladies, too. A fixation with
power is the problem for many amateurs –
me included – and so any time you are
reminded of the quality of swing and
rhythm it helps. Women rely on technique,
while the men just try to power it. Having
said that, I’m really looking forward to going
to watch the Open at Lytham. I can’t wait!
Favourite professional golfer?
Tiger Woods. For his ability as a golfer, the
way he’s changed golf and everything he’s
done for golf as a sport.
Who’s your tip for Open?
A Brit! I’m so hoping that Lee Westwood or
Ian Poulter get their hands on their first
major, they deserve it.
What’s your favourite pro tournament?
It’s got to be The Masters, for the history of
the event the style with which it is staged,
and the stunning golf course. Even if you
don’t usually follow the game, when the
Masters comes around you can happily sit
and watch golf with the family.
A dream fourball...who would you invite?
Phil Mickelson, I really admire him. From
what I gather he’s a true gentleman both on
and off the course. [People often say that I
look like him? I think we need to get together
to prove that I look nothing like him!] I’d
also choose Freddie [Flintoff]. He’d be rubbish
at golf and so would make me look
good [laughs]. Freddie’s great value, always
fun to be around, and he’d show his real
class at the 19th! I’d have David Beckham in
my dream fourball as well. I’ve never had
the chance to meet him and I’d love to. He’s
an amazing ambassador for both British
and World sport.
Which cricketers are also great golfers?
Michael Vaughan loves his golf and plays off
around nine. Phil Collingwood’s also very
good, he’s about four, and there are some
great Australians who play excellent golf,
including Greg Moller and Ricky Ponting.
As well as cricket and golf, what other
sports do you love to play or follow?
I still love football. I went to the World Cup
in South Africa and I was at the Euros. I
don’t play regularly anymore but I get
involved in the odd charity match when
asked. I still support Barnsley and I always
will. I think it’s important to be behind the
team where you’re from. Whenever I can I
also love to sit and watch the darts.
What's been the best piece of equipment or
technology that has helped your game?
I love the modern driver. To me the driver is
the most important piece in the bag. I can
remember looking down at the small woods
on the end of the shaft when I first started
and thinking I’ll never hit the ball with that,
but now the oversize drivers give you a lot
more confidence. It’s probably a psychological
thing but looking down at a bigger driver
just makes me think yes, no problem!
Your best golfing memory?
A hole-in-one on a par par at Wike Ridge,
Leeds Golf Centre. It was on the first hole.
That was a very special moment. It was in
2007, my first year back playing cricket for
Yorkshire [for the second time]. I’ve not had
a hole-in-one since, but I’ve been close a few
Where’s your favourite ‘19th hole’?
I’m a big fan of all 19th holes! I’m always
gagging for a drink after a round of golf. The
Grove Hotel is a special place, their 19th is
next to the putting green and when the sun’s
shining it’s a beautiful spot to be. The Jigger
Inn at St Andrews is wonderful as well. I love
the history of the place and seeing the play
ers coming in fully kitted out in their golf
gear, a really special atmosphere.
Did your training on Strictly help with
your moves on the golf course?
No, not at all. It just made me look better in
my golf trousers [laughs].
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine