Can you think of a star from the world of show business or sport who now professes to not liking golf? We investigate why a 4-iron is now as hip as an iphone. It seemed highly appropriate that American actor Samuel L Jackson was invited to give the opening ceremony speech at this year's Ryder Cup. Here, after all, was the man often described as the coolest person in the world extolling the virtues of the world’s coolest sport.
A few years ago, the idea of golf as achingly fashionable would have been laughable. Sure, the sport has never wanted for glamour or celebrity endorsement. Yet these days, it’s undeniably hipper than ever before. Barely a week passes by without another musician or movie star singing golf’s praises in the press. Pick up a newspaper and chances are you’ll find Hollywood icons like Colin Farrell or Kirsten Dunst talking about the game with the zeal of the convert.
It’s not just in the US that golf has become a magnet for celebrities. In the UK, it now attracts such unlikely enthusiasts as Keith Allen, that hard-living actor and friend of Damien Hirst, and model Jodie Kidd. Allen talks about the sport with hushed reverence (“Golf is a beautiful game”) and plays off a handicap of eight, while Kidd, who’s over 6ft tall, uses personalised clubs an inch longer than men’s standard, can drive more than 300 yards, and plays off a handicap of 18. “I love the challenge of golf - it’s just you and your golf clubs and the course. Plus, a woman playing golf is incredibly sexy,” says Kidd, who took part in the celebrity event at this year’s Dunhill Cup, playing alongside the likes of Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper and Hugh Grant. Yet why has the game suddenly become so fashionable with the stars? Why are the fairways packed with more celebs than a rehab session at the Priory?
According to Kidd, one of the reasons for the game’s growing appeal to the A-list is that the new breed of professional players have brought more style and street cred to the fairways. “Someone like Ian Poulter is a cool guy,” she says. “I just adored those uni0n Jack trousers he wore at the Open.” In a similar vein, another factor is the increasing presence of fashion companies and designer brands in the sport over the past few years. Where once a Pringle sweater was the height of golfing chic, image-conscious celebs can now wear Louis Vuitton monogrammed leather gloves, and choose from Prada, Burberry or Chanel golf bags, clubs and balls. Not to be outdone, Tag Heuer is busy developing a golf-specific watch, while Christian Dior recently released a complete range called Dior Golf, including miniskirts and accessories in fuchsia, scarlet and mustard Argyle patterns. Likewise, many golf clubs are now getting wise to the needs of the modern day celebrity, ditching the traditional stuffy, single-sex formality in favour of relaxed dress codes and funky furnishings.
No wonder that Robbie Williams loves playing at Stoke Park, in Buckinghamshire, now that it has Warhol prints in the spa and MTV in the lobby. Meanwhile, the recent opening of Urban Golf, a former Soho printworks that’s been converted to house state-of-the-art simulators, means the entertainment industry’s movers and shakers can now play the world’s 50 best courses (and order beer and sushi until 11pm) without leaving the heart of medialand.
This demise of golf’s conservative old guard has also made the game more alluring across the Atlantic - especially to black showbusiness figures like Samuel L Jackson, who grew up in the segregated South. “Golf always seemed an old man’s game and a white man’s game,” he says. “But not anymore.” Jackson, who also played the recent celebrity event at the Dunhill Cup, is more obsessed with the sport than any other star. His movie contracts stipulate that he will only film on locations that are close to a golf course, while he also insists on time off to play twice each week and that the film company pay for the green fees. “I have to play at least twice a week because I am as passionate about golf as I am about acting,” says Jackson, who was a regular sight at Royal Liverpool and Royal Birkdale while filming “The 51st State” on Merseyside a few years ago. “You can’t fudge at golf. It has a set of rules that are unbending. You take what it gives you and just keep on rolling.” Ask Jackson why he thinks so many entertainers are captivated by the game, and he’ll give this reply. “Golf is a performance and people like me enjoy performing. It’s theatre. The gallery is there. You hit the shot, take the applause, take a bow and get on with your business."
Source: The Golf Pages - The Official Publication of the PGA