Wales captain Gareth Bale: My obsession with golf

As Gareth Bale prepares to lead Wales into their first FIFA World Cup since 1958, we sat down with the captain to discuss his biggest passion… golf!

Gareth Bale’s love of golf has been well-documented. He was nicknamed ‘The Golfer’ during his time at Real Madrid and the infamous ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid. In That Order.’ banner that Bale was pictured with after helping his nation qualify for Euro 2020 caused outrage among Real Madrid fans and Spanish media, who were already questioning his commitment to the club. But it probably wasn’t far from the truth.

Bale is a two-handicapper and has his own course in the back garden of his Cardiff home, built by Southwest Greens Construction and featuring replicas of three of the world’s most iconic par 3s.

The infamous golf banner that saw Bale draw the wrath of Real Madrid fans and the Spanish media.

He spends much of his spare time playing or practising the game, and there have even been rumours that the Welshman plans to retire from football after the World Cup and turn his attention to becoming a professional golfer. But don’t expect to see Bale walking the fairways during his time in Qatar. Despite having a host of great courses on their doorstep, manager Rob Page has banned his squad from playing golf.

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“We had a round of golf planned,” explained Page. “I went to the Doha club – it’s run by a British lad. He said, ‘I’ll book you a time.’ But it gets dark at four o’clock. We looked at it, but there are other functions we might have to do, so we will probably not get the chance to do it. Yeah [I’ve told Bale]. There’s no golf. We’re out there to do a job.”

Instead, Wales’ captain will make do with a golf simulator at the squad’s base where he’s already been challenging his teammates.

The 33-year-old’s love of golf plays. a huge role in his his life outside of football. He has worked with DEPOT to open Par59, a golf-themed bar and restaurant in Cardiff and Bristol. Each venue has mini-golf courses with drinks stations on every hole and ‘caddies’ throughout the venues to take your food orders. Bale plans to open further venues across the UK, with Exeter, Bath, Newcastle, Southampton, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh all being considered. Dubai has also been earmarked.

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Gareth Bale rues a missed putt.

The former Tottenham and Madrid forward, who is currently plying his trade for Los Angeles FC, is also an R&A ambassador and supports the DP World Tour’s Cazoo Open at Celtic Manor.

We joined Bale ahead of the World Cup to chat about his passion for golf.

I love golf. You can play with and against anybody, off different handicaps or playing levels. You can just get out on the course with your friends and get away from everything. I have the bug and every time I tee it up, I want to improve.

Golf is a hobby like anyone else would have a hobby. There is nothing wrong with having a round. People make a lot of it, but a lot of footballers play and it’s one thing I really enjoy. It keeps me calmer off the pitch and gives me time away from football which is nice.

Gareth Bale played TPC Sawgrass and has a replica of the 17th hole in his Cardiff garden.

I always wanted to buy a house in Cardiff. I always wanted land and always wanted to build a golf course on it. I’ve got three par-3 replicas of my favourite holes – the 17th at Sawgrass, the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon, and the 12th at Augusta. The green is slightly smaller than the one at Sawgrass, which makes it even harder! When
I actually played at Sawgrass, their green felt massive!

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I love watching golf. Watching the PGA Tour until late at night is my guilty pleasure. What I am inspired by the most is how the top players can perform under such huge pressure, especially in a sport where the margin for error and the difference between a good shot and a bad shot is so small.

You want to hit it like the pros – or as close as you possibly can. It’s all about working on the right things. Whenever I have 20 or 30 minutes to spare, I’ll pop down the range or even swing, without a ball, in the mirror at my house to work on little things to ensure I’ve got the club in the right place. All those things add up. 

It’s key to get the right advice up front – it will save you slipping into bad habits and save so much time in the future. You’re wasting your time if you’re constantly swinging badly. It’s important to video and see your swing because you have to keep a check on the various fundamentals. My old swing was a bit embarrassing, to be honest! But being able to see my swing, knowing the fundamentals and working on the right things will pay off – whether that’s at the range hitting balls or practising without a ball at home, in the mirror. Just spending 20 minutes hitting balls adds up over a period of time. I’ve worked hard on my takeaway and turn in the mirror, seeing where the club needs to be. Then, when you get out on the course, that muscle memory kicks in.

Golf is an amazing sport and it has always been an ambition of mine to encourage more people to take it up. I’m honoured to be able to play my part in the R&A’s efforts to inspire people of all ages to give golf a try.

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Gareth Bale checks his golf technique during Wales training.

The Best Footballing Golfers

Gareth Bale is not alone in being a World Cup football and superb golfer. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest footballing golfers and their handicaps.

Harry Kane at day two of the ICON Series in New Jersey.

Harry Kane
The England captain is one of the world’s best strikers and led England to the World Cup 2018 semi-final (picking up the Golden Boot on the way) and the Euro 2020 final. But despite spending most of his life keeping his football at the highest level, he’s also managed to work his way down to a scratch golf handicap!

The Tottenham star has played a round with Tiger, took on Augusta a day after the Masters and shot a round of six-under at Beaverbrook!

World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero loves to play golf.

Alessandro Del Piero
The Italian played in three World Cups (1998, 2002, 2006) and scored in the penalty shoot out to help his nation lift the trophy in ’02. He plays off 12 and has made appearances in the last three Celebrity Cup events, played ahead of the Ryder Cup. Has been a regular at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Andriy Shevchenko
Two goals helped his Ukraine team through to the WC quarter-finals in 2006. Passionate golfer who turned pro in 2020. Handicap fluctuates between one and four.

Ruud Gullit is a keen golfer.

Ruud Gullit
Captained Holland in the 1990 WC, where the Dutch were defeated by Germany in the last 16. The seven-handicapper regularly plays in the Dunhill Links at St Andrews.

John Terry
Former Chelsea captain played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. The left-handed Wentworth member has been consistently playing off scratch this year and has made appearances at a host of Pro-Ams, including the British Masters and BMW PGA at Wentworth.

Wayne Rooney
The former England captain and record goalscorer played in the 2006, 2010, and 2014 World Cups. The 16-handicapper has played golf since he was seven years old, initially playing ‘cack handed’. He was a regular at Prestbury GC in Cheshire before heading to the States to manage DC United. and ranks playing with Rory McIlroy as his greatest golfing moment.

Alan Shearer
Scored twice in his solitary World Cup in 1998, when England were knocked out by Argentina on penalties in the last 16. A fiercely competitive six-handicapper.

Football legend Luis Figo playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Luis Figo
The Portuguese idol played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid and appeared in two World Cups (2002, 2006). He plays off single figures.

Pep Guardiola
The Man City boss was capped 47 times by Spain and represented his country in the 1994 World Cup. An enthusiastic golfer, but he won’t be happy with his 10-handicap.

Former Manchester United player Dwight Yorke is an excellent golfer.

Dwight Yorke
Graced the 2006 World Cup with Trinidad and Tobago. The former Manchester United man is a class act on the course too – he once played off plus-three!

Roy Wegerle
South African-born striker who played for the USA 41 times, including two WCs (1994 and 1998). After hanging up his boots, he switched his focus to golf and became a playing pro at one point.

Michael Owen
Scored four goals for England over three World Cups (1998, 2002 and 2006), and although horse racing takes up most of his time these days, he’s still a very steady single-figure player.

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