With American Keegan Bradley emerging victorious at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf on Oct. 19, hordes of aspiring golfers are likely setting up their Saturday morning tee times. No doubt, musicians may be among those inspired golfers ready to visit the local country club and take in a round.
Darius Rucker, who became famous with Hootie And The Blowfish and has landed back atop the charts as one of America's hottest country stars, has earned a reputation as one of music's good guys through tireless work giving back to the community. With two GRAMMYs, sold-out concerts and Top 10 albums and singles to his credit, it might seem that Rucker doesn't have a lot left to accomplish. But there is one elusive goal that continues to drive him: He wants to beat Tiger Woods at golf.
"I just want a stroke a hole and to walk away with some money," Rucker told PGATour.com in 2009. "I'm tired of him whopping me."
The spirit of competition drives Rucker to the links, but he's hardly the only member of the music community to take to the fairways while on or off the road. Not surprisingly, many recording artists are into golf.
Golf offers a quiet, peaceful departure from the daily grind in the studio or the humming din of sold-out stadiums and smoky clubs. It's a mental challenge that takes practice — something artists who have spent hours upon hours honing their musical craft can relate to. The golf tournament is also the perfect way to get people together and raise money for a good cause, something many performers are committed to.
And as avid players Justin Timberlake, Kenny G, Vince Gill, Adrian Young, Alice Cooper, and Huey Lewis would likely tell you, teeing up a little white ball and trying to get it into a hole is a lot of fun.
"When you play golf, you get to be outside," Rucker told PGATour.com. "It sounds simple enough, but when you spend so much time inside, you appreciate it more. It doesn't matter where I'm playing. I always say I've never seen an ugly golf course because it gives me that chance to be outside. "
It seems that musicians who love golf have taken to the game for different reasons.
For Cooper, who is a regular at celebrity tournaments along with Rucker and Kenny G, golf became the positive addiction that helped him overcome his alcohol addiction. He hit balls, not the bottle, and played his way to renewed health and a new passion.
Cooper wrote all about it in his 2007 memoir, Golf Monster: A Rock 'N' Roller's 12 Steps To Becoming A Golf Addict, and detailed unforgettable experiences such as shooting 73 at Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey, ranked the No. 1 golf course in the United States by Golf magazine in 2009, and giving swing advice to none other than Lou Reed.
The Tennessee native Gill began playing at age 7 and was shooting in the 70s by the time he was in high school. He currently holds a zero handicap and has been instrumental in combining his love of golf and his influence through music with a lifelong mission of helping others.
In 1993 Gill started the Vinny Pro-Celebrity Invitational, benefitting golf programs throughout Tennessee. He has raised more than $3 million for junior golf programs in his home state, which helped him earn the PGA Distinguished Service Award, the association's highest honor.
At 54, the 20-time GRAMMY-winning Gill now could qualify for the PGA's Champions (senior) Tour if he wanted. And Young, the drummer for the GRAMMY-winning band No Doubt, might be able to join him someday.
Young was playing golf long before he was playing drums, and he's been known to shoot in the 60s. He's careful to hide his Mohawk under a hat when he tees it at top-notch private tracks, but he's also well aware that golfers are golfers, no matter the social standing.
"Once they find out you can play, they're cool with it," Young told BadGolfer.com in 2006. "It's hard for them to say something when I'm beating them."
As for Timberlake, he's of the "if you can't beat them, build your own course" mindset.
The six-time GRAMMY winner turned actor got serious about golf while on tour years back and now hosts a PGA Tour event in Las Vegas. He also refurbished his favorite course, Mirimichi, near where he grew up in Memphis, Tenn., to the tune of $16 million. Timberlake recently told The New York Times there are rhythmic realities that unite his two primary passions.
"Tempo is everything in music," Timberlake said. "I see a correlation to golf. The tempo and pace of a round are important."
Kenny G, a GRAMMY winner and club champion at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., agreed, telling Golf Digest in 2006 that he yearns for a time when he can let his game flow through him like it does when he's wailing away on his instrument.
"With the sax, I learned technique well enough so that it feels like part of my body, and I just express myself," said Kenny G. "That's where I want to get in golf."
Meanwhile, the latest multiplatinum star to pick up golf can be seen on a now-viral YouTube video, hitting putts, driving the ball and even giving swing lessons.
Yes, golf and music fans, it's 2011 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year Shakira, live from a plush club in Mexico. And yes, she's cognizant of one of golf's grand axioms: It's all in the hips.
(Matt Sycamore is a Pacific Northwest-based freelance music writer.)
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