It’s been 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was released in the UK, and now two stars of the film series talk to us about setting up a range on set, giddy chats with Justin Rose and practising their swings off camera
Twins James and Oliver Phelps were 14 years old when they auditioned for the roles of Fred and George Weasley in the ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ movie so they could “get a day off school” – an incredible 17 years ago.
They were offered the parts, and have since starred in all eight movies and become millionaires. Now 31, we caught up with the infamous Weasley twins, discovering that golf has long been the Birmingham boys’ passion…
Oliver: Dad has always been into golf and introduced us to the game when we were eight or nine and we’ve played ever since. When we started filming Harry Potter we weren’t allowed to do any contact sports so golf became our no.1 pastime.
Rupert Grint and Tom Felton both played as well but Daniel (Radcliffe) didn’t get involved. Rupert was pretty keen. James went to Ibiza with a few lads while Rupert and I went to Southport and played Birkdale and Formby. It was beautiful. Birkdale has got to be my favourite course.
James: We’ve been lucky to play at some amazing courses all over the world – I’ve so many bag tags that it jingles like Father Christmas’s sleigh!
Oliver: After my honeymoon in California, I managed to sneak away to play Spyglass and Pebble Beach!
James: I went driving around Scotland and I managed to get to play Loch Lomond, which was just awesome. My gardener recently played Trump International in Aberdeen and he said it’s one of the best courses he’s played.
Oliver: I haven’t had a hole-in-one yet but my best round was at Spyglass. I was put out with three of the slowest golfers ever – it took over an hour to play four holes! I decided to go ahead and play on my own. Playing off the backs, I shot in the 70s which, off 11, I was really chuffed about and still don’t know how it happened. I haven’t shot it since. I went close to single digits last year but had two Medals where I completely bombed so that was that.
James: I play off 14 and when filming in Australia I played Royal Melbourne and ended up going round in four over – the round of my life. The greens were rolling at 12 or 13 on the stimp!
Oliver: People say ski-ing is a good holiday but, for me, you can’t beat a golf break – not only because there’s less chance of breaking your leg but because it’s for all ages; the handicap system enables you to play any level.
James: You can play the world no.1 and, thanks to the handicap system, you can still have a good game whereas if you play tennis against Novak Djokovic, you’re losing.
Oliver: The best thing we did with the Potter films is when we went to a driving range to shoot a promotional DVD. It was 2010 and we managed to swing a visit to Celtic Manor. We asked if we could play and if dad and his mate could join us. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. We later played golf in America with the head of Warner Home Video and he said ‘I can’t believe you did that’. We thought we were in trouble until he added “why didn’t I get an invite?”
James: Whenever we do work for the theme park at Universal in Florida, we stay in Orlando and a guy we know is a member of Bay Hill so we get to play there. One time we were sitting at breakfast, someone patted me on the shoulder and said ‘hope you’re having a great day?’ It was Arnold Palmer.
Oliver: We’ve also met Justin Rose, whose kids are into Harry Potter big time. He was talking about that and the whole time we were just thinking… it’s Justin Rose!!
James: I’d like to get down to single figures and get my name on another board at my club, Moor Hall.
Oliver: I’d love to get down to six – I’ve done it before, it’s attainable. Scratch is a pipedream though.
James: Filming involved long days, 12 to 13 hours, but you’re only in front of the camera for three or four so there’s a fair bit of waiting around – a great chance to practice your swing.
Oliver: We even set up our own driving range at one location. James: My favourite airport is Minneapolis – they’ve got a simulator with 15 different courses on it.