The popular TV and stage star talks about taking up the game with a 7-iron, her guilt over divots and hitting an air shot in front of Justin Rose
Denise Van Outen is well known for her roles as a TV presenter or as Roxie Hart in the West End musical production of Chicago, but she has quickly been gaining acclaim as a champion for women's golf.
She swapped heels for hiking boots in 2009 when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief, and will happily confess to anyone that she's a real challenge junky. So when it came to taking up golf three years ago, she naturally found it addictive. We caught up with Denise while she was presenting at the American Golf Show in London, where she revealed her biggest regret, her celebrity playing partners and the worst shot she's ever hit...
If I'd known the fun I'd have and the places I'd have gone to, I would have taken up golf years ago. I really wish I'd done it younger. Watching young people play well is just so impressive, and I think parents need to encourage it because it's very sociable, creates conversation and I think that's what's missing. I'm sure if anyone said to their parents "can I have some pocket money to go to a driving range" they are far more likely to want that than giving them money to sit in a coffee shop with their iPad.
I started hitting a 7-iron when I first took up golf. I used to go out and play a round and I'd always want to go back to my trusty 7. I only started hitting a driver about a year ago and I love it now – it's definitely my favourite club as it's the biggest buzz for me when I catch one, but I'm hit or miss with my chipping and bunkers.
I have this fear of coming down on the ball because I feel like I'm messing up their course when I take divots! I know it's what you're supposed to do, but I always feel like I've ruined it, especially when it's so well-manicured. It's definitely the woman in me not wanting to mess it up. I haven't got an official handicap – which I'm going to get this year – but the way I've been playing recently is to about an 18. I have good days and bad days, but I like being out on the course as I find it a bit more challenging and I think it's the only way you can really learn.
My boyfriend Eddie plays and we play all the time together really. We'll get up on a Sunday morning and go to the range and play nine holes, and we do that quite a lot – we have a lot of fun and it's a good way to spend time together. I'm not a fair weather golfer by any means, I still enjoy it. People go for a walk in a park in the rain so for me it is the same sort of thing, you get a bit wet but it's still nice to be out playing. I do get really frustrated though if I'm having a bad game and Eddie does, too, so we take it out on each other. If I hit a really bad shot I blame him, but we just spend all the time laughing. Arguing and laughing, but every time we get to the clubhouse we laugh at our arguments and it's gone.
I like the challenge and the fact it's really sociable, because you're not in competition with other people, you're in competition with yourself, to get better. I think when you're just playing it for a hobby like me, it's a good mind game to keep you focused.
I've played with a lot of good celebrity players. Ronan Keating is a brilliant golfer, and Brian McFadden is a great golfer and I always have a laugh with him. Vinnie Jones is also an amazing golfer, but he ribs me the whole way around the course.
The worst shot I've ever hit? I played in a pro-am in Sardinia with Justin Rose and I hadn't really hit one off the tee with a driver before, so I just thought I'd give it some welly and go for it... and I fresh aired it. It was really funny, but my boyfriend hit a really good shot and it really annoyed me because he was acting all cool about it.
I've never had a hole-in-one. But I came close on the 13th at The Grove once. I hit it on to the green and I was so close to the pin. It was a uke – but now any time anyone asks me what my favourite hole in golf is I always say the 13th at The Grove.
My dream fourball would include Justin Rose, I think he's really good fun and a nice guy; Eddie my boyfriend because he'd be annoyed if I played with Justin without him; and Justin Timberlake as he's good friends with Justin Rose and he could sing to me as I go round.
I got involved with American Golf's shows (Denise presented the free events in London and Manchester) because they said they wanted to make it more fun and more accessible to women. I'm coming as a beginner and then you've got your ladies from the European Tour and I think it's really important to see both. That's the only way you're going to get people, especially women, to play. It's still intimidating for some women who want to take up the sport when you're playing with someone who is just amazing.