My life in golf: Nigel Mansell


Nigel Mansell is one of the most successful and popular F1 drivers Britain has ever produced.

He won 31 races – a British record until he was overtaken by current F1 champion Lewis Hamilton – and finally secured a long-deserved first world title in 1992.

He followed that by winning America's IndyCar championship and is still the only driver to hold the two coveted titles simultaneously.

But there were tough times, too. Mansell suffered severe burns from a petrol spillage in his first GP and unforgettably fainted as he tried to push his stricken Lotus over the line in Dallas in 1984.

Two years later, a spectacular blowout in the final race of the season in Melbourne denied him his first title.

"It gives me a lot of enjoyment that despite all the challenges and what we were faced with, at the end of the day we achieved an awful lot," he tells TG.

"What opportunity I did have, I held on, grasped it."

Mansell has displayed those same fighting qualities in his second career in sport – because golf has not just been a passionate hobby for the Worcestershire-born driver.

He has taken his pursuit of excellence into golf too. A three-handicapper who has been as low as scratch, he once owned his own course. This is his golfing tale...

I love the game. Everything about it. The people who play and the way it's supported throughout the world.

It was the complete opposite from my main job, but I really enjoy the fact you can play in competitions, with your best mates, on your own and with people from different nationalities who don't understand a word you're saying! But you still have a good time. Golf is the best sport designed by man!

I've had some incredible on-course experiences. I played in the Australian Open at Royal Sydney in 1988 when I was able to get exemption thanks to my friendship with Greg Norman and David Graham. I didn't sleep the night before, I just tossed and turned and
I gripped the club as tightly as you grip a racing car steering wheel.

I've also played in the British Senior Championship a few times, the highlight being shooting 66 on the last day at Royal St David's – the second-best final-day score out of 80 players, which was fantastic.

For the past two years I've won the World Senior Champions, firstly in Alberque in New Mexico and last year at Lake Tahoe in California.

It's a strokeplay and matchplay event and I defended my strokeplay title last year and will be going over to Lake Tahoe again in August to hopefully clinch a hat-trick. I'm as competitive as I was on the race track – I always try to win when I'm out on the course.

I'm down to a three handicap at the moment, close to being off two again, which is pretty good for an old man! Many years ago I was off scratch and close to +1, but then it's all about putting the time in. If you do that then you can get better.

I still have fond memories of Woodbury Park in Devon, which I owned for 16 years. It was a fantastic place – we had PGA Championships there, Senior Tour events and qualifying school for the PGA main tour for four years. My home club these days is La Moye on Jersey while my home club in America is Bel Air, just outside Tampa and the oldest golf club in Florida.

I reckon some serious changes need to be made with regards to the game's future: you don't just build courses for the elite 'bombers' of the world, but should deliver courses which everyone can comfortably play including old players like me. Yes, the 'bombers' can still hit it miles but if they hit it the wrong way they should be penalised.

Too many courses now are wide open and I don't think that's fair for 70-80 per cent of the competitors. That's my personal view as a golf fan.

I'd like to get my handicap down to scratch and get in some good tournaments again. But firstly I'd like to get fully fit again and just enjoy the opportunity of going to good courses, playing in charity events and raising funds for such great causes.

As for F1, I'm still very much interested and indeed active as a steward. I still miss racing. But I don't miss the new regulations and current car.

As a racing fan, the driver should be able to drive the car without any of the outside influences [he is making reference to the controversial radio ban with pits-based teams].

You give more back to the driver to show their talent he has in the car. I won my title in a bucket!