Football’s most famous hard man Vinnie Jones has toned down his behaviour for golf... He’s even given up the booze in a bid to lower his handicap
One day they’ll probably make a film about the life and times of Vinnie Jones, the quintessential English hard man. The tough guy from Watford had a successful if controversial footballing career, revelling in his fearsome reputation before transferring to Hollywood and becoming a tough- guy movie star.
Jones has now appeared in 70-odd movies since scaring the life out of opponents on the pitch for Wimbledon, Chelsea, Leeds and Wales. We caught up with Jones at the British Masters last year, where he revealed his passion for the game and his ght to be on his best behaviour on-course...
When I first took golf up during my footballing days, I wasn’t that bothered about it – it was just a good crack and an excuse to have a drink with the boys. But now when I’m not working I play every day if I can at my two clubs, Lakeside in Los Angeles and Plantation in Palm Springs. It’s great.
My putter just about goes everywhere with me: if I go to a meeting or an audition, I’ll get there early and will sit in the waiting room or in reception and I’ll just putt on the carpet. You can’t really do that with a driver.
Golf is obviously a different ball game to football – for starters, it’s a single man’s job ain’t it? It’s very individual, there’s nowhere to hide; but to be honest I didn’t do a lot of hiding on the football pitch.
I packed up drinking about four years ago to concentrate on golf. It’s a good way of knocking the booze demons on the head. It’s done the business on both counts – my handicap plummeted from 18 to five at one stage so it must have worked, though I slipped back to nine about six months ago. But I’m currently playing off seven. I try to hit balls every day.
It’s the hardest game in the world.
You can shoot 75 or 76 one day and the next you could be carding an 85 or 86! But golf can be funny sometimes – you don’t necessarily hit it the best but you score well, and vice-versa.
My best round ever was a 74 at Lakeside.
I earned a few bob that day. There’s always a game at our club, and I always like to have a bet as well – you can’t play without having a little wager. It gives it a bit of edge.
I behave myself pretty well on the course these days.
We have a membership process at Lakeside; it takes five or six months to get into the club, so I went off and learned the etiquette and everything about the game. At the end of the process the club asked why I’d “been to this club, been to that club” and I replied “I’ve gradually been picking up the etiquette and rules of the game, which I think is very important”.
I take my golf very seriously.
Who would have thought it? Vinnie Jones playing golf and not getting a red card! But I haven’t been banned from any golf club... yet.
My regular golfing buddies include Andy Garcia, who also loves puffing on a cigar while playing, and Joe Pesci. There are similarities with golf and acting. With golf, you’re on your own. You can’t blame anyone if things go wrong. Same in acting. Only you can learn your lines.
I enjoy playing in pro-ams, though you’re crapping yourself on the first tee – you’re so desperate to hit one down the middle of the fairway! Luckily I did today at The Grove, which happens to be my manor – I went to school nearby. That relaxes you and you can then start to enjoy it. The crowds make you concentrate a bit more.
My driving is solid.
But the strongest part of my game is around the green. I pick up a lot of shots there.
Vinnie’s favourite things...
I love Riviera in LA. It’s fantastic. In England, Centurion is a fantastic set-up where they’ve just finished the clubhouse.
Whistler, Canada. Great for golf – in the summer obviously – and fishing, too.
I’ve got a custom- built buggy with a Union Jack roof.
A few years ago, I was playing in Sean Connery’s golf day. In the clubhouse, there were big screens showing everybody teeing off. My ball went straight into the camera and smashed the lens.
Did you know?
He turned down a part in Snakes on a Plane with Samuel L Jackson – because he hates snakes. A tattoo on his leg marks Wimbledon’s famous FA Cup victory over Liverpool in 1988.