South Africa’s first Idols winner, Heinz Winckler, talks about attaining the perfect fluke, what people ask him most, his dream fourball and finishing a round and not being able to shower.
Given your profile, is there any particular line of questioning you’re asked when you tee up in a group of strangers?
A lot of people ask me, ‘Being a singer, what do you do during the week? Play golf?’ Most people think a singer only
works on weekends, or that a pastor or dominee only on Sundays. But it’s hard work throughout the week and
I wish I could play more golf. I probably only play a full 18 holes about once a month or so, unfortunately. But I love it every time I’m out there. We have three boys, Reuben , Simeon  and Lian , so that also keeps us very busy.
Are there any regular courses you play on?
I live in Somerset West, but have an official handicap through Playmoregolf, where my home course is listed as Simon’s Town, even though I’ve never played there! I’ve been playing golf for about 10 years, since we got back to South Africa around 2007-08. So I tend to play Boschenmeer in Paarl, Stellenbosch Golf Club and Strand. Quite recently I played at Devonvale and shot a 93, which you can imagine I was rather chuffed with, being off a 24-handicap. I’ve also played overseas, in Raleigh, North Carolina, when I was working
in the US.
May we presume you’ve never had a hole-in-one?
Not at all! I actually have the certificate [laughs]. It was on the 9th at Stellenbosch Golf Club. It’s uphill, about 145m,
and I hit a 6-iron, but couldn’t see the hole, only the top of the flag. When I got there I asked where my ball was. I couldn’t believe it when I found it in the hole. I was with my dad and when we went back to the 19th I bought drinks for a few people, but the bar was packed and I didn’t have the guts to tell everyone!
What would you say is the strongest part of your game?
I suppose it’s the same as most high-handicappers. I’m consistent off the tee and manage to find most fairways. I’m even consistent with my approach shots. My long-irons aren’t bad. But it’s around the greens – my short game – that lets me down. Those little pitches … they say practice makes perfect and that’s probably true about a short game. But I’m putting
a lot better than I used to, thanks to a friend’s advice, and I find I’m making a lot of those 2-3 metre putts now. Anywhere you can save a shot here and there helps plenty.
Have you noticed any effects of the severe drought in the Western Cape in any of the places you’ve played?
Actually, yes. I played at my son’s school’s golf day at Strand and the showers were closed. If anyone wanted to shower before prize-giving they needed to go home. But even though we haven’t had enough rain, the courses generally look good.
Are you an avid golf follower?
My three boys come with me to the driving range, but the bug hasn’t bitten them yet. My seven-year-old is more interested in watching rugby or cricket on TV as opposed to golf. I enjoy watching golf, especially the bigger tournaments. But, as you know, it can take up a whole day, so often I’ll catch the highlights. You then see just how many great shots the pros hit!
What type of golfing partner are you?
I try not to get too serious on the course. It’s about having fun. I take time out to reflect on the course; most of them are so beautiful. I’m quite relaxed, but I can have a short temper with myself. I’ve hit the ground with my club on occasion if I’ve played a couple of bad shots. When I started, I didn’t know all the rules and etiquette and there were
a few times when I didn’t mark my ball correctly, or I walked over someone’s putting line … they
didn’t take too kindly to that!
The 39-year-old studied law at Stellenbosch University, but won South Africa’s first season of Idols in 2002. In 2003 Winckler came fourth in World Idols, with Kelly Clarkson finishing second. Idols started a new profession in his life, which has seen him nominated for, and winning, numerous awards. In 2016 he released his first Christian contemporary worship album. In 2015, Winckler starred in the romantic comedy Mooirivier.
– This article first appeared in the December issue of Compleat Golfer