The SA-raised former England cricketer on the difference between batting and playing golf, his favourite courses and fourball, and why he enjoys the game.
At what age did you start playing golf?
I was a junior member at Durban Country Club. My dad used to go there in the late afternoons and I would join him as a 12-year-old. We would play nine to 12 holes in the twilight or go to the range here and there, and when I came to boarding school in England when I was 15, I also played for the Harrow School team. There was a nice little nine-hole course at the school.
Why do you enjoy golf?
I don’t think I know a cricketer who doesn’t play golf! It’s a nice way to connect with teammates when you’re on tour and get your mind into something else; it’s a nice way to meet like-minded people. I enjoy the competitive aspect of it. I have to say I take it quite seriously; I’m not one who does it for a muck-about. I would rather play with good golfers.
What are the similarities between batting and playing golf?
I wish I’d learned the proper golf swing when I was younger, so that I had better basics. In terms of understanding the golf swing, I have probably only learned that over the past two years. I think, mentally, the main similarities between the two sports are knowing it’s about one ball at a time and trying to stay nice and calm. In terms of your processes and preparing mentally, golf and cricket are probably the same.
Which golf courses stand out for you in the UK?
I am a member at Berkshire Golf Club in Ascot and I also really enjoy Sunningdale. Then, of course, going up to Scotland, courses like Kingsbarns and St Andrews are real treats. But I am a sucker for any sort of invites and courses to play. I’ll go anywhere to play.
Any favourite courses in South Africa?
I am a member at Simola, which is definitely my favourite course in South Africa, because it is my home course [Nick’s family lives in Knysna] and I have played there for a long time. Did you manage to play while on tour with England? I have played in Sri Lanka, India, Australia and New Zealand. I also played a bit in the US in the past, so I have been able to play all over the world.
What is your handicap?
I am off a three at the moment!
What is your favourite club in your bag?
I think I like my driver the most. I’ve got a TaylorMade M6. It would be cool if I could go about five yards more but when I am playing well, I am more of an accurate driver. I would rather have a day where I am not stuck in bushes. I try to get more of a punch action instead of going for a wild swing.
Who would play in your ideal fourball?
I would go for Sergio Garcia, who I have enjoyed watching over the years; he just looks like such a fun guy. I have played with Brian Lara, and then probably someone like Michael Jordan too. I would say those three would be nice partners.
Which other English cricketers are handy golfers?
Andrew Strauss is quite a good player. In terms of the current guys, Zak Crawley is apparently really good. I think he plays off like a +2. I have played a bit with Jos Buttler and Joe Root; we played at Leopard Creek once. Joe is as decent a player as he is a batter and Jos gives it a good whack when he wants to.
Do you follow golf?
Yeah, I watch the PGA Tour more than the European Tour.
And who is your favourite golfer?
Brooks Koepka. I am not sure I love him as a person but I really like his swing. I’d like to think that when I put my golf top on, Koepka and I are similar.
– Interview by Andre Huisamen
– This Q&A first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!