One of South Africa’s most decorated rugby stars, Bryan Habana, shares how golf has been a part of his journey and how it may become even more so, writes BEN KARPINSKI in Compleat Golfer.
When did you start the game, and was it something you enjoyed in the beginning?
It was in my late teens and I thoroughly enjoyed it from the beginning. I started playing with my mates at King Edward VII School, but it wasn’t until I started playing rugby professionally that I [regularly] enjoyed golf. From a rugby perspective within South Africa, there were always golf days to be a part of, either for your local union or the Springboks. When I started playing golf it wasn’t with any teammates in particular or at any specific course, I just loved getting out there and playing. We were also fortunate enough through rugby to get golf club affiliation at a course that would become a partner of the union.
What has been your most memorable golfing experience?
Getting to play the Fancourt Links with Ernie Els was pretty awesome. I am not going to give out what my score was, but let’s just say I would have done well as an opening batsman for the Proteas. Watching Ernie go through the second round under par on a links course that is rated the No 1 course in SA is incredibly intimidating, and seeing how effortless it was for him was surreal. He was also so much fun to be around, which made the experience even better. Sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-three 17th was by far the highlight of what was a rather average day, scoring-wise, for me.
Who were the big golfers in the Springbok set-up during your playing days?
We had quite a few, but Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw and Schalk Burger were without a doubt the keenest.
Do you like to walk or take a cart?
I am most definitely a cart person.
We all know South African rugby players love their golf, but how did your French counterparts compare during your time playing over there?
The French are not big on golf, to be honest. There were probably about two or three who were keen, but nothing at all like the South African rugby players’ love of golf.
When it comes to watching sport on TV, where does live golf stack up in terms of screen time?
Ah, pretty high. I don’t watch on a constant weekly basis, but the big tournaments will see me glued to the golf until the early hours of the morning.
If you had a choice of any course in the world, and any three sports stars to make up a fourball, where, and who would they be?
It would definitely have to be Augusta National and I’d go Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Kelly Slater, although I’d probably go as a caddie, as I’d be rather apprehensive about my army golf [left, right, left, right, left] and embarrassing myself.
Now that you’ve hung up your boots, are you looking to get out on to the golf course more?
I would love to try to play more and improve my game. Having also launched a digital sports marketing agency called Retroactive, I might have to spend quality time on the course with clients and potential clients. It’s something I’m looking forward to, especially as one of my partners is a keen golfer.
You have a young son. Would you want him to become a pro golfer or a pro rugby player?
Oooooh, tough one. Golf is probably the front-runner, to be honest. Although, if his golf is anything like mine, it’s unfortunately going to have to be rugby.
During your rugby days, how often was playing golf a part of touring life?
A big part. We would get out on a course wherever we were in the world on our day off, once a week. Super Rugby tours to Australasia were great for golf as there are some fantastic courses there, but the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England was by far the best. We got to play Close House, The Belfry, Queenwood, Wentworth and The Berkshire during the tournament.
– This article first appeared in the December issue of Compleat Golfer