The rockers ripping up the fairways

ALTHOUGH it would be impossible to think of any other list of rock musicians in which saxophonist Kenny G and pop singer Justin Timberlake tower over iconic figures such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, it seems the game of golf's handicap system is impervious to the merits of an artist's back catalogue.

In a review of rock music's 100 best golfers published in the December issue of the American magazine Golf Digest, Young, whose mother was an amateur champion in Canada, is ranked 72nd on a handicap of 18.6 while Dylan, who plays at Malibu country club in California, is 63rd off 17. "I swing it like a baseball bat," America's poet once admitted.

Currently bringing sexy back on his latest release, Timberlake, formerly a member of boy band N'Sync and now one of pop's most successful solo artists, also brings the clubhead back smoothly enough to boast a handicap of 6 and a share of 15th place. As if going out with actress Cameron Diaz wasn't enough to be going on with, Timberlake has acquitted himself well in a number of pro-ams.

Winner of a Grammy award for his soft rock instrumentals, Kenny G pipped scratch country singer Vince Hill for the No 1 spot on the poll thanks to a handicap of plus 0.6. As well as selling millions of records, Kenny G is the strokeplay champion at Sherwood Country club in California. He's also been known to card 67 at Riviera in Los Angeles. "But that was from the middle tees with no rough," cautioned the musician. "I don't want to ever fool myself that I'm better than I am."

Alice Cooper, still touring at 58, told the magazine that golf had saved his life. In his heyday when he went on stage with a boa constrictor and drank a bottle of bourbon every night, the musician found salvation in playing 36 holes a day. "I traded one addiction for another," confesses the 5.3 handicapper. "But golf is the crack of sports. Once I took it seriously, I loved it and I've never tired of playing. It absolutely saved my life."

While the list is based on golfers who play in America and have United States Golf Association handicaps, there are a number of British musicians who figure among rock's most capable players. Leading the way in a share of 11th spot with the indomitable Cooper is former Glasgow University student Lloyd Cole.

Now a solo artist, Cole founded the band Lloyd Cole and the Commotions during the Eighties and the musicians were all keen golfers. Once the group's bass player, Lawrence Donegan is now the golf correspondent for the Guardian and a member at Archerfield in East Lothian.

Other British musicians who know their way round a links include Alan White, drummer with the prog-rock band Yes who plays off 5.6, crooner Engelbert Humperdinck, off 8.1 aged 70, Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood who plays with Willie Nelson in Hawaii, and former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters, currently touring Dark Side of The Moon, who has a handicap of 11.7 at Sunningdale. "It's so ironic that there are so many golf freaks among rock 'n' rollers," admitted Fleetwood.

Although he plays off 20, former Hollie Graham Nash has savoured a hole in one. Fellow member of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Steven Stills, who introduced Nash to the sport, is a better golfer with a handicap of 15.9. Stills, a member at Bel-Air, was friendly with the late Payne Stewart and would teach the golfer guitar licks in exchange for swing tips.

Dominated by male musicians, there are a few female singers who enjoy the game, including Celine Dion, ranked 62nd off 16.8, and Anne Murray, the first Canadian to top the US charts in the Seventies, who has a handicap of 11. Although she now plays less often, Dion owns her own course.

Golf's appeal extends across the spectrum of music with Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank, playing off 6.3 at Lakeside in Los Angeles. Zappa recalls once playing with Curtis Strange in the Bob Hope. "Not only was he really helpful, I got a letter from him a few days later thanking me for the round. You don't see old-school manners and professionalism like that in the music world. You see it a lot in golf."

In R&B, Smokey Robinson, once of the Miracles and a key figure at Motown, plays off 14.8 at Mountain Gate in California while rapper Snoop Dogg expects to get round in 90 off 18. Andre 3000 of Outkast is more of an occasional golfer who plays off 33.

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