Growing up in California, baseball was my number-one sport, but I caddied all year round at Los Robles Golf Course in Thousand Oaks. My dad—who, like me, was a professional baseball player before he became an actor—was a real good golfer, so I started playing with him when I was fourteen. By the time I was nineteen, I was down to a five- or six-handicap, and I continued playing through my mid-twenties, but then I hardly played golf at all until I was forty-seven or forty-eight. I'm glad I had started young, because I had a basic swing to fall back on. I play off a ten now, but I also now have more time to spend with the game itself, and I think I can get back down to a six or seven.
"Golf is the only sport I know of in which you can play absolutely horribly all the way through—you can play seventeen bad holes—but then birdie eighteen and you're ready to go! You want to play another eighteen. And vice versa—you can play really well for seventeen holes and then you double-bogey eighteen and you're ready to throw your bag in the water. It really is a game like life. It goes up and down and all the best laid plans fall apart, and you can surprise yourself and get lucky. But I think that as you get older and enjoy the experience of simply being on a pretty golf course, it's nice to go out and have a good time and just try to keep things steady.
"I played in my first pro-am last year at a Nationwide Tour event at the Cliffs in South Carolina, and this year I played at the Bob Hope. I got to play with Justin Leonard, John Daly, Peter Jacobsen and Hank Kuehne. They're all really fun to play with, and I was surprised at how coherently they played as a foursome—how they were able to remain so cool and calm about everybody else's game while they were inside their own. It was like going out with a few friends, just that one of them is really good. I hope to play in a lot more pro-ams.
"I haven't played too many different golf courses, but in 1968 I was filming something for Disney and was in Ireland for four months, and my dad was there with me. We played a lot there, really had some fun. I remember Lahinch being a very interesting golf course with all sorts of different lies. And I've played a lot in Maine, where I was born, and in California. I've played Bel-Air, which is beautiful and unique, and Riviera, and I belong to a hilly, weird little golf course in L.A. called Mountain Gate that's a lot of fun. These days I'm playing Bighorn, where Goldie [Hawn, his wife] and I have a place, and other courses around Palm Springs. Plus I play around Vancouver a lot, where my son Wyatt lives—he plays junior hockey there.
"I mostly play golf by myself. I've always enjoyed that. My dad had the same habit. One of the nicest days I've had in a long time was in Hawaii on that course that Charles Schwab built [Nanea Golf Club]. It's all tall grass, with no trees. It's like Hawaiian links. I went out by myself with a caddie, and I kept putting it where he told me to. It was a special day.
"I was a pretty decent cheater in my time, but now I like to play one ball and count every stroke. I like to feel as though I'm out there talking to the course, seeing what it throws at me and trying to deal with it. I take pleasure in seeing how I can do against that course, so when I do have a good day, I've really earned it. Golf can present a lot of signs about who you are, and I guess this is a sign of maturity. It's been a long time since I've used the foot wedge.
"When my dad was seventy-two years old, he shot a sixty-seven at Los Robles, and we sat down after and had about twelve thousand beers while he re-created every shot of that round. I've never broken seventy—I'd like to do that. I think if I can get down to a real consistent five, then I'd have the opportunity to walk out there and have a truly great day."
Movie Star Turn Analysis by Nick Faldo
Kurt has good posture (1), but I'd like to see him liven up his legs with more knee flex and more weight on the balls of his feet. His takeaway (2) is excellent, wide and on plane, but then he goes soft as a noodle (3). The big kink in the left knee lets you see the right knee, which you shouldn't from this angle. It's a classic reverse pivot: Too much weight stays on the left side. Also, his hands get squashy. There should be more distance between the right hand and right shoulder. The real culprit here is his lower back, which he hasn't rotated enough. He may think he has, because the shoulders have turned, but in fact he hasn't created much resistance between his hips and his lower back. Being a Hollywood actor, I'm sure he could get some fancy gym girl to help him increase that stretch. Coming down (4), he's throwing the club. You can see how open the clubface is (5). Condo right! But his follow-through (6) is very good. His right hip is facing the target, he's up on his right toe, and his club finishes on the same plane it started on. When Kurt's timing is right, he probably pops it along quite nicely.
Scorecard: Kurt Russell
Best Score 71 at Los Robles, Thousand Oaks, CA
Favorite Courses Bel-Air Country Club, CA; Bighorn (Mountains and Canyons courses), CA
Equipment Callaway Great Big Bertha II driver; Callaway fairway woods; TaylorMade 18-degree Rescue Mid; Callaway X-16 irons; Odyssey 2-Ball putter