Five past and present soccer players who’ve really caught the golfing bug

With Gareth Bale putting his name to this week's European Tour event, the Cazoo Open in Wales, we look at some of the top stars trying to crack golf.

The life of an elite soccer player is one that many dream of living. It involves breathtaking experiences, ridiculous amounts of money and, most of the time, being very successful.

However, they also have a large amount of spare time when not training or playing in front of thousands of adoring fans.

As a result, numerous players have become regulars on golf courses around Europe, with one even aspiring to reach the Seniors Tour.

Here, Planet Sport looks at five soccer players who are now completely hooked on the great sport.

Lee Sharpe

After making 193 appearances for Manchester United, Lee Sharpe has firmly switched sports to concentrate on what he hopes will be a successful golf career.

Currently playing at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds, the 50-year-old's handicap fluctuates from one to four.

Describing golf as an "obsession", Sharpe and some of his United team-mates had to sneak off to play behind the boss's back. Sir Alex Ferguson said the sport "saps the energy out of you and damages your back."

He's played in three tournaments already, including the Ian Woosnam Invitational Day, in which Sharpe finished T23rd, level with the former Masters champion.

In the next few years, he's set himself the goal of competing against the likes of Ernie Els and Bernhard Langer on the Staysure Tour for the over 50s.

Harry Kane

After captaining his England side to within a whisker of glory at this summer's Euros, the Tottenham Hotspur forward will be taking a deserved rest before the start of the new 2021/22 Premier League campaign.

When he's not finding the back of the net, England's star striker spends most of his spare time on the golf course, describing the sport as his "greatest weakness".

The 27-year-old has been playing golf since he was 16 and has managed to whittle his handicap down to an impressive four.

Unlike Sharpe's experience with Sir Alex, Kane's former manager, Jose Mourinho, was more than happy for his striker to go golfing.

In fact, last year, Kane was seen teeing it up with world number 33, Tommy Fleetwood, in a three-hole challenge and Mourinho even joined them at the Centurion Club.

Despite losing on the second play-off hole to Fleetwood, Kane showed his golfing talent as he went toe-to-toe with the five-time European Tour winner.

Alan Shearer

From one prolific Premier League forward to the next. Not only is Alan Shearer the Premier League's all-time top scorer with an eyewatering 260 goals, he's a more than handy golfer too, playing off six.

The former Newcastle United striker visits The Masters every year and even met up there with Danny Willett when his fellow Englishman triumphed at Augusta National in 2016.

Before the 2020 Betfred British Masters, the 50-year-old teed it up with presenter Dan Walker and European Tour stars Lee Westwood and Graeme Storm in a One Club Challenge.

Storm and Shearer were underdogs to triumph, but won quite convincingly against Walker and 25-time European Tour winner Westwood.

Even though Shearer has had the experience of taking a penalty in front of 80,000 people at Wembley in the semi-finals of the 1996 Euros, standing on the first tee box at the BMW Pro-Am at Wentworth is still the most nervous he's ever felt.

In an interview, Shearer said: "I was shaking like a leaf... with 20,000 people around, you don't want to make a prat of yourself!"

John Terry

A legend at Stamford Bridge for his highly successful 19-year stay with Chelsea, the five-time Premier League winner joins the list of top-class soccer players who boast a single-digit handicap.

Playing since he was 14 years old, Terry has a handicap of nine. Despite being predominately right-footed on the soccer pitch, the former England captain is left-handed when it comes to golf.

When Terry left Chelsea, the Aston Villa manager at the time, Steve Bruce, thought the best chance of him signing the defender would be to take him for a round of golf.

Bruce and his son Alex took on the current Villa assistant manager and his brother Paul, with the Terrys easing to a 6&5 victory.

Gareth Bale

Back in 2013, Gareth Bale had just become the world's most expensive player in a deal worth £86million after switching from Tottenham to Real Madrid.

While still offering plenty on the pitch, the Welshman doesn't hide his love for golf and it's caused some controversy among Real Madrid fans.

Indeed, after Wales qualified for the 2020 European Championships, Bale and his teammates gave a cheeky recognition of that reputation by celebrating with a flag that stated, 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.'

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Bale has put his name to this week's European Tour event, the Cazoo Open in Wales, and the man who was nicknamed 'The Golfer' in the Madrid dressing room boasts a handicap of four.

With his very own three-hole golf course at his house in Wales, the tricky winger will hope to knock that down to scratch.

They're not just any three holes either.

In his back garden lie replicas of some of the best holes in the world of golf: the infamous 17th at TPC Sawgrass, the 'Postage Stamp' 8th hole at Royal Troon and the 12th at Augusta National. A golfer's dream.

Sponsored by TaylorMade, Bale has had many opportunities to showcase his golf game and even try out some of the hardest shots ever pulled off. He wasn't far off perfectly replicating Tiger Woods' incredible putt at Sawgrass.

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