Tom Chaplin, lead singer of rock band Keane and now also a respected solo artist, will be performing on a totally different stage this week, when he plays for the second time as an amateur in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Here he gives his thoughts about golf, life and Hugh Grant’s putting stroke, as he gets ready to return to St Andrews.
Question: Are you looking forward to playing again?
Tom Chaplin: I certainly am. Sadly I’ve been so busy that the only thought running through my mind is that I’m going to go out of bounds down the 1st at St Andrews like last time. That’s what turning up without any practice will do to you.
Question: What is so special about the Alfred Dunhill Links?
Tom Chaplin: It’s a beautiful part of the world. Then there’s the event itself, impeccably laid on; a cracking format for us starry-eyed amateurs on three of the greatest golf courses in the world.
Question: You played with Ben Evans in 2015. How did you do?
Tom Chaplin: He got in on an invite and played beautifully. It was so good to see my mate up there contending with some big names and looking right at home. He finished tied for 16th which went a long way to securing his full card for 2016. My own performance was very erratic. Enough said.
Question: Who else did you play with in the fourballs?
Tom Chaplin: Hugh Grant, Andy Garcia, Sam McTrusty, David Howell and Dave Horsey – what a fascinating mixture of different golfing companions. Hugh Grant has a putting stroke that even David Howell would die for.
Question: Any amusing stories?
Tom Chaplin: Walking down the 17th at St Andrews with Ben, I said “well done mate, no bogeys so far today”. Having not played the Old Course before, little did I know how treacherous the 17th is. He made five and hasn’t forgiven me.
Question: How good is your golf? How much do you play?
Tom Chaplin: Well I swing it like a scratch golfer, but my short game is a disaster. Hence being off five.
Question: How does golf fit in with the life of a rock singer?
Tom Chaplin: I take my clubs on tour with me – particularly to America. Often I’ll just phone up a local course and see if I can tag along with someone else. They’re pretty amenable to that in the States. I’ve met some great people over the years.
Question: Can you compare the similarities with appearing on stage: nerves, performing in front of an audience, or is it totally different?
Tom Chaplin: Nothing is worse than the nerves on a golf tee in front of a big crowd. Wembley, Live 8, arena tours – I’ve done all of that with my music and I’ve never felt as frightened as when I teed up on the 1st at St Andrews. As I stood over my shot, the ball just seemed like it was absolutely miles away.
Question: When you stand on the first tee, what is your mindset?
Tom Chaplin: I think I’ve realised that the best approach is to attack. Given that your pro is more than likely to make par or better, the best thing for the team is just to go for broke. I’m quite long, so I’m going to just try and pump some drives down there and make birdies.
Question: What do you think of the three courses – Old Course, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns?
Tom Chaplin: All wonderful and all quite different from each other. The weather was very benign in 2015. Given that I grew up playing links golf, I’d be quite happy to see some wind and rain – I think it’ll play to my advantage. There were some silly low scores from the amateurs in 2015.
Question: Where are you with your music? Keane sold more than ten million records worldwide, but there is a ‘hiatus’ at the moment, is that right?
Tom Chaplin: Yep – and that’s how it remains for now.
Question: You have recorded a solo album The Wave, released last October. How happy were you with that?
Tom Chaplin: The last two years making and touring this solo record have coincided with and helped to make them two of the happiest years of my life. I’m desperate to get cracking with the next project. So keep your eyes peeled.
Question: You have also been playing some solo shows – your first solo gigs for many years. How did you enjoy that?
Tom Chaplin: Well, I’m happier on a stage than anywhere else, so I feel pretty lucky.