Since calling time on his snooker career in 2010, John Parrott has turned his attention from the baize to the fairways, becoming a highly accomplished golfer.
The 1991 World Champion and BBC pundit was well travelled during his 27 seasons as a snooker pro, but he has also been to all corners of the British Isles and beyond to sample some of the world’s greatest golf courses.
Parrott, whose home club is Formby in Liverpool, remarked: “I used to play golf in June and July and a bit in August and that was it. The clubs were then in the garage for the rest of the year and it was time to focus on snooker. I played off a handicap of 14 and was alright without being marvellous. It wasn’t until I packed in snooker that I started having lessons and began playing more golf. I managed to get my handicap down to two but then got a bit of a nosebleed! I’m currently playing off three.”
Golf is a popular pastime for many of those around the World Snooker Tour and John has had no shortage of playing partners. However, when it comes to standard there aren’t too many that can top the former world number two.
“I’ve played with Shaun Murphy and Stuart Bingham who are fantastic swingers of a golf club. Matthew Selt is another really good player, as is Stephen Hendry. Quite a lot of the lads are good golfers actually, but I’d say out of the ones I’ve played with Shaun Murphy is the best of them. I was actually the lowest but he has just got a handicap of scratch at his club!
“We get two or three mornings off when we are working at the Crucible and try to get off and play together. It is our little piece of sanctuary amidst the madness of the World Championship.”
Here are John’s top ten favourites courses…
10. Ballybunion, Ireland
This remote links course in South West Ireland was opened in 1893. Former US President Bill Clinton played the course in September 1998 and there is a statue of him holding a golf club in the town to commemorate his visit.
John says: “The stretch from the 7th to the 11th is sensational both in terms of scenery and the quality of the holes. It’s a must play course if you ever get the opportunity.”
9. Royal Aberdeen, Scotland
The club was initially set up in 1780, making it the sixth oldest golf club in the world. The course record is 64 and is currently held by Rory McIlroy.
John says: “Royal Aberdeen probably has one of the best front nines in Britain. It’s just a brilliant course to play.
8. Cruden Bay, Scotland
Cruden Bay was designed by four-time Open Champion Old Tom Morris, who was commissioned by Great North of Scotland Railway. The course was opened in 1899.
John says: “It’s a very simple but fantastic course. One that a lot of people won’t have heard of, but it is a real gem beside the sea.”
The Ailsa Course at Turnberry
7. Turnberry, Scotland
The Ailsa course has staged the Open Championship on four occasions (1977, 1986, 1994 and 2009). The courses at Turnberry were used as an RAF airfield during World War II.
John says: “It’s a sensational course. One of the best I’ve played, but it’s a real challenge.”
6. Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland
Regarded as the ‘Home of Golf.’ The game has been played on the ancient links of St Andrews since the 15th century. The Old Course has hosted the Open Championship no less than 29 times
John says: “I love the variety of shots you can play to each green. I love the fact that when you play it you see the white fences where all the spectators have stood for all of those amazing moments in golfing history.”
5. Royal Birkdale, England
The links in Birkdale will play host to this year’s Open Championship. Padraig Harrington was the winner last time the event was played there.
John says: “The fairest golf course on the Open rota. It’s a stunning place to play and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time I tee it up there.”
4. North Berwick, Scotland
Situated on the edge of the Firth of Forth, it’s the 13th oldest club in the world having been founded in 1832.
John says: “It’s old fashioned and quirky. It feels as if it has been untouched and is really as much fun as you could possibly have on a golf course.”
3. Lahinch, Ireland
Described as the ‘St Andrews of Ireland’, Lahinch is home to the South of Ireland Amateur Championship, which has been won by the likes of Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.
John says: “The most natural stunning piece of terrain I’ve played on. I went there with my boys and had a great time.”
2. Pebble Beach, USA
One of the most famous courses in the world, Pebble Beach has hosted the US Open on five occasions. The most recent winner there was Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
John says: “I went there for my 50th birthday and played a four-ball with my family, which will never be forgotten. It’s a brilliant experience and a great course to play.”
The magnificent clubhouse at Formby
1. Formby, England
Right on John’s doorstep near his home, Formby comes out on top for the former Crucible king. The club was founded in 1884 and hosted the Curtis Cup and the British Amateur Championship.
John says: “I’m totally biased and I wouldn’t want to be a member anywhere else. It’s got not one, but two great courses. As you can imagine with my other selections, it’s a stunning links course beside the sea.”
Formby – picture by Kevin Murray