Fresh off his fifth-placed finish in the final Formula One race of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, McLaren driver Lando Norris made a pitstop into the DP World Golf Performance Centre at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai for a promotional day with DP World and Tommy Fleetwood.
Golf Digest Middle East got to know more about the 24-year-old’s fast growing obsession with the game of golf, his number one hobby.
Three years into your golfing addiction Lando, how are you finding it and how’s the handicap looking these days?
Once I started playing golf three years ago you kind of get the competitive side of it. That feeling of hitting a good shot and then always thinking you can do a little bit better and always wanting to do that a little better. As soon as you have that drug of competition and success in both, then I fell in love with it more.
Then you can just connect a lot more with the people who are playing because you understand what they’re going through. I think once you understand it, it makes sense. Like the first time I ever held a golf club in my life I just looked at it like “what is this”? Now it’s the complete opposite, now I am addicted to it.
You’ve played at Jumeirah Golf Estates and the Majlis at Emirates Golf Club before, how’d you find them and the other UAE golf courses in general?
Yeah, I played in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic Pro-Am with Bernd Wiesberger, he then went onto join LIV Golf, but now he’s coming back to the DP World Tour! Lovely guy though, had a great day out with him and his caddy.
But I really think I’ve played every course in Dubai. I have spent the last five New Years here always with my friends, I love it. Name a course and I have probably played it; Dubai Hills, Emirates Golf Club, The Els Club, Dubai Creek, Trump International, I have done all of them!
I have a partnership with Topgolf as well so I have played that at Emirates Golf Club which is great. I used to also have lessons at The Els Club Dubai with Sujjan Singh whenever I came through here, but I travel back tomorrow so sadly no opportunity this time.
When you are on ‘Tour’ are you able to squeeze any golf in? Do your clubs get to come with you?
Yes and no. Since I stopped playing as much because of my back, then I haven’t as much. But I used to take them everywhere with me!
It got to a point when I’m away, I watch the golf on the tv all weekend, even though the time zones are always annoying I have to stay up late sometimes watching tournaments and I would stay up until 2, 3 or 4am to watch the golf and then get up and race the next day! But I would travel with my clubs quite a bit even though now I have enough clubs left around the world that I can just pick them up!
How are the other F1 drivers at golf? I know Carlos Sainz is a keen golfer. Is there a bit of rivalry there with the golf?
Between me and Carlos Sainz definitely. In fact Lance Stroll played quite a bit, not as much now, but he’s pretty good. Then because of the Netflix Cup Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly are playing a bit, but me and Carlos are definitely the most dedicated.
Alex’s girlfriend is a pro so he plays when he can. But Carlos is the best I would say, he plays the most and he’s been doing it the longest too. So that’s my excuse for not beating him!
Are there any similarities to golf and Formula One with the mental side of things?
It is exactly the same. If I mess up a corner, it’s the same as messing up a golf shot. The laps not over, the hole’s not over, but it’s how can you recover and how can you try and make that next shot even better, therefore the mentality of it’s exactly the same. Even the same amount of frustration by shanking it into the woods or doing something stupid, is the same as locking your tyre into turn one.
You run wide on the track, is the same as being off the fairway. The thought process is exactly the same as well, but there are somethings that are different as there is a lot more fear in Formula One than there is in golf. But I think the thought process of achieving success and overcoming obstacles and bad shots and mistakes and not letting that affect you and then trying to go on and win or do whatever you can is the same.
Can you use golf as an excuse for your recovery and keeping fit?
That’s what I tell my trainer! Definitely for me it’s recovery because it’s still takes my mind away from Formula One and from overthinking about how I maybe messed up something and constantly think “Can I do that better? Why did I do that”?
So it does take my mind away from it so I can always come back with a clearer head. I am still very frustrated when I play golf but at a certain point it maybe is not as good as what it could be if I just sat at home.
I love just going out golfing with friends for the day. I honestly don’t think there are many better things in life than going out and playing on a sunny day and taking some time out with your friends. So for me it is recovery. But just a different type of recovery, more like mental recovery rather than physical.
Guessing with a bit of an off season now, will you be able to get some golf in?
Some will be in Monaco where I live, and some will be back in the UK with my parents. I grew up in Somerset in the countryside, so the weather is pretty grim and the golf courses tend to get muddy very quickly. There’s definitely no such thing as a golf buggy down there!
But just going and playing there with my brother, my dad might come out and play with a few friends. But the courses there are nothing like these courses in Dubai. But golf is golf, as long as you’ve got a hole to get it in, then it’s fun!
Images: DP World