Mods v Rockers
Judas Priest guitar legend KK Downing invites Dave Tindall to his own private course for a Ryder Cup-style showdown
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 16/11/12 10:55am
It no longer raises eyebrows when the worlds of golf and music collide.
Many chart-topping artists like to indulge their guilty golf pleasure in charity events or pro-ams while Justin Timberlake even has a PGA Tour event named after him.
The odd one may even have splashed out on an indoor simulator or built a putting green behind the locked gates of their multi-million pound crib.
But KK Downing from heavy metal legends Judas Priest has taken the ultimate step - he's built a championship-quality 18-hole golf course in the grounds of his 18th Century Georgian mansion in Shropshire.
I first visited his Astbury Hall abode with fellow golf writer Matt Cooper in 2009 when KK had recently opened the first nine holes. KK talked passionately about golf course design and also showed us how construction was well under way for a second nine on which we played when making a return in 2010.
As, in my head, two years in a row constituted an 'annual visit' I upped the ante in 2011 and dreamt up plans for a challenge match involving Alice Cooper and KK (rock legends) against myself and Matt (journos). Matt, as a keen-to-impress but very misguided nine-year-old, had once boasted to school-friends that Alice was his auntie so we were particularly keen to get this match on.
We got close but in the end Alice's manager felt that England in October would be too cold for his Arizona-based client.
So during this year's Ryder Cup a new plan was hatched. Given that my musical tastes mirror those of Bradley Wiggins, I pitched to KK the idea of a Mods v Rockers clash. Not fighting on Brighton beach but an 18-hole four-ball shootout on his own course at Astbury Hall.
The mods were to be me and Matt ("just put on that Hugo Boss top with the stripes and do your top button up") while the rockers were KK and Pat Bristow, a locally-based golf-mad guitarist I'd got to know on Twitter (@Hard_Vinyl_72) who had once played (golf) with KK before.
The Mods v Rockers golf challenge
Pat watches KK tee off at the 10th.
We tee off on a mild November morning (did you hear that, Alice?) and, in true mod fashion, Matt and I look the part in the opening holes. However, the putts aren't going underground and before we know it the rockers have powered into a 3up lead.
When KK and Pat both hit the green on the par three seventh and we miscue our tee-shots into rough there's a loud cry. Not one of anguish from Matt and I but a piratey cackle of "Come on the rockers!" from KK. Far from thinking this Mods v Rockers thing is a bit gimmicky, he's positively embracing it.
A modish short, sharp two-hole burst around the turn cuts the gap from 4down to 2down but some heavy metal off the tee (come on, indulge me here) and virtuosity on the greens sees KK and Pat complete the 5&4 demolition on the 13th. It leaves Matt and I screaming for vengeance and hell bent for the leather sofas in KK's bar and lounge area.
As we sup a post-round pint and take in the surroundings, it's clear to see that quality and an eye for detail are very much on display indoors as well as out on the perfectly manicured course.
On the wall are pop-art canvas paintings of Cream and Bob Dylan along with a few of Judas Priest's million-selling discs. The tasteful décor gives a flavour of KK the Grammy-winning musician but clearly avoids the nail-everything-to-the-wall horror of an Irish-themed pub. He's struck the perfect balance.
He's also lost none of his (wild)child-like enthusiasm.
While members of his now 30-strong staff potter around quietly in the background, KK reaches for the remote-control, cranks the volume up to maximum and blasts out some Limp Bizkit from the previously dormant speakers in the corner of the room. As the teapots and saucers rattle, KK celebrates the total racket with a lip-pout and mini head-bang.
Later, over a spot of dinner in his new restaurant, the mood quietens again and we listen about his love of Jimi Hendrix and how, in his only recently-ended touring days, he much preferred Brazil over Argentina (clue: it's not due to the football teams). Thankfully he takes my Adam's apple comment in the right spirit.
The following morning I send KK an e-mail, thanking him for a great day. He's already looking ahead though.
He replies: "You're welcome for a re-match anytime. UP the ROCKERS!!!!!"
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