Former JUDAS PRIEST guitar legend K.K. Downing spoke with Enda Mullen from Birminghampost.net
about his Astbury Hall 18 hole championship golf course in Shropshire, England.
Golf proved something of a salvation of him as a constructive distraction from the rigours of life on the road.
He and fellow Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton first took up the sport after a “drunken challenge” from fellow rock stars Def Leppard.
Band members Joe Elliot and Rick Savage challenged the Judas Priest guitarist to a golf match, who in turn laid down the gauntlet to play tennis.
It signalled the start of a lifelong love of the sport for Downing.
“We got bitten by the bug and thought ‘this is a pretty cool thing to do’,” he said. “It was good to get out and do something rather than going to the bar in the hotel, which is far too easy to do.
“It put a bit of a quell on the amount of partying we were doing as we would have to get up in the morning and play golf. With that in mind you tend to turn in a bit earlier. It was very sensible and it was good for us. We would be on tour and we’d be saying ‘stop the bus’ so we can go to the driving range.”
It was a pattern that continued throughout the band’s peak in the 1980s and Downing conceded he was at his happiest on the green.
At the end of one tour he took full advantage of his success to maximise the opportunity to play golf.
“We had an emphasis on some countries rather than others, such as the US, which was a good earning country for us.
“On one tour we finished in Hawaii and I decided to rent a house there on a golf course. I ended up playing every golf course on the island and stayed there for seven months.”
The aim at Astbury Hall has been to create “the finest standard of playing surfaces possible,” according to Downing and cost has proved no object when it comes to either its construction or maintenance.
As a Troon golf venue it sits alongside some of the world’s leading high-end facilities such as Turnberry and The Grove.
Reflecting on his musical past he confesses there isn’t much he misses, apart from the chance to seek out new golf courses on tour.
“As far as I am concerned I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than go to a brand new country, jump in a car and go to the nearest golf course.”
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