Podcast: Birdies are the aim for Eagles ace Butland

Crystal Palace and England goalkeeper Jack Butland has admitted joining England Golf’s iGolf scheme has helped fuel his passion for the game.

The 29-year-old Premier League footballer revealed his love for his second sport during a wide-ranging chat on the latest England Golf podcast.

And through his membership of iGolf – a subscription platform for non-members of golf clubs – he’s found a way to obtain an official handicap index, track his progress and enjoy competitive rounds with some of his Palace mates who have also signed up for the scheme.

Butland – who became the youngest keeper ever to be capped by England when he started against Italy in 2012 as a 19-year-old – was introduced to golf aged nine by his late grandad.

Now he’s obsessed with the sport as a way to unwind, enjoy social activity with pals, and satisfy his hunger for competitive sport away from the day job on the football field.

Butland – currently playing off a very tidy handicap index of 2.2 – said: “Golf plays quite a big part in my life.

“I found it difficult to begin with and didn’t immediately fall in love with it. I’m a very competitive person and like to be good at things immediately.

“It was something in the back of my mind as being something I’d like to conquer.

“By the time I was 19,20 – football had solely taken over as my priority.

“I still loved golf and quickly it became one that I could do alongside football. I could spend time with friends outside of football and I could get my teeth into it, I had lessons, became curious about where I could play and get better.

“I’d always tune into the Masters and now I keep an eye on every tournament that goes on! From age 20-29 now it’s become a mainstay in my life.

“My fiancée wishes the clubs and the game didn’t exist! But she knows I love it and I have a great time playing it.”

Since joining iGolf with a clutch of his Selhurst Park team-mates, Butland’s enjoyment of the game has grown.

For lifestyle reasons – the itinerant way of a footballer, combined with a young family –  iGolf was the ideal way for Butland to meet his demand for competitive golf while enjoying the pay-as-you-play option at a number of venues near his home in Surrey or back in his native north west.

He added: “In football you fly by the seat of your pants at times and can be involved in transfers so being involved with a single golf club has been difficult for me over the years.

“A friend introduced me to iGolf. When I get the chance to play, I don’t always want to play at the same golf course, I want to try other places and go to different areas of the country.

“The app has come in extremely handy for me. I don’t have to hand in three cards at a single golf club to get an official handicap and I can update the app and play with my friends.

“It’s an easy-to-use app, it’s clear and simple and gives you competition with yourself and with your friends while tracking each other’s progress.

“It’s been really helpful to me to be able to play many different courses and maintain a handicap at the same time which, until the development of iGolf, was difficult to do.

“I have 10 people on the app of people I play with and, even if I haven’t played, I open the app to see if anyone has played and kept it quiet and I can see if they have shot a good score or a bad score.”

Over the years Butland has enjoyed playing with fellow footballers including England skipper Harry Kane and there’s a group at Palace who now regularly use the iGolf app and enjoy a round when their game and training schedule allows.

Butland admitted he’s yet to work out if boss Patrick Vieira is a golfer. But if the Frenchman fancies a knock, he’d have a fight on his hands to win. There would be no lying down to the gaffer!

“Oh no, you beat him because if he has the opportunity to beat you then you know he’s going to,” said Butland with a smile.

“You don’t have the career he’s had without being competitive and a ruthless individual who wants to win. You know that if he wants to beat us, by hook or by crook he’d get it done.

“We’d have to respectfully compete properly and not let him win. I’m not good at letting people win!”

  • Jack’s golfing life is detailed on episode 17 of the England Golf podcast which also includes features on the Young Ambassadors’ scheme, a charity challenge with golfers from Warwickshire and news from the 2022 England Golf Awards.