Denny Hamlin reviews Michael Jordan’s new golf course after playing it with Rickie Fowler

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The good news for NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin is he didn’t lose any money playing golf against pro Rickie Fowler this week. The bad news for him is he didn’t win any, either.

Hamlin, Fowler and former NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip visited Michael Jordan’s new exclusive golf course, Grove XXIII, in Hobe Sound, Florida (near Jupiter), and the defending Daytona 500 champion said he bet Fowler “a lot and ended up with nothing.”

“I tied Rickie on the final hole,” Hamlin said Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway. “Thank goodness that got me back square, so that was a lot of fun. But it’s just amazing to see how good pros are. You think you’ve seen people that are good at their craft; go see a professional athlete do his craft. And it’s just amazing to watch.”

Although Hamlin is an avid golfer — he and some other NASCAR drivers are in an amateur (but super serious) league called The Golf Guys Tour — he, unsurprisingly, said Fowler has “an absurd unfair advantage” on the course.

Denny Hamlin hits out of the bunker at 16 during the final round of the Tournament of Champions LPGA golf tournament on Jan. 19 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

“Unfortunately, he uses the same clubs, and he has the same body type,” Hamlin said comparing his own game and Fowler’s. “So there’s really no excuses other than he’s got talent and I don’t.”

Still, Hamlin — who underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in November, right after the 2019 NASCAR season ended — said he had a great time at Jordan’s private course.

Unlike many drivers who like to use NASCAR’s short, three-month offseason to race in other series, Hamlin said he needs that break from the track to get “amped up and better prepared” when he returns for the season-opening Daytona 500, which is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET. He said he figured Fowler would be the same way and wouldn’t want to play golf in his free time — but found that the opposite was true.

“For me, it’s my way of unwinding,” Hamlin said about golfing. “Each driver is so different, and I actually talked to Rickie Fowler a little bit, and I said, ‘Why are you out here? Like, you’re not golfing in competition, so what is it? Are you out here practicing, or are you just bored and don’t want to be home?’ He said, ‘I love golf.’

“He actually mentioned it’s similar to what Kyle Larson (does), right? Or any of the other guys that just continue to race, race, race. For me, I’m a little different. If I’m a pro golfer, and I’m not golfing that week, I’m not golfing that week. But each person finds their own way to motivate them to keep doing this because this is not an easy thing to do, week in and week out.”

Hamlin was also blown away by Jordan’s new 72-par course.

“The course was unbelievable,” he said. “There’s only 75 members. Hopefully to be 76 here in the next few weeks, so it was really an honor to be invited and be a member at such an exclusive place. It’s really new, just a few months old. It’s going to be fun to do for the next 20 to 30 years, as long as I’m able to play.”

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