Gareth Bale Dives Into His Love Of Golf And Looks Back On His Time In MLS

Gareth Bale’s bonafides in the world of football are well-established. Bale, who announced his retirement from his primary sport in January of 2023, established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the world during his time with Tottenham, won the Champions League five times and La Liga three times as a member of Real Madrid, and is very high on the list of the greatest Welsh footballers to ever live. The final two acts of his career involved leading Los Angeles Football Club to the first MLS Cup in club history and playing an integral role in getting Wales to its first World Cup appearance since 1958, where he scored the team’s only goal of the tournament via a penalty against the United States.

Performing in a sport at such a high level requires an outlet, and for Bale, that came in the form of golf. While his love of the sport made headlines during his time in Madrid — he was once, for example, at the center of controversy after his Welsh teammates grabbed a customized flag for him to celebrate their Euro 2020 qualification that read “WALES. GOLF. REAL MADRID.” across the top and “IN THAT ORDER” on the bottom — Bale doesn’t hesitate to speak glowingly about his love of golf to this day. And now that passion has led to him entering the world of golf video games, as the one-time talismanic winger is the latest non-golfer to appear in PGA Tour 2K23 as a playable character.

In conjunction with the news, Uproxx Sports caught up with Bale to discuss his love of the game, how golf helped him during his footballing career, playing in MLS, the Wales-USMNT game at the 2023 World Cup, and much more.

gareth bale
PGA Tour 2K23

I want to start by asking about PGA Tour 2K23. How did that arrangement come about?

I think everybody knows how much I love golf and [I’m] always trying to promote the game and try and grow it in any way, shape, or form I can. And then obviously, I think there’s been a few celebrities, sports stars in the game, and obviously got approached, kind of a cool thing to happen to see yourself in a golf game. Normally, I’m used to seeing myself in a football game. But yeah, it’s quite cool to be in a game that you have a great hobby for, you have a great love for, and you love playing. So it was quite a cool, cool thing to happen.

And I know you’re very good golfer, and we’ll get to that in a second, but were you ever a big golf video game guy? Or did you prefer to play in real life?

No, I used to play quite a bit — actually, when I was younger, I used to play only on the golf games. So obviously, the old Tiger Woods game and stuff like that. So, I remember a couple of times, trying to call in sick so I didn’t have to go to school. And I used to try and trick my mum, because I was on tour in career mode in Tiger Woods. So, I’ve always loved playing the video game, and then obviously as I got older, around 19 or 20, I started playing golf actually on the course.

I want to ask about the process of getting added to the game, like all the capturing stuff. Is that a similar experience to you when you’ve been added to FIFA games in the past?

Yeah, kind of a similar experience. It was cool coming here today and having all the cameras and doing the funny facial expressions, because obviously, I think in golf, you see a face a lot more closely. It’s a lot more individualized and FIFA is a bit more from a distance, and you only really see yourself in a celebration. It was a cool experience, pulling the funny faces and getting the features and stuff like that. So yeah, had a good bit of fun doing that.

So where does this love of golf come from?

I couldn’t really pinpoint one thing where it came from. But I think, no matter who you speak to, everyone wishes they took up golf earlier. I’m the same — I only started playing properly, maybe when I was about 19 or 20, and I think just being in football with the stresses, with the pressures, being able to … you’re in that cauldron, and everyone’s always talking about you, or they’re putting the pressure on you to play and this, that, or the other.

Being able to go on a golf course, having that peace and quiet, having that bit of enjoyment with your friends or whether you’re on your own, just being away from the hustle and bustle of life, of the stresses of the job, really appealed to me as well. And it definitely helped me during my career to have those times away from your sport, away from everything that’s going on. You’re just able to have a bit of fun with your friends or yourself and battle the course. I just feel like it really did help, I think, with my mental health more than anything, being able to go out there and enjoy myself and get away from everything.

I’m fascinated in the relationship that high-level athletes in other sports have with golf — there’s you, there’s Michael Jordan, there’s Harry Kane, there’s Josh Allen. Do you think that being able to get away but still scratch that competitive itch is really that important for athletes in team sports?

One-hundred percent. There’s no better adrenaline than hitting a birdie putt, hitting a good drive, hitting a wedge shots close, you really do get the competitive juices going and they really do give you that little kick of adrenaline. So, even though it’s maybe not in front of thousands, you really do feel the buzz and the kickoff playing with your friends, beating your friends — not even for money, just for the bragging rights. I think there’s no other sport that you can play against any kind of standard of player and make it an even game. I think that’s what makes it even more special, to be able to play with a lot wider variety of people.

I saw that you played a Pro-Am at Pebble Beach this year. Is that something that, if your schedule allows, you’d love to do more of those kinds of things?

Yeah, definitely. I’ve never done anything like that before, so going into it was a bit of a daunting experience and I hadn’t played too much golf going into it. In an ideal world, I would have had a three or four week kind of training camp, practice sessions going on, but that wasn’t the case.

But yeah, I really looked forward to going there and I absolutely loved it. Honestly, my goal for the week was not to kill anybody with a golf ball. I successfully did that and I made the cut. And I had a great time with with my professional, Joseph Bramlett, who was an incredible guy, made me feel so welcoming, and he played absolute incredible that week as well. So yeah, I loved it, and like I said, I would love to do more of those things in the future, because they were really fun. Obviously being able to see what the pros go through, in their kind of zone where they have to get in the zone for their sports, and obviously looking at what I did with mine, it was quite cool to see how they go about things, how focused they are, how much time they take on each shot, and really what they speak about, how they think going around the course, which I think definitely will help my game moving forward.

You know what it’s like to be a pro athlete going up against an amateur and what that entails. When you got to be on the other side of that — and you kind of touched on that — what’s the difference between a pro golfer and a really, really good amateur golfer like yourself?

There’s a big difference, don’t get me wrong. But they really just think their way around the course, they don’t make those silly mistakes, when they hit a bad shot, they hit a bad shot into the correct spot, they just get up and down from everywhere. The focus they have, you can see it in their eyes, they’re just so focused with every shot. I feel like, for example, with me, an amateur, I can easily hit a couple of good shots and think I’m better than I am, and then come crumbling back down to earth, and then I have to grind again. So, just seeing, I guess, the practice they put in, obviously they put themselves in position where they’re gonna keep playing while not making too many mistakes. Something now that I would love to do more that I have the time is to practice and try and get better and try to achieve a better handicap.

Let’s talk about football. You are an all time great over in Europe, you came over to the United States. And I’d love to know, what were your perceptions of football in the United States and how did coming over here and playing for LAFC change that one way or the other?

Obviously, I had a great career in Europe and I’m very fortunate and very blessed to have been able to play for so long and achieve so many things. Coming over was something that, w come over on preseason most years and were able to play against MLS teams and I saw how much it progressed over the years, and something that always I wanted to do and wanted to try. And I think when the opportunity arose, it was something that me and my family really were looking forward to doing, and I think we felt like if I could help grow the game in any way, shape, or form over here by just attracting more eyeballs on the TV, and more kids, and maybe kids out here really love the Premier League and they know who I am, so get them even more to football.

It was more of an all-around thing and something that I wanted to experience, and I really do think the league is going in the right direction. I think, obviously, it still has some way to go to catch up with European leagues, but it is definitely going in the right direction. The facilities are better, the stadiums are better, the travel is now better. It was an amazing experience and one that I never regretted for a second coming over, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time here.

Yeah, I was going to say, I think when decorated players come over to the United States to play in MLS, I think people just assume that they go through the motions. But when I watched you play, it seemed like you had a blast out there.

Yeah, definitely. I felt like I still had something to give, otherwise, I wouldn’t have come over. I wouldn’t have come over just to see my career out. I wanted to come over, I wanted to win a trophy, I wanted to do as much as I could for LAFC and was fortunate enough to play a few games and score some really important goals and win some great titles. Yeah, obviously win LAFC’s first MLS Cup will always be special to me, be special to them. And I guess we can always have each other to look back on in history books now, which is such a cool thing to have.

You obviously follow that up by your first World Cup game, which was against the United States. And I’d love to know what stuck out about them in that game, because I thought they had a really great first half and then you guys took control from them and we saw their their youth and naivety a little bit.

Yeah, definitely. We played against the United States a few times before and they’ve always been a good team. But I think really at that moment, they surprised us, how good they were, how well-organized, the style of football they played. And in the first half, yeah, we felt like we couldn’t really get a kick of the ball, we were in wrong positions. I think we played bad, and the U.S. played really good. So, it did feel like a very difficult first half. But I think obviously, using our experience, we’re able to come out in the second half and yeah, we’ve been in situations before, we know how to turn games around, and I think we came strong on in the second half. Obviously tied the game up, if anyone was probably gonna go on to win, it would have been us.


I think a draw was probably a fair result overall. It was a great game, and it was great to be a part of in terms of, it was history, playing in the first World Cup game in 64 years.

Did you joke around with Kellyn Acosta for that tactical foul, because everyone I know was very happy that he did that.

It was quite funny, because after the game, our manager, Steve Cherundolo of LAFC, messaged us “Kellyn, that’s probably the best yellow card you’ve ever gotten your life.” I wasn’t too pleased, because I felt like I had a very good chance of scoring. But yeah, if I was in the same position, I would be fouling exactly the same. So it was a great foul, but I would have loved the opportunity to try and win the game. But, you can look back on that and laugh.