At 6ft7 and over 17st 5lb, Matt Banahan is not your stereotypical winger. Equally, at that size the Bath Rugby powerhouse does not have the typical build of someone who would feel at home with a wedge in his hand on the chipping green of his local golf club.
But Banahan, who has made 16 appearances for England, has spent the last four months out of the game after suffering a knee injury at the end of November and it is his love of golf that helped him during his rehab.
Born and bred in Jersey, and still a keen follower of the Reds, Banahan has reached a half-century of tries for Bath in more than 150 appearances for the club since 2007.
However his interests away from the shuddering collisions and lung-busting runs of rugby lie, primarily, on the golf course.
Banahan plays off an official handicap of eight at Cumberwell Park Golf Club in Wiltshire – but believes he is due to be cut – and regularly plays rounds with members both young and old when he is not fulfilling commitments at Bath.
And although Banahan loves the game for its differences to professional rugby, he believes there is a lot to be transferred between the two sports.
“I find golf very relaxing away from rugby because it is a non-contact sport,” said Banahan.
“But you still need to same desire to win and desire to constantly improve which is what I love about the game. When I got injured I was playing a lot of golf.
“With my knee injury, I couldn’t hit my driver for a few months because there was too much rotation which wasn’t good for my rehab.
“It gave me a chance to improve other parts of my game like putting and chipping and getting my iron play better, it was only during the last month that I could start using the longer stick.
“Golf involves a lot of different skills to rugby but a lot of difficult ones.
“Putting and chipping are both high skills and I found them really useful in my recovery because I could still do something I enjoyed for hours on end.”
With The Masters beginning this week, Banahan will be rooting for pals Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood to triumph at Augusta National.
With a busy rugby schedule during the spring – including a European semi-final in Paris in a fortnight – Banahan admitted his ‘Bucket List dreams’ of seeing golf’s best tournaments live will have to wait until he hangs up his boots.
“I cannot put any golf in the diary while I am still playing the season, being a contact sport I don’t know if I am going to be fit or not,” said Banahan.
“I will be rooting for Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood at The Masters as they are both friends of mine. I will be spending a lot of time in front of the TV.
“I am not much of a late night person because my three kids make sure I am tired, so I go to bed fairly early and watch it in the morning.
“After I finish playing I would love to go and watch any of the four majors or the Ryder Cup live to see how the players play up close.
“The Ryder Cup, The Open and The Masters are the big ones that I would want to tick off the list at some point. I would love to see the pros’ preparation for rounds.”
Following in dad’s footsteps
It is no surprise that Dad of three Banahan’s obsession with sport has rubbed off on his children.
His eldest, five-year-old Joseph, often accompanies Dad to the golf club and Banahan believes golf has offered a lot to his son away from the course.
“My son Joseph actually comes down to the golf course with me. He has his own set of little clubs and I think playing golf teaches him a lot.
“Golf teaches him a lot about taking it in turns and about dressing appropriately to play so when he went to school he knew how to behave well.”
When Banahan finishes his playing career, it is no secret that he will devote a lot of his time to becoming a scratch golfer, given his ferocious will to win in a Bath jersey, you wouldn’t bet against him doing just that.
Retirement is still some way off though, and this week Banahan is preparing for The Clash at Twickenham, with Bath’s hopes of reaching the Aviva Premiership semi-finals riding on the battle with Leicester Tigers.
More than 60,000 fans are expected to attend the game at Twickenham on Saturday with the sides separated by just three points as they both bid to reach the semi-finals.
Just hours later, a similar number of fans will flock to Wembley Stadium for Derby Day – Saracens’ fixture with Harlequins – as both sides look to continue their semi-final bid.
And Banahan believes the two matches, and the crowds they have drawn, shows a great deal about how far club rugby has come.
“I think it is brilliant that so many people are expected to attend both games on Saturday,” said Banahan.
“The fact that we are drawing such big crowds shows just how far the game has come and showcases our sport on such a big stage.
“Of course it is a huge game for us in our season and we will be looking to put in another big performance after reaching the European Challenge Cup semi-final.”