To relax, the chef, restaurateur, author, and television personality MARIO BATALI trades the heat and cramped confines of kitchens and TV studios for the wide-open spaces of the golf course. His home course is New Jersey’s Bayonne Golf Club, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, where he’s been a member since 2006. Batali took lessons from the famed golf instructor Hank Haney four years ago, joining boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, singer Adam Levine, and supermodel Angie Everhart as a celebrity student for the fifth season of the Golf Channel’s The Haney Project. The episodes culminated in the foursome competing in skills contests and playing a round for charity at the El Dorado Golf and Beach Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Each year since 2010, Batali has hosted his own golf event, the Swing Session Celebrity Golf Classic, which raises money for the Mario Batali Foundation (mariobatalifoundation.org). The event’s sixth edition will take place on May 16 at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, in the Bronx, N.Y.
“I played a bit of golf in college, but I really picked it up in 2006, when Bayonne Golf Club opened. The first month at Bayonne made me think I might have to give up the game. The fescue was immeasurably difficult, and the tees seemed too far back, but I love the place now.
“Four years ago, I had a Hank Haney experience that transformed my game and mind-set completely. I had four classes with Hank and then a weekend at El Dorado on the Baja Peninsula, all taped for his Golf Channel show. El Dorado was fantastic. I did not perform to my potential, and Sugar Ray Leonard, Adam Levine, and Angie Everhart all beat me fair and square in every challenge. But I think, of the four of us, I got the best overall game out of the experience.
“The Haney Project was the single most transformative experience I have ever had in any sport or game. His intuitive information processing made me think differently about many things. Practice and perseverance have made me a better golfer. The Bayonne course is not completely impossible now that Haney changed my swing, helped me eliminate a bad slice, and helped me develop a different mind-set about the entire game. I love the game even more than before.
“Hank has given seminars at two of my Swing Session Celebrity Golf Classic events [in 2013 and 2015]. His appreciation of the different levels of play, his love of the game, and his love of life are inspirational to everyone who comes near him, both on the course and off.”
Do It Yourself
Bayonne Golf Club (bayonnegolfclub.com) is a private 18-hole course that allows guests to play in the company of members. Hank Haney (hankhaney.com) offers private instruction on a very limited basis, typically in the context of charitable events.