‘I built my golf course for just £6,000’
Dame Laura Davies has made millions from decades on the golfing circuit, but she’s a spender,
Dame Laura Davies, 54, is a professional golfer who found fame when turning pro at 22 and winning four titles, including the British Open in 1986 and the 1987 US Women’s Open. Altogether she has won 80 tournaments, including 20 on America’s LPGA Tour, four majors, and the Ladies European Tour seven times. She lives in Surrey with her mother, stepfather and dog, Murphy.
How did your childhood influence your attitude to money?
We never had huge amounts of money but never wanted for anything. You had to wait to get things at Christmas and birthdays. We lived with my mum and stepdad in New Haw, Surrey, where my brother and I went to Fullbrook Secondary School. Mum was a secretary for a painter and decorator and my stepdad was a design engineer with the British Overseas Airways Corporation. “Don’t spend what you haven’t got” was the message to us kids.
What was your first job?
A friend’s mother worked in a factory where they put clothes on hangers, and she got me a job there one summer when I was 16.
My first proper job was at Sainsbury’s in the frozen food section and on the tills.
I also worked as a bookmaker’s assistant. My nan always liked a flutter on the horses and when we were kids she’d put a little bet on for us.
Do you use cash, debit cards or credit cards?
I like cash. I haven’t got a debit card. I have American Express, which I suppose is a credit card but it’s one you have to pay off every month.
Have you invested in property?
I bought a second house once but we made money on it quickly and sold it before we ever moved in.
Have you ever had trouble paying your bills?
Yes, now and again when things weren’t going too well on the course. It’s an expensive old business, professional golf. My yearly expenditure is huge, with hotels, air fares, car hire and restaurants. I’ve always been reasonably lucky in being able to pay my way.
Have you managed your money well?
I don’t think like that. I think if you’ve got money, spend it and then go and earn some more, because pro golf is feast or famine. I remember the early days when my mum and stepdad helped fund me to get to tournaments around the UK.
Are you a saver or a spender?
Spender. If I want something and I’ve got the money I’ll buy it.
Do you invest in the stock market?
The people who’ve got my money have it in various things, including Isas. I don’t follow it. I do the day-to-day stuff and someone I’ve known for 25 years does the investment side – a bank manager who changed path and now has a big investment company. You’ve got to trust somebody or do it yourself. Using a big company you don’t know anyone in is asking for trouble.
Does money make you happy?
Things you can buy make you happy. I suppose the more you’ve got the more enjoyable your life can be.
What have been your best and worst financial decisions?
On tour you hear about investments and I’ve gone for two or three, but they’ve never come to anything – a company that did vitamin tablets and a 3D printing company.
I’ve never had much luck investing in anything that looked like a good thing, so I don’t do it any more. But I put a large sum in my pension years ago and that worked out really well. I had a tax issue and my accountant hadn’t been doing it properly and it was a case of “put a lot into your pension or pay some fines”.
What are the best and worst things you’ve bought?
Cars are the best and worst things. Expensive sports cars are fun but they lose you lots of money. I’ve had a couple of Ferraris, umpteen BMWS and a few Mercedes over the years.
Have you ever been ripped off ?
No. If I don’t know someone involved in what’s going on, I won’t take a chance on a stranger.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learnt about money?
If I’ve had problems with money it’s because I’ve overdone it. Golfers tend to earn money when it’s going well and you don’t think of the years that won’t be so good – so you can get into trouble. In women’s golf, prize money is bigger than endorsements, while in men’s golf they earn fortunes off the course. I’ve always had very good sponsors but not where it’s so crazy you have no money worries.
Have you made a fortune from golf ?
I’ve made a lot of money. In prize money I’ve won $10m (£7.4m) in America and €4.5m (£4m) in Europe, plus endorsement money. Most people who know me would say I haven’t been sensible with it because if it’s there I spend it.
One day I might regret that but I’m having a good time. Every day in professional sport you’re a gambler because you make decisions that make or lose money. In golf it’s how many shots you drop or get under par.
If you go out worrying about hitting a shot that you need to make your mortgage payment it’s a much harder game to play.
Is your racehorse a good earner?
I’ve had three horses over the years, never owned outright. One is Dancing Hussy in Melbourne. I heard about it from an ex-player now in the racing industry who knew my caddie, and I bought a 10th of this horse. She’s a bit lazy but it’s good fun watching her.
My horses have done dreadfully. The most I’ve staked was $4,000. You could get lucky, but I’ve never spent enough to have one that wins a lot.
Was it expensive building a ninehole golf course in your garden?
It was only one green, at my house in Ottershaw, Surrey. I bought an old green from a golf course and we set nine tees round the garden. It cost £6,000. It was good practice and we had a great time.
The longest hole was 90 yards, and it was through the rhododendrons, over the tennis court, over the shed. There were some funny little shots to hit and we had a proper big linksstyle bunker at the front.
Where have you placed on the golf money lists?
I won Player of the Year in 1996. But Karrie Webb beat me the year when I was close to winning it on the LPGA Tour. I won about $970,000 and I think Karrie won just over a million, so I got beaten in the last tournament. It wasn’t fun. I’ve topped the European money list seven times.
Has women’s golf changed since you began?
There’s no question the top players earn a fortune on the course now. But away from the top echelons the money falls off quite steeply, whereas for the men it seems to be money for everybody. The top 30-35 women in the LPGA probably have good sponsorship deals and win lots of prize money.
Do you fly business class?
No. I fly with British Airways transatlantic and to Australia in Economy Plus and hope some nice person will upgrade me: more so in my heyday when I was well known. Business class is the best but only when you’re not paying for it.
Has your gambling been lucrative?
Oh God, no. I’m no mug, I have good fun with it and you have the odd win here and there, but overall if you’re a compulsive gambler you know you’re going to lose. Any gambler who tells you they’re ahead is talking absolute nonsense. I like the horses and love having a bet on the football when I’m watching it. It’s a hobby I’ve always had.
Dame Laura Davies: ‘On tour you hear about investments and I’ve gone for two or three, but they never came to anything’