By Jill Painter
Ron Perlman, an accomplished actor who played the lead in Hellboy and Hellboy II, is famous for playing roles that require extensive makeup, such as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. He’s also an avid golfer. His dad introduced him to golf, and in turn, Perlman, 59, introduced the game to his kids. When Perlman is on location, his clubs travel with him—he’s played golf around the world, in places such as Budapest, Prague, Moscow, South Africa, Italy, France, England and Scotland. An airline’s never lost his clubs, but they were stolen from Griffith Park once when he left them outside the starter’s window to use the restroom. He’s currently on hiatus from filming Sons of Anarchy, a television series on the FX channel.
Perlman experimented with golf as a young boy, but the sport didn’t stick until he became an adult. He loves Jack Nicklaus designed-courses, where he’s played some of his best rounds of golf.
You grew up in New York and went to school in Minnesota. How did you get started playing golf in such cold-weather states?
I don’t know, but I rue the day. I started in the 1980s. I used to go to the driving range with my dad when I was a kid. We had to do everything outdoorsy in Westchester County, across the city line. I learned how to drive up there; my first dates were up there.
Westchester County was where one went to have a real-life or a non-urban-oriented reality. There were a lot of golf courses and driving ranges. That was one of the things me and the old man did. I didn’t seriously take the game up until later; I got interested when I was invited to play in a charity event. I thought, “It shouldn’t be that hard to hit a ball that’s standing still.” The throwdown took place. The challenge has never truly been met.
Did your dad teach you how to play golf?
He wasn’t much of a golfer, either. He took it up very late in life but died young. He was 49, and he didn’t start playing until his mid-40s. I was too involved in other stuff to go out with him. The driving range was purely a hoot. Neither of us knew what we were doing. We did everything—bowling, shooting pool. He was a great guy, a funny guy. A real jock. A real man’s man.
You’re a member of the men’s club at Montebello. What do you like about playing there?
I’m proud to be a member of the SCGA, and Montebello’s my go-to spot. To me, Montebello is the “anti-country club” country club. The game has always been associated with white-collar inferences, and this is the most blue-collar environment. This is a real working class place, and these are salt-of-the-earth guys. They come to play with dirt under their fingernails. It’s an amazing cross section of people.
I’m great friends with [Director of Golf] Tommy Camacho; I’ve known him since the late 1980s. He’s a super guy and does great work in the community. He runs the place phenomenally well. Coming from a lower-middle-class mentality, it’s a great fit for me.
So what are your thoughts on the other country clubs you’ve played at?
I’ve played all the country clubs in Los Angeles. I have lots of friends who are members or play celebrity and charity events. It’s not a blanket statement, but I walk in to some clubs and I’m not made to feel at home. I just don’t like having people look down their noses at me because they’ve got money and some sort of position in life.
Has golf helped you make connections in the industry? Ever made a deal on the course?
I’ve been in situations where I’ve played with heavyweight actors, producers or studio heads. I don’t know if it’s ever done me well in business relationships, but great business things have happened to me on the golf course. I heard I got the role in Hellboy and Hellboy II while playing at Montebello. I’ve heard about several movies while in the middle of rounds. That takes the pressure off the next putt.
My cell phone rings and all of a sudden I get the call that I just got Hellboy, and I’m the lead. I was at Montebello and the three guys I was with knew something good happened. I walked four inches off the ground the rest of the day. I had a great back nine and we celebrated at the 19th hole. That’s a tradition.
You’ve said you had a bad perception of yourself, and you were overweight as a kid. How do you think golf could’ve helped you?
I look at kids who grew up in wholesome, rural areas, and they had a chance to play real baseball, Pop Warner and Little League. They had a chance to do these outdoor things. They were in a more normalized upbringing rather than growing up in the concrete jungle of New York City. I wonder, if I had a different set of realities as a kid, whether my life would’ve taken a different turn. I’m happy the way everything worked out. I don’t feel, even if I had that exposure, that I had what it took to be in the major leagues in any pro sport.
What are some of your favorite courses?
I played Kingsbarns in St Andrews, and I don’t think I’ve ever been on a more amazing layout. I like Pebble Beach very much, also. In St Andrews though, there’s this other element of historic grandeur that accompanies an amazing design. It’s a very fair, very challenging course. There’s nothing tricky, but it’s brutally hard. I had a few great holes there, but that can happen in any round. I have very low expectations about my game, and I don’t get to play enough to really ever get good.
What golf club do you hit the best?
My irons, they’re my most consistent part. I can hit a driver when I connect with it, probably one out of every six attempts. I can drive the ball 320 yards if all goes well. Everything doesn’t go well way too often.
My putting is not so bad. I can usually two-putt from anywhere. I lose about 12 strokes a round to chipping and pitching, though. I’m a headcase when it comes to it. I promised myself if I ever had the time, I was going to go to one of these golf schools in the desert. If I could do that, I’d consistently shoot in the low 80s. Maybe I’d even break 80 once in a while.
Any embarrassing moments on the golf course?
Pretty much every shot is embarrassing. But there’s few places on the planet that are like safe havens for me, where I feel all my worries stop at the door. Yankee Stadium in New York and Montebello in Los Angeles are it for me. Moments I spend there are carefree, without judgment and pressures of things that bring you down. It’s nice to have places like that.
Which golfer do you try to pattern your game after?
I’m afraid this sounds cliché, but Tiger Woods. I feel lucky to be witnessing the Tiger era. He’s a great champion and a real humanitarian. One of my guilty pleasures is that if I get beat up at work, I sit in front of the TV, be catatonic and put on the Golf Channel. The only time I really watch is if Tiger is playing. He adds an element of explosive excitement.