Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin is NASCAR's best golfer by many miles

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 04:  Nascar driver, Denny Hamlin plays in the pro-am ahead of the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on May 11, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin is NASCAR's best golfer by many miles

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Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin is NASCAR's best golfer by many miles

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Reigning Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin offers no hesitation when asked who the best golfer in NASCAR is.

“I’m the best golfer,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin plays to a 4.2 handicap and estimates he played “80 to 90” rounds last year. He is a member at The Peninsula Club in Cornelius, N.C., just north of Charlotte and has a full-sized golf simulator in his house.

“I love playing golf,” Hamlin told Golfweek at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., prior to the Orlando Magic vs. San Antonio Spurs game.

“I like these competitive things with me and my friends; it kind of drives me to always want to go out there and compete and win. And along with that it also gets my mind away from racing during the week because sometimes it can consume you.”

Hamlin said he and other drivers frequently play golf after Saturday practices during racing season. He also competed in this year’s Diamond Resorts Invitational, finishing 29th out of 47 celebrities, and has played in pro-ams, including during last year’s Wells Fargo Championship, when he and former FedEx CEO Mike Glenn teamed up with PGA Tour player Adam Scott to shoot 56 and win the pro-am title.

“That was one of the better (golf memories), for sure,” Hamlin said. “It was so crazy how well we played brother-in-law golf. If (Adam) wasn’t birdieing a hole, it was me or Mike. That was a great moment. I’ve won that before but not in dominating fashion like that.”

Oh, and then there’s this video of Hamlin practicing his short game on a plane:

Hamlin’s bucket-list course is Augusta National. “I’m working on that one,” he said. But he lists Diamond Creek (Banner Elk, N.C.), Shadow Creek (Las Vegas), Whisper Rock and Estancia Club (both in Scottsdale, Ariz.) as some of the top tracks he’s played.

As a pro-golf fan, Hamlin roots for Charlotte-area golfers like Webb Simpson and Harold Varner III (he plans to play with Varner at some point this year) and also enjoys watching Jason Day and Jordan Spieth.

But his favorite golfer? That would be his good buddy Bubba Watson. Hamlin has played many rounds with the fellow left-hander and even caddied for Watson during the 2012 Masters Par 3 Contest. (Watson, of course, went on to win his first green jacket that year at Augusta National.)

Hamlin’s favorite Bubba story? He has a lot, but here are two of the better ones:

Hamlin and Watson were playing Estancia when they got to a 410-yard par 4 with a dogleg right.

“I hit my ball straight in the fairway and next thing you know he turns around sideways and he’s aiming like over these houses,” Hamlin recalls. “It’s not even even close to where there’s any grass. And I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘You’ll see.’ So he hits it and the ball goes out of sight, I have no idea where it is, so I hit my second shot and it goes up there to the green, and next thing you know he goes, ‘My ball’s right here.’

“It was on the fringe! He knocked it on! He went around this canyon to knock it on and it was just amazing to see how good he is.”

Another time at The Peninsula Club, Hamlin and Watson were in the middle of a round when the skies opened up.

“It was pouring rain, it’s like the worst conditions ever, and I’m like, ‘Let’s just quit. It’s nasty,’ ” Hamlin said. “And he’s like, ‘What’s the course record? I want to get the course record.’ So he ended up shooting 65 and the course record at the time was 63, but in his defense there was standing water on every green.”

Hamlin will defend his Daytona 500 title next weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla. And while his week figures to be a busy one, you can bet he’ll have his sticks with him … just in case he can squeeze in a quick nine holes or even work on his chipping.

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