Carlo Knauss’s shocking revelation might offer a glimmer of hope to golf widows everywhere and Huckleberry Finn creator Mark Twain, who famously observed that ‘golf spoiled a good walk’, could feel vindicated from beyond the grave. But aficionados of the game – particularly fans of Carlo’s regular shows on German pay-TV channel, Premiere – may consider emailing him the name of the nearest psychiatrist.
This frankest of admissions by Germany’s answer to the BBC’s doyen of the sport, Peter Alliss, however, has to be understood in context. So consider the fact: In his 47 years, Mallorca-based Carlo has probably driven, chipped and putted a golf ball halfway round the globe and, like some kid condemned to live forever in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, after a while even Utopia becomes wearisome.
Golf, though, is still his life and he won’t deny the game hasn’t been good to him. Apart from his telly job, he acts for a Swiss-based sports promotion company and oversees the development and management of the deluxe Arabella Hotel Group’s burgeoning array of championship-par golf courses, of which Son Quint is the latest.
But it was at the club house of Arabella’s spectacular Son Muntaner course, near Son Vida, with immaculate fairways and manicured greens providing an inviting backdrop, that Carlo frankly admitted “I simply don’t like playing golf anymore.
“After playing for so long and every day as a leading amateur, then a professional, and finally coaching for 10 years, I’ve had enough. Now I play just few times a year; maybe four or five, that’s all. And then, only if it’s in the right company.”
That, though, wasn’t the last of Carlo’s cathartic admissions. After being lauded as a one of Europe’s most promising young pros, following in the caddy tracks of the legendary Bernhardt Langer – they both teed off their careers at the same club in Munich – Carlo Knauss quickly realised that winning didn’t provide the narcotic buzz that inspires a craving for further glories. Truth to tell, he was not simply falling out of love with playing the game, but in peril of being dubbed German golf’s most successful loser.
“Sure, I’d had the talent, commitment and desire to be the best in the world,” Carlo recalls. “I’d progressed through the junior ranks, into the national team and then onto playing decent pro golf for 10 years – I even qualified for the British Open twice. And I won plenty of second and third-class golf tournaments, but never a big one. So it began to dawn on me that I wasn’t getting a kick out of winning. It was the worst sort of feeling, a real blow to my career, and it shocked me and made me wonder. Finally, I realised that I lacked that extra mental dimension – that mystical, special something that can transform some players into champions. Langer had it; Boris Becker had it; Franz Beckenbaur had it. I didn’t. Besides, the life of a professional sportsman turned out to be different from what I imagined. I thought it would be glamorous and fun, but it became boring”
“Fans don’t understand this. They only see the action – not the constant travelling, the practising and the loneliness.”
As a sporting philosopher, Carlo made the quantum leap from player to coach, taking charge of the German national team and hoping he could articulate his ideas to inspire a younger generation of players – and, perhaps, unearth a junior diamond, who packed that indefinable quality he lacked…the one that differentiates a champion from a perennial challenger.
“Coaching is a tough, demanding job, constantly looking after others for 24-hours a day,” he confides. “And, because Germany does not have the history or culture of being a great golf nation, only a few young players were good enough to emerge through the ranks.”
After a decade, Carlo Knauss quit – only to discover golfing success, without ever having to wield a club competitively again or dispense technical advice to wannabe US Masters winners. His telegenic charm, easy smile and laid-back expertise made him a natural winner with small-screen audiences and his shows regularly attract viewing figures of over 400,000.
Today a happier, wiser and richer man, divorcee Carlo splits his time fairly evenly between Germany and Mallorca. Half his week is spent working in Premiere TV’s Munich studios and meeting up with his 12-year-old daughter, Chiara, who lives with her mother near his flat in Feldkirchen.
Back in Mallorca, he shares a home in Bonanova with his long-time partner, Iris, a personal trainer, and her family.
“It’s a pretty perfect arrangement,” grins Carlo Knauss. “I have the best of all worlds.” Having hit golf into the long grass as a recreational pursuit, he prefers cycling and running as a passport to fitness and even the occasional marathon don’t daunt him.
Here on the island he concentrates on his work for Arabella Group, which operates three golf courses on Mallorca – Son Vida, Son Muntaner and latterly Son Quint – plus a trio of opulent hotels, the Castillo Son Vida, Arabella Golf and Mardavall Hotel & Spa.
Carlo provides in-depth, golfing knowledge for the Bavarian-based company, helping to shape and continually improve all aspects of its operation and, above all, ensure that the playing clientele’s experiences of Arabella courses and facilities is the best their money can buy. Like champagne and caviar, he believes golf and Mallorca are an irresistible combination and, despite eco concerns, the island can sustain far more courses than the near-two dozen it currently boasts.
“Of course, there are environmental issues surrounding golf course developments,” Carlo concedes. “But there are also very positive points about them. For instance, if you regenerate former farmland by transforming it into a golf course, just look how quickly wildlife returns to the area. Then consider how much effective use is made of recycled water that’s not fit for human consumption. And don’t forget, either, about the advantages golf has brought to Mallorca in terms of sustainable, high-quality tourism.”
Carlo adds, “There’s nowhere in Europe quite like this island and its attraction to anyone interested in golf is unique…even for people like me, who don’t even play the game any more!”