Life

Not a Laughing Matter

When comedian Alfonso Ribeiro tees it up, he’s all business
December 24, 2019
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Photo by Angela Boatwright

He has built a career out of making people laugh, starting as a child actor on TV’s “Silver Spoons” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and now as host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” But there’s one thing you won’t catch Alfonso Ribeiro joking about: golf.

Ribeiro takes the game seriously. He plays three times a week and sets aside five to six hours on a fourth day just for practice.

“I’m a very technical player,” says Ribeiro, who won TV’s “Dancing with the Stars” competition in 2014. “Before I step on the first tee, I know what club I’m going to hit, the angle of my second shot.

"I have a game plan for every hole. That’s how I live my life. I reverse-engineer everything.”

Ribeiro’s Handicap Index has been as low as +2.0, though it has crept up to 2.4. Now 47, he has been reworking his swing to accommodate his middle-age body. “I could hit it 350 yards,” he says. “I could absolutely smash it. But I can’t do that anymore. I have to look out for my lower back.”

“He’s one of the more dedicated guys I’ve worked with,” says Drew Steckel, Las Vegas-based swing coach to tour pros such as Ryan Moore, Pat Perez and Brandt Snedeker. “He wants to know everything about the swing. He’s not going to leave any stone unturned.”

In California, Ribeiro belongs to Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank and Porter Valley Country Club in Northridge. He often plays with Justin Timberlake (also a member at Lakeside) and a handful of former pro athletes, including baseball stars Mark Mulder and David Justice and footballers Mark Rypien and Sterling Sharpe.

His favorite course? He has long had a soft spot for El Dorado, the Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Los Cabos, Mexico. “I just love the way you have to play the golf course,” he says. “There are hole positions where it’s better to miss the green than be on the green and in the wrong spot.”

Lately he’s been feeling pretty great about Pebble Beach, too. He played in the Pure Insurance Championship’s pro-am on his birthday last year alongside Woody Austin and shot 75.

Best round? That’s the 65 in a practice round before the 2017 BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, S.C. The round included one of his three career aces.

For the past few years, Ribeiro has been a PGA Tour Champions “brand ambassador,” appearing in TV ads promoting the tour and attending three or four tournaments a year. He donates his pay from that assignment to a favorite charity, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, which offers free reconstructive surgery for kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.

He’s working on a couple of side projects as well, including a television talk show and a radio show featuring music from the 1990s. But his main job is hosting “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” which he calls “the best gig ever—I only have to work 20 days a year!”

That leaves a lot of time for hanging out with his wife, Angela, and three kids. Oh, yeah, and for golf.