How an unusual driving range target gave this Hollywood star the golf bug

If you’ve seen a Hollywood blockbuster sometime in the last two decades, chances are, at least one of them featured actor Michael Peña. The 45-year-old has close to 100 acting credits on his IMDB profile, including critically-acclaimed films Crash, American Hustle, Million Dollar Baby and Babel.

Shooting movies with other actors who are avid golfers inspired Peña to pick up the game himself, but on this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, Pena explained that it wasn’t until he happened upon a driving range with a very unusual target that he really got hooked on the game.

michael pena swings driver
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“I went to this driving range — I forgot where it was, somewhere like Asheville, North Carolina or something — and they had a VW bug about 100 yards away. And the guy says, ‘All you gotta do is just try to hit that bug there. That’s all you do.’ And I’m like, ‘Are you sure?” And he’s like, ‘You can try.’ And I was like, ‘All right, cool.’ It took me like seven buckets to hit that thing, dude.”

As Harmon laughed, Peña continued.

“I didn’t want to blade it and hit it. I hit it with a pitching wedge and finally it hit it. And I immediately got the bug. But I’m grateful that I was able to get the bug with a target, as opposed to just thinking, playing swing.”

For more from Peña and Harmon, including what it was like for the movie star to make an ace at the Bob Hope Classic, and the mistakes most golfers make from the bunker, check out the full interview below.

Jessica Marksbury

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on