Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Courses I've played : Glendower Golf Club : 6.5/10

Almost every person I know who has played Glendower has raved about it, how stunning its looks are, how well designed it is, how much of a test of golf it is, how much it forces you to think your way around the course - quite frankly I was bored. This was not the first time I have played the course, so it wasn't like I had any built up expectations that where not being met, its just that I would be bored to tears (or purposely aiming for the trees) if this was my home course and it was all I had to look forward to every weekend.

More often than not it is the design and the conditioning of the course that gets talked about. The course is in very good condition, although I thought the greens where a bit patchy and battered, but they weren't all that hard to read and the pace was consistent throughout (not to fast or to slow). The design however is not all that exciting: Glendower is a parkland course and I suppose Parkview would be the nearest type of course I could compare it to - Parkview is far more interesting and keeps you thinking and trying to place and shape your shots a lot more than Glendower does where it is a case of knock it somewhere down the or near the fairway, avoid the bunkers (which can mostly be carried off the club tees) and aim for the middle of the green. There is not a lot of complexity to this course. The par 5's aren't overly long, the stroke 1, the par 4 4th, relies on distance rather than guile and most of the rest of the par 4's play quite short i.e. a driver and no more than say an 8 iron (off the club tees).

All you need to do is play to your game and stay on or near the fairways and away from the trees and you will do OK, not a lot of complexity there then.

I have read a review that describes the start of each nine as being really difficult, with the end of each being fairly disappointing, I would have to say I agree with the latter (kind of routine straight up par 4's), but not necessarily the former. Both the 1st and the 10th are easily reachable even if you have a bad drive and tend to drift off to the right like most golfers.

The course does have a lot of water hazards, but most of them are carries off the tee box rather than coming into play around the green (5 holes in total, 2 of which are par 3's).

The one thing I did like about this course was the bunkers, the green side ones have sand that is soft, fluffy and easy to get your club through and the fairway bunkers are just hard enough to make a shot out of them not to difficult. Even though there are a lot of bunkers on this course, it didn't feel like the amount was overly punitive.

The course surroundings are quite pleasant with all the established trees hiding most of the housing that adjoins the course, but no more so than any other Johannesburg parkland course though. However the holes that play near the N3 are really noisy (and prone to the occasional honking idiot when you are on the tee box).

Choosing a signature hole was fairly easy though as Glendower has one or two of the prettiest par 3's of the courses I have played, chief of which is the 6th. This is hole is about 160 off the club tees, playing over a small dam in front of the green, to a putting surface which slopes quite sharply from back to front - I can imagine hitting a great shot here and seeing it spinning back off the green into the water. The green itself is raised up from its surrounds such that the ball feeds off the green if you don't get your distance just right, it also has a fairly nasty bunker at its back right that is going to make any shot back down the green towards the water somewhat scary - the putting surface is fairly narrow, but quite wide and makes for some interesting, swinging lines. The hole may only be a stroke 11, but walking off with a par should be quite satisfying.

I'll play Glendower again if I was to receive an invite, but its not the type of course I would make a special effort to play again.

For more info, contact details, etc you can visit

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Ranking, rating, whatever!

I see that the one of SA Golf Digest or Compleat Golfer has issued their latest course rankings (or both, I don't know as yet) and I have written something up on what they have to say (its quite not finished yet), the problem as I see it with these systems is that they don't give all the much attention to the total experience of playing a given course - if a course is magnificent from an aesthetic perspective but the staff treat you terribly, are you going to go back? I've seen many (wealthy) golfers who are incredibly loyal to their local track, even if they have played (and paid for) one of the better courses in the country, purely because they where not made to feel welcome.

The other thing that ratings systems don't take into account is the relative affordability of courses within the ranking - how many people actually get an invite to play River Club (I wasn't all that impressed) or can afford to travel to and stay at Fancourt just to play the links (and don't get me started on the R1300 + hotel bill it takes to play Leopard Creek, even though it is probably the best course I have ever played)

To edit Dale Hayes a bit (Compleat Golfer, September 2006): 'for example, after enjoying an afternoon at [..], you leave the club thinking, "Boy, I enjoyed that!" and yet find it difficult to explain exactly why. There's that intangible magic that makes certain golf experiences stand out from the rest - and everybody can rate that.'

From the same column: 'Ultimately, there is no need to get technical when rating a golf course. Simply ask yourself - is it pretty? Is it an enjoyable walk? Does the course have its own unique character and does it blend in with its natural surroundings? Does the club have all the facilities necessary for overall enjoyment?

I truly believe it's the overall experience that counts when it comes to the decision of whether you want to return for another try on any golf course - and I firmly believe that rating this sort of experience is of more value than ranking the technical aspects of a golf course.'

Thanks Dale, couldn't have said it better if I tried!

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Courses I've played : Randpark Golf Club (Windsor Park): 6/10

Windsor Park shares the same relationship with its next door neighbour Randpark, as the Lost City does with Gary Player Country Club - its the resort course to its bigger, bolder and somewhat nastier brother. Its a compromise course that the players who aren't quite as serious are gently nudged towards, the course the ladies, the mixed pairs, the hackers and the pensioners are encouraged play so they don't snarl up the tee boxes on 'real' golf course.

Don't get me wrong, its not a bad golf course, but you do get the sense that, when you are playing it, that you are a somewhat lesser mortal in the eyes of the staff and the members - why else would they put what course your playing on the piece of paper that they slip into the window of the cart? To make sure the good carts go onto the other course, to make sure the 'good' players don't mix with the rabble, I dont't know.

It probably is a prejudice on my behalf, but I never did like the way Randpark Golf Club is run, and how they treat those that aren't in the in crowd (and how they cling to some of the archaic rules regarding ladies and members guests on the weekend).

The biggest problem I have in sitting and writing this review is that there is not a lot that I found memorable about the Windsor Park course; yes, it is a pretty looking course but by the same token there are a bunch holes that run near Republic Road and it is gets really noisy. It has ample fairways, but when the stroke holes are not difficult, just long, you get a sense that the club had the idea in their heads that they had the land and too many members (or hackers) so perhaps they should build a course for those golfers snarling up their showpiece.

In any other location and with a bit of work to toughen it up (narrowing the fairways, growing up the rough, speeding up the greens, maybe making them a little smaller in places and the addition/moving of the bunkers) this would be a great golf course, probably in the top 25 in the country.

Please don't read this as a negative review of the course, its a great place to play if you are just getting going with the game (but don't expect the management or staff to help - what kind of narrow minded fool doesn't allow slops on an outside terrace at the high of summer in Africa) or don't really want to concern yourself with thinking your way round a golf course, it is forgiving in most places and just a little mean in others, it is a straight forward, honest and open layout but I suspect it could get very discouraging due for the higher handicap golfer due to the length of some of the holes and the sheer number of shots required to get onto the green on them.

From the first to the last the course is in immaculate condition and hardly a fault can be found with it, the bunkers are great with nice, soft, stone free sand (and decent looking drainage given all the rain we have had of late) that give you a chance to get your ball close to the hole, the greens are even (if a little slow and pock-marked, seems this club also has players with a phobia for fixing pitch marks) and easy enough to read albeit a little on the slow side. The trees don't get in the way all that much and if you stray of the fairway by a metre or two you won't find yourself to severely punished.

There are a couple of eye-sores on the course, the caddies and groundstaff that assault you out of the undergrowth between the first green and the second tee with offers of lost balls, the intersection of Judges and Republic next the the 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th holes and the dirty, great, grey, banking bunker that is visible from nearly all of the holes on the course despite its abundant covering of trees.

I came off the course without any sense of accomplishment, excitement or even disappointment for that matter - I kind of just hit the ball around, eventually getting it into the hole and then moved onto the next tee box; there was nothing that made me stand still, take a look around and admire a specific feature or aspect of the layout. I walked off the course not really having felt that I had had the usual challenge I enjoy so much from a game of golf, if I made a mistake it was of my own doing rather than having been forced into a difficult position or having made a risky shot selection. Other than a few blind or round the corner tee shots, there is not much in the way of exciting choice to work with.

If anything the only hole that really stood out for me was the par 4, stroke 3, 7th and that was primarily because of the tee shot - it requires the ability to shape the ball (draw) off the tee with a long iron or wood, around a collection of oak (I think) trees down the left of and overhanging the fairway 200m or so from the tee. You have a narrow gap to aim for between the edge of the trees and a bunker down the right in the landing area. Once you have successfully negotiated your tee shot, you are left with a fairly easy pitch into a deepish green with no real danger other than water off the back left (which forms a hazard for the next hole).

In faint praise, I think the best way to describe the Windsor Park experience is nice. The course is nice, the greens are nice, the fairways are nice, the toilets are nice and clean, the starter and the staff in the halfway house where nice (if somewhat indifferent) - a nice experience, but not one that I would necessarily be excited about repeating.

So then, not much to report, but then not that much bad to say either - I will probably play the course again, but will probably always prefer to test my game against Randpark.

For more info, contact details, etc you can visit

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Courses I've played : Lost City Country Club : 4 (7)/10

I don't know why I do it to myself, every time I find myself looking forward to a round at one of the courses at Sun City (Gary Player CC and Lost City CC) I find myself hoping, wishing almost that I won't have a bad experience and every time I find myself disappointed the instant I arrive at the complex gates.

I am going to separate this review into two sections: one about the course and one about the way Sun International (SI) makes you feel when you play their courses.

I don't know if it is just me but every time I go through to Sun City to play golf, I feel like I am not wanted.

If I am expected to drive for an hour and a half and pay over R500 for a round of golf I don't expect to have to pay to get into the complex (a little 'welcome sir, enjoy your round, please go through' would make the world of difference in starting off the experience on the right footing and perhaps might make you ignore any of the other indifference you may experience) and I also don't expect attitude from the staff. I expect to be treated damn well (perhaps SI should look to Pinnacle Point for 'pointers').

I don't expect the guy behind the pro-shop counter to argue with me about the cost of the round (that I got off the SI website) and call his own staff stupid for charging a different rate the day before and then refuse to take the 'voucher' that is foisted on you at the gate and which says that it will be accepted anywhere within the complex on it.

At least the shop is reasonably priced - I would assume that a lot of golfers at least buy a shirt to commemorate their visit, but what I don't get is the overwhelming selection of black socks - is there some emerging fashion trend that I am not aware of?

I also don't expect anyone talk to me like I am an idiot, when I make a comment about the course guides costing R10 at the Lost City when they are supported by advertising and are free elsewhere - I don't care if they have GPS in their carts (his comment), I am paying for it.

For R500+ for a round of golf (and a third of tank of petrol) I also expect the staff in the restaurant to at least smile and not to demand my half way ticket before taking an order and to have a little civility, but then I suppose when they see what we are paying to play and what guests pay to stay at the resort and compare it to what they earn, they probably do as little as they have to, to keep their jobs.

Perhaps SI should invest some effort and funds into training their staff and getting them to realise that being nice doesn't cost a thing, but not doing so can cost you your livelihood. The glum faces behind the refreshment counters on the course, paint a very vivid picture of the SI working experience.

BTW, from the SI site (I guess it needs an update)

Green Fees

18 Holes:
Residents of Sun City and non-residents can utilise the facilities and green fees include golf cart sharing (carts are compulsory), halfway house lunch and strokesaver book.

Individual Hotel Residents R420.00
Individual Non Residents R495.00
PGA Member Proof of membership required R350.00
Junior Under 18 years of age R250.00

Group Hotel resident (20+ golfers) R375.00
Group Day Visitor (20+ golfers) R420.00

Club Hire Fee Cleveland Classic R350.00

I also expect SI to make sure they get their booking system right - two friends could not play today, because SI booked the same set of names into 4 fourballs without checking and we ended having to play as a two ball. Its the little things that matter when you want to be one of the top courses in the country.

I also expect the maintenance staff on the course to be aware of the fact that there are golfers on a golf course and not mow, weed-eat and blow leaves at full tilt when they are trying to play a shot less than 10m from them.

Thank goodness for Peter (our spotter), the guy in the cloakroom and the bloke who cleaned our clubs after the game or the day would have been a complete loss.

I also expect the SI website to work properly with FireFox (or is that just expecting to much?)

On to the golf course, which is actually quite nice. The Lost City is a resort course and it is nowhere near as hard as its sister (championship) course, the Gary Player Country Club. It is also quite a bit more visually appealing, with its elevated tee shots, crocodile infested hazards and impressive surrounds.

The course plays very short off the white tees (at least the way the course was setup today) but that does not detract from the experience at all. If you hit the fairway you will find yourself with a decent shot at par, if you don't you may end up well over it (they grow the kikuyu tall and deep and it is very nasty to have to play out of). The course itself is in excellent condition, if a little dry, but then you cannot hold the weather against the greens keeper.

The greens are also in stunning condition and amongst the best I have played lately, for all the usual reasons: they are true, they are consistent and they hold the ball rather than being unfairly hard. The green shapes and slopes allow for some really interesting pin positions and I can see them being setup to challenge the better player with some decent risk/reward positions.

I don't think that there is an unfair hole on the course in terms of bounces, lies and blind carries, etc, pretty much every hole has a challenging shot for the better golfer and an easily accomplished one for the high handicapper where par is within reach. Throw into the mix the decent use of long and short par 4's and 5's and you have a golf course that you will probably walk off with a smile on your face irrespective of what you shoot (Note to course staff: the white tee markers on the 7th tee are 80m's out - a 385m par 5?)

From an overall golfing experience, it almost feels like the game is over to soon because you have been having so much fun - the course just seems to flow from one hole to the next and if anything the only holes that feel slightly out of place are the short par 4's, the 10th and 12th - they just don't feel like they fit in with the rest of the course for some reason. I can't say how the course feels from a first-timers perspective in determining where the fairways go and that (I have played the course at least 5 or 6 times and know my way around) but finding your way from a green to the next tee is really easy and the cart paths make it almost impossible to get lost.

Most people will probably tell you that the feature hole at the Lost City is the Par 3 13th (with the crocodiles in the hazard in front of the green, played over from an elevated tee) or they will make a case for the par 5 18th, with the water down the right, the long waste bunkers left, the irregularly sloped fairway and the clubhouse sitting majestically behind the green, but I quite fancy the shortish par 4, stroke 5, 14th: it has everything a short and difficult par 4 should have: a risky tee shot if you want to take on the green for 1 or 2, an easy place to put the ball if you are content with a par or 1 over and a raised green with subtle breaks. The hole is played from an elevated tee down onto a wide expanse of fairway which narrows at the 260m mark and falls off into a tree lined donga. Your second shot is uphill, through a gap in the trees over the self same donga, up onto a raised green with a pot bunker front left, thick kikuyu rough behind and some nice semi fairway on either side if you have a tendency to fade or draw the ball a little to much. The green slopes from back to front with a slight lip at the front and the high point towards the back left. The pin was in the middle and at the back today, but I expect that a lot of golfers would fall prey to the bunker if the pin where placed anywhere near the front left or middle of the green. A great hole to play, a fair hole for the high handicapper and a great way to rack up a double if you want to take it on and get it wrong.

The experience is further enhanced by the addition of the GPS screens in the carts (this is a carts only course) - they are brilliant for giving you exact yardages, letting you know how you are doing in keeping up with the field and they also give you a facility to record you score on the cart, rather than having to worry about your scorecard and pencil on every hole (nice to see to, that SI didn't miss a trick with advertising on them). I'd like to see my home course get some of these nifty little toys!

In summary, we had a great time on the course, but a completely forgettable one off it. The course gets a 7, but the overall experience only warrants the awarding of 4 rating.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Courses I've played : Eagle Canyon Country Club : 4/10

The first time I played this course, I came off after 12 holes, beaten into submission by the cold, the rain and the layout. The next time I played I shot one of my best scores ever but I swore I wouldn't come back after seeing how my playing partners struggled and after this visit I suppose I would probably play here again for the test of target golf that it is, but the same problems that formed my first opinions of the course still exist and the overall impression remains that it wants to punish the high handicapper or the better player having an off day) purely because they do not possess the ability to play target golf and may not have the recovery skills required.

To my mind, there is a reason the Eagle Canyon has special offers and reduced fees with carts thrown in and that is because the majority of golfers who play there once, realise that they don't enjoy being made to feel foolish on the golf course and never come back and as is the case with a social game, they tell their friends and playing partners and the pool of people who want to play the course reduces. Case in point being the number of balls our fourball lost or put out of bounds: 15 (5, 10, 15 & 16 handicaps), thats between R300 and R450 worth of balls - I can remember my normal fourball loosing that many over a month, even when we where all playing badly.

For this review, rather than rambling on, I thought I would try to list all of the for and against points I had in my mind, if only to make it easier for the the reader to see how my opinion was formed.


- Spectacular views from clubhouse and up to it from the course and its surrounds.
- Layout is certainly dramatic routing around the quarry and many water features
- Excellent greens - they are in great condition, well looked after, true to their lines and consistent from a speed perspective
- Cheap (R200 for affiliated visitor + a cart)
- I have only ever had good spotters on this course
- Clubhouse is one of the best I have ever seen
- The halfway house is very nice and reasonable priced.
- The pre and post game service from all the course staff was excellent
- The changes that have been made to the course since I last played there have improved some of the more unfair/dangerous areas


- The course is overly punitive, both in layout and the in designers ignorance of natural flows of water i.e. the 400m stroke 2 lies next to and on a level with the largest water feature of the course with the natural consequence that the fairway is very wet right in the landing zone for a good drive forcing an accurate and (very) long second shot in most cases (given that the green is tucked away between some water and the next tee box)
- There is almost an element of the course trying to hard to 'fit' into quarry layout with too many blind shots that require pinpoint accuracy to ensure a workable next shot.
- Many run-offs and slopes in landing areas are unfair, it almost seems like course designer was determined to make players loose balls.
- Players are punished for good shots/forced to compromise and a there are number of holes with no chance to take a risk
- Good players are punished for being long off the tee (par 5 5th has a sloot right in the driver landing area; high handicappers have more than enough room to play to, but better players are forced to compromise in order for the hole to be able to defend par, and there are two par 4's in a row on the back 9 that do not allow for the use of a driver off the tee)
- You are surrounded by a sea of crowded housing in pretty much any direction you choose to look
- The are areas of the course that look like a building site
- One hole specifically almost looks like the developer thought it was not memorable enough so he stuck a 300m long, winding flower bed down the left side of it, using planting that is totally out of character with the rest of the course.
- The course is still dangerous in some areas - playing to greens over/near tee boxes and blind shots that will put the fourball in front of you at risk if you don't have a spotter.
- Driving up and down some of the cart paths can be interesting
- The elevation changes and tight landing areas can be overly punitive when the wind is blowing and can make club selection a guessing game at best (in all probability the winner of the previous hole will have to sacrifice their tee shot so the rest of the fourball can get an idea of what to do)

My favourite holes on the course are the 475m par 5, 2nd and the 160m+ par 3, 4th, both holes that don't use any smart tricks or compromises because of the quarry layout. The 2nd is a dog-leg left from the 200m in mark, it has an ample fairway and rewards a good drive with a chance to go for the green in two and has opportunities to go offline on every shot. The green on this hole is as good as any on the rest of the course and my opinion is in no way biased by the eagle that I got! The 4th is a great par 3 (after the somewhat inane par 4, stroke 1), with a carry over water to a wide and not very deep green that slows from back to front (so you don't have to worry about holding your shot on the putting surface. It has a bunker on the left and a bank of rough around and the back and to the right (where it is possible to recover from). The reason it is great? Because so many golfers get intimidated carrying the water instead of worrying about their club selection and knowing how to play to their shot shape, it forces the golfer to think about other things than just the shot at hand.

My advice for the first time player: take the reputation that the course has seriously, play within yourself and think your way round the course, play with someone who knows the course, take a spotter, bring a lot of balls and prepare to be frustrated (and drink to your sorrows afterwards and enjoy the view from the clubhouse balcony)

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Courses I've played : Parkview Golf Club : 8.5/10

Parkview 7.5/10

The problem with playing a course like Parkview is that if you are not accurate off the tee, you can pretty much kiss a low round goodbye. To say that Parkview is tree lined is an understatement, but that being said in most instances the fairways are generous and if you play to your shot shape you should be able to get round somewhere near your handicap (but don't expect to play under it) - I would suspect that the ringers get sorted out very quickly amongst this clubs members.

To my mind this course typifies great golf course architecture. Each hole has its place and is in its place, one hole seems flow to the next and is where you would logically expect it to be, first a shortish par five, followed by a long, tight low stroke par 4, a relatively easy par 3 with a generously large but subtly sloped green where the base of the pin is hidden, followed by the stroke 1, dogleg left, get it offline and you are screwed par 4 - 4 great opening holes. Other than two par 5's back to back on the back 9 Parkview has a layout that fits is location perfectly. It uses the terrain it is built within to perfection - the fairways are rolling, sloped and surrounded by trees and require you to think about your approach strategy, there are short par fours which invite you to take on the hole at your peril, bunkers which are perfectly placed and should stand up to the new advances in equipment and at least one par3 that looks like it has always been there and the course was merely built around it. Add to this the fact that the strokes on the four finishing holes are 6, 14, 4 and 8 and you have a course that will test the best and leave you with a sense of achievement even if you only get 1 par and shoot a 100.

There are one or two things that don't fit though, the sloot that runs through the course is in play on many holes and makes a great hazard, but the problem is that it is jarring on the eye and doesn't fit the classic look and feel of the course, its also on the right on pretty much every hole it comes in to play on and thats a bit unfair to the high-handicapper, most of whom (and me on a bad day) tend to slice the
ball. I am going to assume too that course takes a lot of rounds, especially from visitors because their greens are covered in un/badly repaired pitch marks and unraked bunkers - I don't know if its just bad manners on the part of the the players or that the caddies not doing their jobs properly, but it does detract from the experience.

The major gripes in our group (handicaps 6,10,15 & 24) where the inconsistency of the greens - they varied between hard and soft and slow and fast each with a combination of subtle and not so subtle breaks and this made it quite hard to figure out what type of shot to select coming into a green (I can only imagine how much more frustrating this would be if you hadn't played the course before), and the difficulty we all had in judging the distances into the pins (if we didn't have a range finder it would have been a long day), although the markers are to the middle, most of the ones on sprinkler heads, etc where damaged or missing and the poles on the fairway give no inkling of how much one should allow for the depth of a green (and some of the greens are quite a lot deeper than they look) - I also didn't see any course guides available, but I might have missed them. I also only saw a course marshall once which didn't help the slow play (we teed off at 13:15 and only finished after 18:00).

Two holes come to mind as the most memorable for me on this course, the par 4, stroke 1, 400m 4th and the par 3, stroke 6, 170m 15th - both holes are not tough because they are long, they are tough because they require a fairly accurate shot off the tee and a keen touch on the greens (the 4th only required a driver and a pitching wedge, but on both holes I was on the wrong side of the green and had knee-knockers back across slopes and elevation changes to claim a decent score), add to this the fact that they both look stunning and you have two holes you will remember for quite some time after you walk off the course.

The 4th is a dog-leg left with a massive tree from the 110m to 150m mark, on the turn, guarding half the fairway, that seems to magnetically attract every ball played anywhere near it. The green is tucked right up against the boundry wall of the course and is surrounded by deep rough and some nasty looking bunkers (and don't go right, the sloot is also in play on this hole). Once you are on the green you have to contend with a surface that has its high point 2/3rd's on and 2/3 across, if hit
your approach a little to far and pitch the green, you may still find yourself playing your next from the rough. Tough, but rewarding if you play it right.

The 15th is a longish par 3, but that is not what will have you worrying about your tee-shot - the green has a sliver of fairway front-right if you move the ball left-to-right and want to bail out, but that leaves you with a tricky pitch up a green that slopes from back to front towards the water (and a bunker) front left. The
rough slopes up around the green (with a another bunker off the right middle thrown in for good measure) ensuring that any shots that aren't on target or the correct length will be severly punished. Add the tall trees at the back left and you have a hole that is worthy of its low rating and will leave you satisfied when you walk off with a par.

As a point of interest, the course also only has 3 par 5's and 3 par 3's and the 9's are 35 & 37.

In summary, let me say that the niggling problems I described shouldn't stop you from playing the course, Parkview is a great test of golf and a beautiful example of classical golf course architecture in a aesthically pleasing and well suited setting (that reminds me, I must play Glendower again soon) and if you keep you wits about you, you should score well and enjoy the pleasant, if not so peaceful surroundings (you are after all smack in the middle of Joburg, as the electric fences and car accident holes in the fences will remind you).

It cost R200 (a little steep if you ask me) to play during the week as an affiliated visitor and the cart cost R175, the halfway house was reasonably priced (R24 for a sandwich and two still waters), clean and the service was quick and effective and the 19th (which has a great location, almost on top of the 18th green) also seemed good value for money (R65 for 1 softdrink, 2 mixers and 3 draughts).

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Why am I doing this?

At some point I am sure someone is going to ask me to detail my motivations for doing this, so I thought I would jump in first. Let me say that I am not involved in the golf business in any way (I am in the IT business) and I play purely for the challenge and enjoyment of the game.

I get to play a lot of golf and experience what it is like to play as a member at one of the countries better estate courses and as a visitor on many others and the one thing that I seldom, if ever, see in any of the golfing publications is a review of a golf course and the experience that surrounds the visit from the perspective of the unknown visitor (and it took a visit to Potchefstroom to finally add enough fuel to the fire). It is my opinion that golf courses treat the golfing press far differently from the paying public and this is evident in the fact that almost always the reviews that you see are glowing and in many cases the courses are not easily within reach of the pocket of the majority of the golf playing public.

I have also have a keen interest in golf course architecture (coupled with the analytical mind of a software and systems architect,at least I like to think so) and the challenge that a golfer faces in negotiating their way round the 18 holes. I believe golf is not a series of difficult tasks to be completed, it is a game that should be interesting and fun and that is the perspective from which I judge a course. I don't necessarily want to be a golf course architect, but I do believe my exposure to the game entitles me to an opinion at the very least.

Whilst playing, I try to judge a course by the following set of criteria:

1. Routing – this is the hardest element to measure, but is best described as the holes seem to all work perfectly one after the other.

2. Architecture/definition – a player should be able to devise a clear strategy for playing a hole without worrying about hidden perils, blind tee shots, etc

3. Setting/aesthetics/conditioning

4. Mixture of hole types and hole lengths/how these are balanced across the 9's

5. Balance of strong and fun holes/playability/degree of difficulty

6. Great par threes

7. A full mixture of par fours from drivable to unmanageable

8. Par fives that are interesting rather than just long

9. A golf course that makes you think – 18 clearly defined holes with one option per shot lacks strategy – the course must invite you to take risk and play smart

10. A course that has continuity – from architectural style through to feel, too many ideas or too many elements ruins a good piece of architecture

This may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but as nearly all of these overlap you do tend to get an overall picture in your mind as you are moving through your round and I find it quite easy to come to a conclusion about a specific course once I have spent some time digesting my round.

[These criteria originally come from Ian Andrews]