I have recently returned from a visit to South Africa where I had the opportunity to play the only course on the African continent rated in the Top 100 - Durban Country Club. And what a pleasure the old course is!
The course was constructed in 1922 and has hosted 16 South African Opens, with all of South Africa's greatest, from Locke to Player to Els, winning on her hallowed ground. The club will host the 100th South African Open, the second oldest championship in golf behind the British Open, in December this year.
During the round I came to learn that the course had not ever had it's greens replaced. In the courses almost 90 year history, the greens had never been redone! The greens, while being adequate, showed signs of being tired and the word is they will be resurfaced with a light redesign being done David McLay Kidd (An excellent choice I might add!) after the Centennial SA Open.
This is an old school golf course that has everything I love. It places a premium on accuracy and ball striking - someting similar to Harbourtown Golf Links in the US. It is not long; there are birdies to be made; just don't make a mistake. All the holes are good here with my favorites being Nos. 1-5, 8, 12 and 17 & 18. Even the halfway house is exceptional, with some of the finest meat pies and curry gravy on the continent.
The 12th is a short par 3 that is called the Prince of Wales. It is so named because when the prince played the course he could not find the green and kept hitting from one side to the other eventually finishing with a 12! Looking at the picture, I think you can tell he was not the first or the last golfer to score in the double digits on the hole.
The 18th hole is unusual in that is an easily driveable par four of only 285 yards, but it had better be a straight 285 yards! Tony Johnstone came to this final tee box in the 1993 SA Open leading by 3 over Ernie Els. He convinced himself that he needed to hit driver and found the back of the green while Els hit two balls out of bounds and Johnstone won by seven! The type of finishing hole I would like to see more of.
Do all you can to play this African gem - a truly classic golf course that can easily be enjoyed by golfers of every caliber.
Here is an excellent in-depth review of the course done by golfclubatlas.com
Happy New Year everybody!