The 2022 Top 100 Course Rankings will be announced on social media and the website platform from Monday, January 31 to Friday, February 4. Repeating last year’s popular format, 20 courses will be presented each day, beginning with No 100 on the Monday and counting down to No 1 on the Friday.
Featuring in the Top 20 carries considerable prestige, and it’s a closely contested field of outstanding courses. Six of the current incumbents are in the Garden Route, three in the Eastern Cape, three in Gauteng, with the other eight spread around the country: two each from Mpumalanga and Western Cape, and one each from Northern Cape, KZN, North West and Limpopo.
Fancourt Links has been the country’s undisputed No 1 course since 2014, while the No 2 position has been occupied by Leopard Creek, Glendower and Pearl Valley. The Top 10 saw a new entry last year in Humewood at No 9, returning for the first time in 20 years, but it does have mostly familiar faces.
Arabella, Fancourt Montagu, the Gary Player CC, and St Francis Links have never been outside the Top 10 since rankings began, or they were first opened for play, while the East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington has been entrenched since 2007. However, the GPCC at Sun City,
a former No 1, did fall to No 7 a year ago.
Prospective climbers into the Top 100 include Blair Atholl, which was as high as No 4 in 2014, East London, which was No 10 prior to the last rankings, Sishen and Highland Gate. Sishen, our remote Northern Cape jewel, was a big mover up to No 13 a year ago, while the Ernie Els design of Highland Gate, another out-of-the-way destination, continues to receive plaudits from all who visit. It is currently at No 16.
Durban Country Club, which fell from No 4 to No 12 a year back, seems unlikely to immediately recover its Top 10 status following the unfortunate setback to their greens in 2021. We look forward to the recovery of the greens with new cynodon grass in 2022. DCC is scheduled to co-host a Sunshine Tour event with Mount Edgecombe from February 24-27.
The new rankings are as always likely to include a handful of newcomers to the Top 100, among them some courses which have never previously appeared in the rankings.
Contenders in this category which have come to our attention the past year are Clarens (Free State), Devonvale (Western Cape Winelands), Kambaku (Mpumalanga), Kloof (Durban), Richards Bay (KZN North Coast), Robertson (Winelands) and Waterkloof (Pretoria). Kloof is the only one to have previously featured in the rankings, from 2001 to 2009.
EXCELLENT CONDITIONING STANDARDS
It has been a busy and successful last 12 months for the majority of golf clubs in South Africa, with the number of rounds continuing to rise in every part of the country. What impressed me from my travels to all nine provinces during 2021 visiting and assessing 120 courses was the general standard of conditioning. It has reached standards of excellence that will be difficult to surpass. The greenkeeping fraternity have really raised their game.
While the quality of greens is the most important area of conditioning – they count for 10 percent of the total marks – I have been looking closely at the overall presentation of courses by the maintenance staff. This is where neatness and consistency through the green is judged. Paying attention to detail and enhancing the particular theme of a course, whether it be parkland, bushveld, seaside or links.
It’s all very well a course having an excellent putting surface on their greens, but if the surrounds are untidy, patchy or neglected, then it detracts from good work in other areas. Quality presentation is a sign of outstanding work by the course staff and indicates they are looking at the larger holistic picture. And while presentation counts for only a few marks in the Conditioning criteria, it does play a big role on a course’s mark in Aesthetics.
The leading courses in the Presentation Category on the website (The Top 100 By Top-Rated Category – SA Top 100 Courses) are not surprisingly those in the Top 10 of the rankings – Fancourt’s Links and Montagu, Leopard Creek, St Francis Links, Arabella, Pearl Valley, to mention some.
The six Conditioning categories are dynamic, changing with every rating entered into the system, and Fancourt Montagu was the leading course at the end of 2021 in Overall Conditioning, closed followed by Leopard Creek, Fancourt Links, Arabella and Highland Gate.
Other courses further down the rankings have also mustered 4 stars in the Presentation category and it bodes well for their chances of doing well in the new rankings. These include the likes of Pretoria CC, Zimbali, Woodhill, Euphoria and the two Mount Edgecombe courses.