Pearl Valley has been judged as having the best range and practice facilities of South African courses. The No 3-ranked Top 100 course in the Cape Winelands, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design, was the only one to score 4½ golf balls out of 5 in this category.
It was closely followed in the top three by two popular Gauteng golf club ranges, those at the Els Club Copperleaf and Randpark. Rounding out the rest of the top 10 were Fancourt, Serengeti, The Links at Fancourt, The Club at Steyn City, Leopard Creek, Hermanus and Country Club Johannesburg.
The Top 100 Courses website has been rating club facilities for the past three years, and is announcing the Best Courses in six categories: Practice Facilities, Halfway House, Locker Room, Service, Pro Shop, Pace of Play and 19th Hole.
For clarification, Leopard Creek’s National Junior Development Centre, one of the world’s best golf practice centres, was not considered to be Leopard Creek’s range for regular play, but rather a separate facility, with a 9-hole Par 3 course, to be enjoyed by golfers at their leisure.
Modern golf estates and resorts, with ample land available, dominate the Top 10 with their purpose-built range facilities. The only older member clubs with Top 10 ranges are Randpark and CCJ, although Bryanston’s new facility, opened in 2022, may leap up the rankings as it acquires more ratings. Currently ranked No 17, it has state-of-the-art custom fitting facilities which are becoming more common at ranges.
Pearl Valley’s attractive range stands out among the main contenders. 1/ It is conveniently positioned close to first tee; 2/ Lengthy enough to hit driver and wide, thus catering for numerous hitting bays; 3/ Trees frame both sides of range so that fewer balls stray on to adjoining holes; 4/ Grass bays, not mats, and bays at both ends, with target flags; 5/ Good quality balls free to use, laid out in trays; 6 / Staff on duty; 7/ Separate and spacious chipping and putting greens in front of clubhouse; 8/ Another putting green close to first tee.
Copperleaf has possibly one of the most spacious ranges in world golf, with an abundance of grass bays; also close to the clubhouse and starting tees. It is home to a Truefit outdoor club fitting shop. Having grass to hit from is a luxury for golfers to enjoy, and courses which offer grass, or grass and mats, have an advantage over those where mats are the only hitting surface.
Top ranges with primarily mats and no grass are Randpark, Steyn City, Fancourt, Bryanston, Steenberg, De Zalze and Huddle Park.
Randpark, with a double-storey floodlit range and 40 bays, is unique in being open to the public and having the InRange radar tracking system (installed in November 2020) where golfers can chart their performance, play games and experience virtual courses. There are personal in-bay touchscreens, and an app to check data and distance. “Nothing beats the versatility of this range, the InRange in each bay helps you get better with every session,” said one range user.
Fancourt was awkward to judge as the resort effectively has two separate ranges for members and hotel guests, with different functions. One is conveniently close to the clubhouse and hotel rooms, perfect for a warm-up before a round, offering a spacious range, limited number of bays, and excellent short game area.
The other range, situated near The Links at Fancourt, is home to the Wanna Be A Champion Golf & Fitness Academy, and is extremely spacious. It is used for lessons, club fitting, and more intensive range work. Both are excellent facilities, but the second option is superior, offering the option of grass bays as against mats at the clubhouse.
Gauteng clubs, predictably, have the largest representation with 40% percent of the Top 50 ranges, followed by Western Cape with 34%. Other regions represented are Limpopo (three ranges), and two each from KZN, Eastern Cape, Free State, North West and Mpumalanga.
Interestingly, of the Top 20 courses in the rankings, only seven have Top 25 ranges that befit their status: Pearl Valley, The Links at Fancourt, Leopard Creek, The Club at Steyn City, Fancourt Montagu, Blair Atholl and Royal Johannesburg.
Some leading courses have good ranges but at an inconvenient distance away from the clubhouse, such as St Francis Links, Gary Player CC, Pinnacle Point, Mount Edgecombe and Paarl. Some have good short game areas, but limited long-game space – Arabella, Simola and Pezula.
Huddle Park, a pay-and-play facility in Johannesburg, has a range open to the public, as are those at Randpark, Stellenbosch, Mount Edgecombe and Umhlali.
TOP 50 RANGES AT SA COURSES
TOP 10 RANGES
1 Pearl Valley, 2 Els Club Copperleaf, 3 Randpark, 4 Fancourt,
5 Serengeti, 6 The Links at Fancourt, 7 The Club at Steyn City,
8 Leopard Creek, 9 Hermanus, 10 Country Club Johannesburg.
SECOND 10 RANGES
11 Stellenbosch, 12 Blair Atholl, 13 Eye of Africa, 14 Pecanwood, 15 Mount
Edgecombe, 16 Pretoria CC, 17 Bryanston, 18 Royal Johannesburg,
19 Steenberg, 20 De Zalze.
THIRD 10 RANGES
21 Eagle Canyon, 22 Highland Gate, 23 Royal Cape, 24 Ebotse Links,
25 Umhlali, 26 Houghton, 27 Huddle Park, 28 Heron Banks,
29 Bloemfontein, 30 St Francis Links.
FOURTH 10 RANGES
31 Elements, 32 Waterkloof, 33 Clovelly, 34 Pinnacle Point, 35 Kingswood,
36 Lost City, 37 Woodhill, 38 Erinvale, 39 Ruimsig, 40 Euphoria.
FIFTH 10 RANGES
41 Atlantic Beach, 42 Zebula, 43 Glendower, 44 Humewood, 45 Centurion,
46 Goose Valley, 47 Devonvale, 48 Sishen, 49 Paarl, 50 Simola.
TOP 20 RANGES IN GAUTENG
1 Els Club Copperleaf, 2 Randpark, 3 Serengeti, 4 The Club at Steyn City,
5 Country Club Johannesburg, 6 Blair Atholl, 7 Eye of Africa, 8 Pretoria CC,
9 Bryanston, 10 Royal Johannesburg, 11 Eagle Canyon, 12 Huddle Park,
13 Ebotse Links, 14 Houghton, 15 Waterkloof, 16 Woodhill, 17 Ruimsig,
18 Glendower, 19 Centurion, 20 Dainfern.
TOP 15 RANGES IN WESTERN CAPE
1 Pearl Valley, 2 The Links at Fancourt, 3 Hermanus, 4 Fancourt,
5 Stellenbosch, 6 Steenberg, 7 De Zalze, 8 Royal Cape, 9 Clovelly,
10 Pinnacle Point, 11 Kingswood, 12 Erinvale, 13 Atlantic Beach,
14 Goose Valley, 15 Devonvale.
TOP 5 RANGES IN KZN
1 Mount Edgecombe, 2 Umhlali, 3 Gowrie Farm, 4 Durban CC, 5 Bosch Hoek.
INRANGE AT RANDPARK
This system not only allows range users to track the distance of every shot played, but answers questions on how they performed, and what golfers need to focus on to improve. InRange provides users with the ability to select targets for approach shots or fairways for tee shots (scaled according to a golfer’s handicap or skill level), and receiving instant feedback. It also calculates an InRange handicap (three different categories: short approach shots, long approach and tee shots). Challenges and games are designed to encourage good course management, and allow users to compete against other golfers on monthly leaderboards. Virtual courses were originally only included in the Inrange multiplayer platform, but have been added to the single player platform after many requests.