Composite courses could become fashionable locally in the new era of the World Handicap System.
One of the drawbacks of the WHC with its Course Rating and Slope to determine a course handicap is that club golf directors have their hands tied when it comes to setting up a course for daily play or club competitions.
Unlike on the PGA Tour or Sunshine Tour they cannot use the occasional forward tee to bring different hazards into play on a par 5 or par 4, or play a long par 3 from a front tee, introducing a tricky pin position. Or give club golfers a taste of what it’s like to tee off from an occasional back tee.
The distances from every colour tee box are fixed, and there’s not much latitude allowed for golf directors to create something different in the way of a course setup without compromising the rating from each tee.
This has sadly resulted in a lack of variety in today’s club game. Gone are the days of looser restrictions when you might play off unfamiliar tees which provide an alternative approach to a hole. The only way club golfers can vary the routine of a course is to change the colour tee from which they play, and that means having to play off a lower or higher handicap, which is not popular.
However, a composite course is being seen as the answer to these issues.
Centurion Country Club in Gauteng North, a Peter Matkovich design ranked No 73, has had two composite courses officially rated by GolfRSA, and they are proving popular, according to head professional Jannes Sik, whose idea it was. Essentially Centurion now offers seven different layouts catering for a wide variety of skills, as does No 2-ranked Leopard Creek in Mpumalanga where Club Director Johan Piek has also shown innovation.
“I felt it was a shame that golfers were restricted to playing an identical course over and over if they stuck to the same colour tee,” said Sik. “So I came up with two composite courses – the Hennops Course and John Vorster Drive Course – which utilise four of the five colour tees at Centurion.
“The Hennops layout is the longer one, at 6 407 metres, and it comprises 8 yellow and 7 white tees, 2 blue and 1 red. The rating is 72.7 for men. The John Vorster Drive layout is 9 blue and 9 red, at 5 762 metres with a men’s rating of 69.5 and women’s rating of 75.5.
“On both courses I employ the red tee on our par-5 15th, reducing the length of the hole from 552 to 480 metres. Now, a golfer having a long drive has the option of going for the green in two over the Hennops River fronting the putting surface. From the back tee, nearly everyone would lay up.”
Leopard Creek has two interesting composite courses, the Ingwe (5 922 metres with a men’s CR of 73.1) and Inkwazi (4 924m and 67.4). The Ingwe uses six of each of the Gold, White and Blue tees (all four par 5s are played from the Blue), and the Inkwazi six of each of the Blue, Red and Green tees.
Other clubs would do well to emulate the initiative shown by Centurion and Leopard Creek. It’s all about creating more design variety, and avoiding too many holes playing similar distances, particularly par 3s.