Blair Atholl has the longest stretch of three consecutive par 4 holes of any course in South Africa.
They are collectively calling Nos 14 to 16 The Blair Mile on the Gary Player design at the exclusive Gauteng estate. Together they add up to 1 509 metres from the back gold tees on South Africa’s longest course of 7 523 metres. Not quite an actual mile (1 609 metres), but an impressive length nonetheless.
The nearest competitor in South Africa is the East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington, where Nos 9 to 11 add up to 1 320 metres.
It is highly likely that these are also the longest trio of par 4s in the world. Par 4s in Gauteng are generally longer than those in other countries because of the altitude. And the three holes at Blair Atholl measure 479, 518 and 512 metres respectively. There are many par 5s that don’t play that long.
For many years in tournament golf the maximum distance for a par 4 was considered to be 475 yards (434 metres) but that standard was abandoned as driving distances increased exponentially.
The United States Golf Association now regularly convert par 5s into par 4s for the US Open, and the two longest par 4s in the history of the championship were used in the 2015 Open at Chambers Bay. In the second round the 13th was played at 551 yards (504 metres) and the 11th at 544 (497). Another hole, No 14, was played in the third round at 534 (488). If you added up all three their cumulative distance of 1 489 metres is still 20 metres short of Blair Atholl’s fearsome trio.
Interestingly, the longest course to host a US Open, Erin Hills (2017 US Open) at 7 845 yards (7 174 metres), did not boast any exceptionally long par 4s. Instead it had the second longest par 5 in US Open history, No 18 at 681 yards (623 metres). Kiawah Island (2021 PGA Championship) is the longest course in major championship history (7 876 or 7 202). Again, no extra long par 4.
Blair Atholl’s longest par 5 is No 13 at 594 metres. You play this hole immediately before tackling the fearsome trio!
Blair Atholl’s 14th is the shortest of the trio of holes at 479 metres, stroke 3 on the card and a slight dogleg left. The tee shot is played over the corner of a row of bunkers guarding the left side, and the fairway then angles downhill to a raised green.
Blair Atholl hosted its first Sunshine Tour event in October 2021 (won by Luke Brown with a 12-under total of 276), and the 14th was the toughest hole for the professionals, averaging 4.42. There were only 14 birdies here in the 72 holes.
That’s followed by the downhill 518-metre 15th, stroke 5, with a large bunker to be carried in the middle of the fairway, and that averaged 4.33. It has a more welcoming green. This is longer than any par 4 in the United States. The longest there is the 514-metre 15th at Pasadera CC, a Nicklaus design, in Monterey, California.
Back at Blair Atholl for the last of the fearsome trio and stroke 1. You cross a bridge over the Crocodile River running through the course to reach the back tee for the uphill 512-metre 16th. That oddly enough played the easiest of the trio in the Sunshine Tour tournament, at 4.22. It conceded 45 birdies and an eagle two by Divan van den Heever.
Louis Albertse, who was T-4 in the tournament, impressively birdied each of The Blair Mile holes, including three in a row on No 16.
Blair Atholl, where the average hole length (including par 3s) is 418 metres, also has the longest stretch of holes in South Africa including par 5s.
That would be Nos 13 to 15 at 1 591 metres, 47 metres longer than Pecanwood’s No 5 to 7, which includes two par 5s. Other courses with a stretch of three holes in excess of 1 500 metres are The Els Club Copperleaf (1 518 from 9 to 11) and CCJ Rocklands (1 515 from 11 to 13).
The longest closing stretch of three holes in South Africa can be found at Country Club Johannesburg. The Woodmead course ends with two par 5s and the par-4 17th adding up to 1 439 metres.