Black 7527 metres, CR78.5/146
Gold 6752 metres, CR74.4/141
Silver 6478 metres, CR72.8/132
Bronze 5823 metres, CR69.8/118
White 5004 metres, CR65.1/115
Women’s bronze, CR75.7/141
Women’s white, CR70.8/129
R1 500 includes cart sharing, halfway house, water, use of range, personalised locker
Cart fee R440
Gary Player 2007
011 300 5713
15 (2021) & 11 (2020)
The Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate was built on Gary Player’s former Gauteng home and stud farm, where some of South Africa’s great polo and race horses were raised. It is in a beautiful rural setting, far from the noise and bustle of city suburbs.
Player remains passionate about the estate, and the championship course he designed was inspired by his love for Augusta National. It might be his last in South Africa, and a wonderful legacy to leave. Player’s love for thoroughbred horses saw the establishment of an equestrian centre.
Fittingly for Player, who won 13 SA Opens, Blair Atholl hosted the 2022 SA Open, won by Thriston Lawrence on a 16-under-par total of 272.
The spacious layout – surrounding farmland was also acquired – undulates through tranquil rolling countryside and indigenous bush – there are 250 000 trees on the property. Like Augusta National, there are a surprising amount of elevation changes, and the fairways are invitingly wide. On the opening par 5 the clubhouse quickly disappears from view as the fairway falls steeply downhill to a green adjoining a large water hazard.
The beauty of the layout is that it ambles far into the countryside, rather than looping back to the clubhouse, and has just the one starting tee. The halfway house comes after the eighth, an idyllic setting on a wooden deck under the trees overlooking the Crocodile River. The clubhouse is briefly seen at the 12th green before a final loop of six strong finishing holes, including South Africa’s most challenging par 4, 512 metres from the back tees and playing uphill. And it is six metres shorter than the par-4 15th! At least that plays downhill.
There are two unusual aspects to the course layout. Firstly, there are 5 par 5s and 5 par 3s – similar to Simola and Oubaai in the Garden Route, designed respectively by Jack Nicklaus and Ernie Els. Blair Atholl and Simola, coincidentally, begin and end with par 5 holes. Secondly, the back nine from the gold tees measures 4034 metres, just 545 metres fewer than the shortest 18-hole course in the South Africa, the Red tees at Wild Coast Sun.
It’s a long walk, and golfers have the option of taking a golf cart, a caddie, or both.
Blair Atholl is three kilometres from Lanseria Airport, a gateway airport to Sun City, 140 kilometres away. The Cradle of Humankind is close.
63 by Ockie Strydom in second round of 2022 SA Open. He had 31-32 with 9 birdies.
*Thriston Lawrence twice shot 64 in tournaments, with 9 birdies and a bogey in each round.
The fast-flowing Crocodile River runs through the course and the fourth is a fearsome dogleg left par-4 where the tee shot has to carry the river. Player modelled this hole on the famous 13th at Augusta. The hole before that is a magnificent par 3, reminiscent of the 12th at Augusta National, except that it asks for a long carry over a sunken pond to an elevated green. The par-3 eighth is played from a high tee to a green on the opposite bank of the river. On the back nine the 10th is a terrific par 5, the well-bunkered fairway sloping down to a stream, then climbing again to an elevated green. The long 15th is a memorable downhill par 4 with beautiful views over the countryside.
Range and short-game area close to the first tee.
2022 Matthew van den Heuvel / 2021 Sean Milne
2020 Joshua Reimer / 2019 Regan Steyn
1/ Blair Atholl is proud to have two Masters champions as members, Gary Player and Charl Schwartzel. Player became the club’s first honorary life member at the tenth anniversary dinner in 2017. There is a life-size statue of the Black Knight near the first tee. Schwartzel has the lowest score on the course, a 12-under 60 playing in a social fourball.
2/ At 7 523 metres (8 230 yards) from the back tees, Blair Atholl is one of the five longest courses in the world – No 1 is Jade Dragon Snow Mountain GC in China at 7 800m.
3/ Blair Atholl from the gold tees has seven par 4s of between 434 and 518 metres, three par 3s are between 213 and 222. The longest hole is the 594m 13th.
4/ Golf director Paul Marks is a Master PGA of SA professional, and immediate past chairman of the PGA.
5/ The clubhouse includes the Gary Player Fitness Centre, with state of the art training equipment. The estate has mountain bike, running and walking trails, fishing, tennis, squash courts and its own private spa.
6/ The Blair Atholl Championship in October 2021 was the club’s first professional tournament, won by Luke Brown on 12-under 276.
Good to be back at Blair Atholl after last playing here three years ago when conditioning was average. The course is now in superb condition. Greens hard and fast (a wake-up call to other top 10 courses that don't roll their greens and keep them relatively slow), bunkers well maintained and uniform, fairways in good shape. A testing but fair layout and a choice of different tees to play from. Credit to Paul Marks and his team for a world class experience. Easy to see why it makes the top 10 and I can see it moving further up the rankings.
A course improving year on year and a fine testament to the legacy and vision of Gary Player. One of the longest and most difficult of courses from the championship tees, even playing from the club tees adds a few shots to your handicap index. However, there are options to choose from and I recommend that shorter hitters choose the forward set. Having often played from the silver tees, for my latest game I thoroughly enjoyed teeing off from the bronze markers which offered a different vision of Blair Atholl. Although it reduced the playing difficulty it did not detract from the enjoyment.
First visit to this course and to be honest I had no idea what I was in for. The overall golfing experience is amazing. I particularly enjoyed the flow of the design before the round, starting at the range (grass bays), then on to the chipping area and the putting green as you make your way to the first tee. Best you make use of all these facilities before tackling the course as the holes are long and the greens big. The par-3 third hole is memorable and one on which to get out the camera. Blair Atholl is one of the courses high up on my list to play when I return to Gauteng.
If you've played this course recently, why not tell us all about it? Follow the link to our review section, complete our grading criteria and give us some details on your experience. If selected, your review will appear amongst the course’s collection of player reviews.