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Gowrie Farm

Nottingham Road, KZN Midlands - KwaZulu-Natal

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Golf director: Phil Simmons
Greenkeeper: Matt Hoines (Matkovich Group)
Club Captain: Anthony Barnard
Chairman: Chris Brown
President: Trevor Saulez
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 69.8 out of 100
Conditioning13.8 / 20
Playability14.2 / 20
Aesthetics12.6 / 15
Design Variety10.2 / 15
Shot Values9.0 / 15
Memorability10.0 / 15

Course Summary

Four tees / Par 71

Yellow 6407 metres, CR73.3/145
White 6056 metres, CR71.7/137
Blue 5570 metres, CR69.1/127
Purple 4872 metres, CR65.5/115
Women’s white, CR79.0/152
Women’s blue, CR75.5/145
Women’s purple, CR70.8/133

Visitor green fee

Seniors R280 all week
Juniors R235
Sunday/Monday R350
Sunday PM R500 including cart
Wednesday to Saturday R400
Golf carts R390

Course designer

Guy Smith 2007

Contact

073 396 0847
www.gowrie.co.za

Previous ranking

54 (2023), 50 (2022) & 48 (2021)

Gowrie Farm is one of South Africa’s more unique layouts, a modern 12-green hybrid creation in the scenic Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal.

Owner and course architect Guy Smith was inspired by his love of classic designs from Scotland and the United States to build a simple yet visually stunning venue that is loved by traditionalists.

Essentially this is a big and spacious 9-holer, yet clever design features, alternate tees, the addition of three extra greens, at the end of the day leaves golfers content with having played 18 different holes. There are five distinct par 3s, each with their own greens. The farmland terrain has a rugged and open moorland feel, as there are no trees. From the clubhouse you can see most of the course, other than a few greens hidden by the undulating terrain.

The clubhouse overlooks a magnificent dam, around which the closing holes on both nines are played.

Features of the layout include the naturally rugged look of the bunkering – Smith took a leaf from a description of Cypress Point, “Bunkers should have the appearance of being made with careless abandon.” – and push-up greens with run-off areas. It is an excellent test, with a varied set of challenges – the occasional fierce carry here and there over wetlands or water, plus the fearsome bunkers. The greens are bent grass, with cynodon grass in the surrounds and approaches, promoting bump-and-run golf.

Gowrie Farm has an understated look about it. The small clubhouse feels more like a private home, having an intimate golf-themed lounge/bar with a fireplace, plus an outer glassed-in patio area which serves as the halfway house and breakfast area. It’s only a few strides from locker room to first tee. Upstairs is comfortable accommodation. Smith was the developer of Prince’s Grant on the KZN North Coast, where he first provided luxury rooms above the clubhouse.

Gowrie Farm and Bosch Hoek, 20 kilometres apart, have transformed the KZN Midlands Meander into a golfing destination.

Gowrie Farm has golf clinics for women on Tuesday and Saturday (AM) and juniors on Saturday and Sunday.

Additional Course Facts

Course Record

59 by Matt Saulez in 2018. Played back nine in 28.

Feature Holes

An excellent example of Smith’s imaginative work is the seventh/17th hole. It plays as a 330-metre par 4 the first time round to a narrow green hidden behind a ridge; then as a 179m par 3 from an elevated tee to the same green. There’s an excellent quartet of par 3s, from short to long, each with a different looking green complex. The 18th is an unusual par 5, from a high tee to a broad fairway where the option is a long carry over the dam to a small green, or as a 3-shotter via a fairway in the wetlands. If you are strapped for time, and the course quiet, you can make one tour and play 12 different holes, using all the greens.

Practice Facility

Long and spacious range adjoining the first hole, practice green.

Accommodation

Gowrie Farm offers a luxurious stay for golfers, with five en-suite rooms on the upper floor of the stone clubhouse, and six suites overlooking the adjacent 18th green, two with kitchenettes. Additionally, for golfing groups there are two self-catering cottages on the property, each with four bedrooms, the Charles Smythe close to the clubhouse and Old Tom Morris on a hillside position. The Charles Smythe doubles up as a conference centre.

Did You Know

1/ Gowrie Farm was ranked by Golf Digest in 2013 as being fourth among the top 9 “Short Courses” in the world outside the United States.

2/ Gowrie Farm offers country living for home owners on a 360-hectare estate, and a large portion of that will remain an operational farm. The architectural style is rooted in historic farmhouses of the Midlands, and old-style simplicity.

3/ Former Sunshine Tour player Phil Simmons became the club’s golf director in May 2019. He spent many years as golf director at Mount Edgecombe.

4/ A rudimentary course existed on the Gowrie Farm site in 1923. The club has photos of golfers putting on a sand green surrounded by a fence to keep out farm animals. The land later became a dairy farm owned by Jub Greene, who currently looks after the course maintenance.

5/ Since 2016 Gowrie Farm has hosted the 54-hole SA Under-15 Challenge each March/April.

6/ Golf carts are allowed at Gowrie Farm, but without roofs to reduce their visibility on the course.

7/ In the area are Fourdoun boutique hotel & spa, and Brookdale Health Hydro & day spa.

Club Champions

2023 Trevor Saulez & Noogs Spall
2022 Murray Pitt & Julia Saulez
2021 Rees Emanuel & Julia Saulez
2020 Trevor Saulez & Julia Saulez
2019 Trevor Saulez

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Course Reviews
The seven new holes which make up the course's new front nine remind me of playing golf in Scotland. Simple but natural and enormous fun to play. However, you certainly need to play Gowrie Farm more than once to understand how to play them.
Guy Shaw Smith
13 May 2024
Awesome course with the new holes now open for play, but they need work.
Oliver Watt-Pringle
25 April 2024
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View more reviews
After 17 years as one of the best 9-holers in the world, Gowrie is now 18, par 71, opening to the public on March 13. Seven newly designed holes are still fairly rough yet most interesting to play, some adaptations by designer Guy Smith of famous holes on Scottish links. The new greens are beautifully shaped, mostly small or narrow, with magnificent bent grass surfaces. Bunkers abound. The course opens with the par-4 first, followed by a long 3 over a wetland. The new holes follow from 3-9, with a halfway house in the middle of the course. They are strong and characterful. No 3, a long 4 akin to the Road Hole at St Andrews, has a large bunker to carry on the tiger line, with an alternate route left. No 4 (Sahara) is a drivable 4 but a big mound and rockwall guards the green. No 5 is unique, a bunkerless hole based on The Pit at North Berwick. A stone wall lines the left side of the par 4 fairway with the green hard up against the wall on the other side. No 9 is another short 4. Its raised green has the same dimensions as the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon. The back nine has three 5s, three 4s and three 3s using the old holes.
Stuart McLean
12 March 2024
A magnificent layout with shared holes. Don't underestimate it.
George Herman
09 February 2024
Pleased to see Gowrie's greens restored to their normal excellent conditioning. Last winter they were infected by pythium disease and mostly unplayable. The course is pristine and the links-like features and variety of holes, together with swirling winds throughout the round, give one a feeling of playing at a special place. I enjoy the bunkering design where huge clumps of grass are allowed to grow on the surrounds as well as inside the bunkers. I can't wait for the "new" 7 holes to be opened in March when Gowrie becomes an 18-holer. A round on this great course will become even more memorable.
Trevor King
30 January 2024
Good news at Gowrie Farm is that their greens have re-opened for play this week. The Midlands estate-resort has had a torrid winter with temporary greens in place in recent months due to Pythium blight which devastated all 12 greens on the course. Nothing could be done about repairing them until warmer spring weather arrived and they could be hollow-tined and re-seeded. Temporary greens had a big impact on rounds. Pythium disease on greens has been rife in many parts of SA in 2023, notably Gauteng, due to the unusually wet and humid weather the past two years. Warning signs, usually dry spots on greens, are difficult to identify. Unless treated with a fungicide these spots become mottled, and the grass is about to die. A mistake is to keep watering the dry spots. Gowrie have re-seeded their greens with the same L93 bent grass as before. The greens on the 7 new holes were not affected, and these are due to open in March 2024, converting Gowrie into an 18-hole course.
Stuart McLean
21 September 2023
I enjoyed a walk around the seven new holes (under construction) with course designer Guy Smith, and those who love the Gowrie Farm experience have something to look forward to when they open. These will be holes 3 to 9. You don't return to the clubhouse so a halfway house will be built at the ninth green. An intriguing mix of varied challenges with classic bunkering and creative undulating greens, including one modelled on the Road Hole at St Andrews. Smith likes replicating "template holes" (variations of famous holes), and he has a Sahara and a Pit among the seven. The "Pit" at North Berwick has an ancient metre-high stone wall guarding the green, and Smith has a low wall of rocks framing the left side of a medium par 4. It needs to be carried to find the green. The rocks were in the earth of the fairway, so removing them set his plan in motion. The new routing will mean a back nine which has three 3s, three 4s and three 5s (a la George GC). An 18-hole Gowrie Farm will be an exacting test but a fascinating one for those who love an older style of course design.
Stuart McLean
24 March 2023
Wow! Not often am I blown away by a course like I was at Gowrie. What an exceptional layout. You can see that a lot of time, thought and effort has gone into its design and construction. What amazed me is that even though you play some greens twice, it doesn't feel like the same green. A good example is that for holes 7 (short par 4) and 17 (par 3). The way the green has been shaped for the different angles of play is genius. The design theory that a green is to a golf course what a face is to a portrait, rings so true here. The routing has utilised all the prominent features of the land and takes you on a wonderful walk. The fairways are some of the best conditioned I've seen. The greens were great and ran true, although the poa and bent are fighting for dominance. The rugged look of the bunkers was a personal favourite. I could visit Gowrie Farm for its clubhouse alone. Heaven for a golf nut with wonderful memorabilia. I can only think it is not in the Top 20 due to it not being 18 holes. Hopefully this changes when the new holes open for play.
Jean-Luc Regaud
14 March 2023

Gowrie Farm will be an 18-hole course within a couple of years. Seven new holes are to be built on adjoining land, and cutting is already taking place. It will mean Gowrie becoming a busier destination (the current small car park is unlikely to cope), yet when there are 18 I will miss the uniqueness of this hybrid layout. Gowrie is quiet in midweek, and if the course is empty I enjoy playing it as a 12-holer in one loop, rather than walking around twice. After playing 1/10 I switch to the par-3 11th, play 12 and 3/13, then tee up at No 4, as tricky a par 3 you will find with wedge or 9-iron in hand. Miss the raised green and you're in trouble. After 5/14 I take on the par-3 15th adjoining the lake, another challenging and interesting short hole. Then it's 16 and 7/17, the par-3 eighth, and conclude by playing the short par-4 ninth, followed by an iron over the wetland to the 18th green. I've thus hit approaches to all 12 greens. The greens are firm and slick, the bounces reminding me of links golf. The course is superbly presented. Several new bunkers have been built, notably a deep one fronting the downhill par-3 eighth where previously you could safely run a shot on to the green.

Stuart McLean
10 June 2022
Excellent layout with the ninth and 18th being my favourite holes. The 18th, with its long carry into the green over the main dam in front of the clubhouse is a proper risk and reward par 5.
Graham Jones
28 January 2022
The changeable weather from day to day at Gowrie Farm is part of the attraction and charm of playing this unusual course, which you would never assume is a 21st century creation with its curious collection of 18 interesting holes using just 12 greens (plans are afoot to convert it into a proper 18-holer using additional land). The day I arrived at Nottingham Road it was sunny and warm, the following day chilly and overcast. A mist rolled over the rural Midlands landscape, reducing visibility. Course designer Guy Smith, who joined me for 18, is a man enthused by golf's ancient traditions, and the club had hosted a midweek social foursomes event consisting of 18 in the morning, a long jacket-and-tie 3-course lunch, and 18 in the afternoon. Gowrie has one such event in the spring, another in autumn.
Stuart McLean
20 November 2021
The unique layout at Gowrie Farm remains a personal favourite. The routing and risk-reward elements are enjoyable, even if the wind is blowing as it often does in Nottingham Road. The fairways are some of the best you can play and provide an exceptional surface for shot-making. The finishing holes on each nine (par-4 ninth and par-5 18th) are both demanding and offer great shot variety to all golfers. The halfway house, clubhouse and service are all top notch. The potential completion of a full 18 holes is an exciting prospect and Gowrie Farm will then likely challenge to climb up the rankings.
Jon James
07 November 2021
I don't believe I have seen better fairways on a golf course. The kikuyu grass is like a carpet at Gowrie Farm. It seemed wrong to take a divot! I quickly filled mine with a green-coloured mixture which I thought a clever idea. And the semi-rough is almost as perfect. How can you not hit a good shot from those lies. The bunkers look bad places to visit, and I couldn't avoid them, but the sand was firm and easy to get distance from. Gowrie is different to Bosch Hoek, where I also played, yet equally kind to the eye. They both have a pristine natural beauty about them that is rare to find.
Dieter ten Haag
02 May 2021
Played the course in a gentle northerly wind and cool Scottish weather. The greens were good and quick and the fairways out of this world. The wild bunkers remind me of Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. Could do with sand in the fairway bunkers. Played in under 4 hours with a great breakfast at halfway.
Guy Shaw-Smith
14 February 2021
Played the course on a surprisingly windy morning, and it was a challenging experience similar to being on a coastal links. The uphill par-5 14th required three exceptionally good shots to reach, and then you're faced with one of Gowrie's trickiest greens with its slope running down from back to front. The greens are a feature of the layout -- together with the distinctive fairway and greenside bunkering -- and run at a perfect pace. I enjoy the way the weather can change so swiftly in the Midlands. Sunny and windy in the morning, then a wind switch in the afternoon and a mist descends on the course. The experience of playing and staying at Gowrie for two days is magical. I love the golfing memorabilia in the clubhouse lounge.
Stuart McLean
25 November 2020

Absolute gem. Great test, aesthetics, conditioning and atmosphere. Surely one of the best 9-holers in the world.

warren minster
08 April 2020
Wonderful, clever design with only 12 greens. The back nine feels as if you are playing a different course to the front . Many tee-box options and fairways as good as anywhere in KZN. Bunkers challenging. Delightful countryside vista.
andrew walker
08 April 2020
A course always in brilliant playing condition, from well distinguished fairways to manageable rough and true greens. The scenery and friendly service also makes this a relaxed and enjoyable experience.
Michael Davies
24 March 2020
The course is in magnificent condition, world-class fairways, excellent greens (quick and challenging). There's a fantastic view from the clubhouse.
John Page
22 March 2020
Greens in magnificent condition. This 12-hole course is extremely challenging.
Gary van Eyk
22 March 2020
Excellent design. Feels like an 18-hole course at the end of a round as a result of the clever design. Challenging in strong winds. Could be in Scotland.
Chris Brown
22 March 2020
The best conditioned fairways in KZN.
Ant Haines
20 March 2020
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