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Houghton

Johannesburg - Gauteng

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CEO: Robby Richardson
Head professional: Richard Kaplan
Greenkeeper: Stuart Ross
Club captain: Richard Kaplan
President: Mike Berman
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 72.5 out of 100
Conditioning13.4 / 20
Playability14.6 / 20
Aesthetics12.0 / 15
Design Variety12.0 / 15
Shot Values10.5 / 15
Memorability10.0 / 15

Course Summary

Four tees / Par 72

Yellow 6656 metres, CR74.9/145
White 6403 metres, CR73.3/142
Blue 5943 metres, CR70.4/139
Red 5181 metres, CR66.1/129
Women’s blue, CR77.4/151
Women’s red, CR72.2/141

Visitor green fee

R385 weekdays, Sunday PM

Course designer

Jack Nicklaus 2010

Contact

011 728 7337
www.houghton.co.za

Previous Ranking

42 (2021) & 56 (2020)

Houghton is a famous name in the annals of South African golf, a strong and proud club founded in 1923 and strongly associated with championship moments of which they have had as many as any other club in the land. The last of those big tournaments was in 2003 and today the club has reinvented itself in a way that defines the way golf is progressing in the 21st century.

A new Jack Nicklaus Signature course was built on the same property to replace the old parkland layout, and luxury high-rise apartments have emerged alongside one corner of the course. A modern state-of-the-art one-storey clubhouse with basement parking stands attractively in the middle of the course overlooking the first hole and 18th.

Nicklaus turned the old Houghton on its head with his stunningly beautiful design concept. On this wonderfully undulating tree-lined property he reversed the direction of several of the old holes, situating a green where there previously was a tee, and vice versa. Those who remember the old course will be astounded by his ingenuity. The modern sloping greens and the creative bunkering look, notably on the uphill par-4 17th, are a feature of the layout.

Additional Course Facts

Feature Holes

Houghton’s back tee measurement is relatively short by today’s highveld standards, with five par 4s under 375 metres, but this remains a highly challenging layout, with more than enough water hazards and bunkers to catch the unwary. The 12th is one of the most dangerous par-4s, particularly since a new green was built into the water hazard in 2018. Water encloses the green on three sides, with a large bunker on the left. The seventh has also been rebuilt; now a spectacular par 3 over water in an amphitheatre overlooked by The Houghton apartments.

Tournaments

Houghton has been one of SA’s premier championship venues, hosting 28 major professional tournaments since World War Two, including 8 SA Opens (Bobby Locke 1951, Harold Henning 1962, Gary Player 1966-68-79, Dale Hayes 1976, Tony Johnstone 1984, Ernie Els 1992) and 8 European Tour events under the Alfred Dunhill sponsorship from 1996 to 2003. And it was the site in February 1995 of a famous 14-11 victory for a Southern African 9-man team against Australasia in a Ryder Cup-type contest that was sadly never to be repeated.

Practice Facility

Full-size range, grass tees for members, mats for visitors; two putting greens and short-game facility. Houghton also has a fun 9-hole putting green (see Did you know).

Course Record

62 by Tristen Strydom (11 birdies) in March 2020 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School

Did You Know

1/ Head professional Richard Kaplan, who uniquely is currently serving as club captain, is celebrated for his second place finish in a European Tour event at Houghton, the 1999 Alfred Dunhill PGA won by Ernie Els. Kaplan, a Houghton member for 46 years, represented South Africa as an amateur in the 1980s.

2/ Gary Player has enjoyed considerable success at Houghton. He won 7 tournaments there, including 3 SA Opens, 3 SA Masters, and 1 SA PGA. And he captained a SA team to victory over Australasia in the 1995 Alfred Dunhill Challenge.

3/ Houghton is the newest of six Jack Nicklaus Signature courses in South Africa.

4/ There is a unique 9-hole putting facility situated in front of The Houghton apartments, a putting course of par 3s and par 4s, on bent grass, with flat bunkers, waste areas and ponds.

5/ Houghton is an upmarket suburb close to the Johannesburg city centre where Nelson Mandela had his home after becoming president.

Club Champions

Ryan Nestadt & Angie Lanham-Love

Course and Facilities Rating
Conditioning Ratings
Greens
Bunkers
Tees
Fairways
Presentation
Overall Conditioning
Facility Ratings
Pace of Play
Practice Range
Halfway House
Pro Shop
Service
Locker Room
19th Hole
Course Etiquette
Course Reviews
The final piece of the jigsaw is in place at Houghton, and viewing the course today it is remarkable how many changes have been implemented (including two redesigned holes) to evolve this into a far more playable layout to the one Jack Nicklaus opened more than a decade ago. Finally the members have stopped complaining about its deficiencies and irritations (the undulating greens to begin with) and started to enjoy and appreciate what is an exceptional design. Last year's bunker project by Timeless Golf was massive. The jagged edges and steep faces have been removed, the bases of the bunkers lifted as much as 30cm in height. Recovery shots are easier, as is the exit process for older golfers. There are still 64 bunkers, fewer than most would have thought looking from the clubhouse at all the sand on the first and 17th holes. The bunker complexes have softer edges and turned down grass which better suits the parkland look. Some bunkers have been shrunk, others split into two. The fairway corridor on 17 is wider. They are still an integral part of the design, particularly in terms of aesthetics, but less menacing. The course conditioning is looking at its best.
Stuart McLean
03 April 2022
Houghton has several really great and testing holes. The current positions of the fairway bunkers feel like they need adjusting for the modern game. An enjoyable experience in an attractive setting where you feel tucked away from a busy city while out on the course.
Graham Jones
29 January 2022
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There are many golfers who mourn the loss of the old Houghton layout, yet the Jack Nicklaus design (or is it a redesign?) on the same property has many terrific holes and deserves equal respect. The distinctive ups and downs of the terrain still evoke memories of the classic championship course and thus its heritage can never be entirely erased. I like the way Nicklaus creatively re-aligned the flow of play, so that some new holes play in the opposite direction to how we know the holes from past years. The undulating front nine is strong and every hole an enjoyable challenge. The back nine is a squeeze in places, yet what a grand finish starting with the par-5 15th; a superb collection of closing holes. No 16 is a thrilling downhill par 3 to a green guarded by water, then comes an uphill short par 4 carpeted with bunkers. The dogleg 18th might be the best par-4 closing hole in Gauteng.
Thomas Souness
01 January 2022
Houghton is an enjoyable Nicklaus design in the heart of Johannesburg. At the time of playing the course was beautifully presented, albeit the greens were running fairly slowly at 9 on the stimp. The bunkering is intimidating and some of the carries a challenge. Scoring opportunities come on the par 5s which are all reachable by Highveld standards. The facilities are exceptional and the standard of service consistently excellent.
Jon James
09 April 2021
Greens tricky at the best of times, too undulating for a good putting round. Conditioning always good and a great facility.
Sandor Kovacs
18 April 2020
I was surprised to learn that Houghton is no longer an official Jack Nicklaus Signature design. In-house changes made by the club to the seventh and 12th greens did not meet with approval. Yet the new seventh green makes this a far superior par 3, and 12 has gone from a silly par 4 for members to one that remains challenging yet fun to play. The original undulating Nicklaus greens which frustrated golfers are now more playable. Houghton today without the Signature element is a stupendous experience.
Stuart McLean
20 March 2020
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