Mbombela - Mpumalanga
CEO: Darren Plumb
Greenkeeper: Petri van der Walt
Club captains: Chalmers Pagiwa & Eva Strydom
President: Marcus Mdhluli
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 69 out of 100
Conditioning13.2 / 20
Playability14.2 / 20
Aesthetics12.2 / 15
Design Variety10.7 / 15
Shot Values9.2 / 15
Memorability9.5 / 15
Three tees / Par 71
White 6065 metres, CR71.8/130
Yellow 5475 metres, CR68.4/126
Red 5150 metres, CR66.8/119
Women’s yellow , CR74.4/132
Women’s red, CR72.5/128
Visitor green fee
Golf cart R380
Bob Grimsdell 1943/1966,
Peter Matkovich 1998
013 744 0952
59 (2022) & 60 (2021)
An attractive bushveld course renowned for its multitude of magnificent indigenous trees, Mbombela is best enjoyed in the winter months, when the heat of the Lowveld region is less oppressive than in the height of summer. It sits on a gently sloping hillside amidst rocky outcrops, and the undulating terrain adds character to the holes.
The trees frame the fairways and greens, and each of the 18 holes has been named after a different species. They include fig trees, mahogany, coral, waterberry, milkwood, marula and the protected matumi. There is an ancient fig tree of enormous height and girth straddling the sixth and 18th fairways through which no golf ball will pass. Being relatively close to the Kruger National Park, the birdlife is prolific with hundreds of species recorded.
The creation of the course is an interesting story. Designer Bob Grimsdell visited Nelspruit for three days in 1939, and presented the club with sketches, a routing plan for 18 holes, and a bill for 37 pounds. The local council were aghast at having to pay this princely sum. Grimsdell felt insulted, but did get paid. However, he never returned to the golf club. The members built nine holes from his plans (using an ox-drawn plough), completed in 1943, and then constructed the second nine more than 20 years later.
Wild animals were seen on the course in early days, including leopard and lion.
Mbombela will always be associated with the Jock of the Bushveld tournament, and a statue of the famous Lowveld Staffordshire bull terrier cross sits behind the ninth green. It used to overlook the 18th hole, but was moved to its new position so that group photos would have the course as a backdrop, rather than the clubhouse. The Jock was the first festival week programme in South Africa, initiated in 1968 after the course had been extended to 18 holes, and continues to this day.
Read: LUCKY 13 FOR MBOMBELA AS IT SOARS TO NO 60
Additional Course Facts
63 by Hendrik Stoop, Matt Spacey, 2014 Mpumalanga Open; Fabrizio de Abreu, 2023 Mpumalanga Open
A par 71 layout, with three par 5s. Two of them come early in the round, at the second and fourth, and the next one is the downhill 14th, which from the tee offers the most beautiful view on the course, overlooking the surrounding Crocodile River Valley and hills. The 440-metre first is one of the most difficult opening holes in South Africa, a dogleg right par 4, with a green surrounded by trees and bunkers.
No range, but there is a practice tee where golfers can hit own balls down 18th fairway. Practice nets.
2023 Corne Olivier & Bonita Henrico
2022 Jason Wild & Cecilia Abraham
2021 Corne Olivier & Cecilia Abraham
2020 Corne Olivier & Eva Strydom
2019 Rohan Greyvenstein & Mary Ann Braithwaite
Did You Know
1/ Nelspruit GC was founded in 1928. In those early days, due to the summer heat and humidity, golf was only played between April and October. Bobby Locke and Peter Thomson played an exhibition match on the 9-holer in 1957.
2/ The property includes Matumi residential estate developed in the late 1990s, which saw an upgrade of the course by Peter Matkovich.
4/ The club changed its name in 2017 as part of a transformation and development programme which embraced the renaming of the city to Mbombela in 2009. The capital of Mpumalanga lies in a fertile valley, making it a key agricultural area. The nearest entrance to the Kruger National Park is the Malelane Gate, 60 kilometres away. The Kruger International Airport is 27 kilometres from the city.
5/ Brandon Stone had a hole-in-one at 17 in the final round to win the 2010 SA Boys Strokeplay title from Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The matchplay title went to Luke Jerling.
6/ The club hosted the SA Women’s Teams Championship in May 2022. Samantha Whately (CCJ) won the 72-hole individual title on 10-under 278, with a best round of 67. Mbombela hosted the men’s Premier Interprovincial for the first time in September 2019, and then the Junior Boys Interprovincial in December 2022.
Course and Facilities Rating
Mbombela has one of the most demanding opening holes in SA. Stroke 1 and 406 metres (named Mobola Plum) it is a brute. Par feels like a birdie on this dogleg right par 4 which has proved a scorecard wrecker for many. Recent rains have brought the course to life and conditioning is excellent. Multiple changes of elevation add interest to each hole, with driving accuracy at a premium on the narrower fairways protected by mature trees. The par 3s are a personal favourite, with No 5 (Natal Mahogany) played over a donga to a long green. Club selection is key to avoid coming up short on a hole which plays longer than expected. The 17th is another gem, only 121m (Knobbly Fig), demanding pinpoint accuracy with swales and bunkers guarding the green. The Lowveld setting is picturesque and the course fun to play. Great service and a superb 19th are part of the offering.
08 November 2023
Mbombela hosted the 72-hole Mpumalanga Open on the first weekend of September, and Gauteng visitors welcomed playing a greener course again. Altin van der Merwe, SA's No 1 ranked amateur, won in a playoff over Fabrizio de Abreu after they had tied on 11-under 273. De Abreu had an eight-under 63 in the final round with nine birdies, 31 the back nine. Just 10 players under par in a field of 128, so the course defended itself well. Accuracy in avoiding the big trees is still a key factor. Some forward tees were used, and players were encouraged to drive the greens at 10, 11 and 16. There were five eagle 2s at these par 4s, and an ace at 17 by Simon du Plooy.
Lamprecht de Villiers
08 September 2023
With its elevation changes and sloping terrain Mbombela is always an interesting course to play; notably at this time of year when the fairways are dry and firmer than usual, and rough pretty bare. Greens and surrounds are well irrigated though, so those parts of the course are lush, which makes for an odd contrast. I was expecting quicker and bouncier greens. The beauty of Mbombela lies in its indigenous trees and rugged bushveld environment, plus the varied design of the holes. Good par 3s, particularly the unique 13th with its long uphill carry over a dry looking valley. Some greens are quite narrow with tight pin positions which put a premium on accurate iron play. Clubhouse has a great outside deck outlook.
29 August 2023
Mbombela proved a great venue when hosting the 5-day Junior boys interprovincial in the middle of December. Central Gauteng won the A section on a countout from North West, and Eastern Province the B section. We fortunately had some cooler than expected Lowveld weather for the tournament. I was impressed with the club management team under CEO Darren Plumb, who led by example in providing a great service. And the course was excellent.
28 December 2022
The course was dry, not surprising considering the hot spring weather in the region. I was disappointed with the exceptionally slow greens (many contained foreign grasses), and uneven tees, which need levelling. The par-5 second is a dramatic hole, a thrilling downhill drive from an elevated tee towards a green adjoining a water hazard on the left. However, the aesthetics are poor as no water can be seen in the hazard because it is choked with reeds. Mbombela have also created “environmentally sensitive areas” throughout the course, yet these come across as artificial and unnatural which defeats the purpose.
Dieter ten Haag
02 November 2022
Mbombela is thought to be South Africa's oldest 18-hole true bushveld course. And it survives in one of our major cities, undisturbed by all the development around it. True bushveld layouts can be found in several different regions, principally in the north of the country, and are defined by the range of mature indigenous trees framing and shaping the holes (Mbombela has some majestic ancient giants); dry conditions which allow for firm and unpredictable fairway bounces (Mbombela's sloping fairways need to be carefully navigated); rough veld grass off the fairway; and a diverse variety of wildlife sharing the course with golfers (the scorecard innovatively has a lengthy checklist of creatures to tick off). A multitude of bird species can be spotted, although you have to play early in the day to do that. Snakes too. I was shown a few cracks among the rocky koppies and trees where deadly black mambas reside. Other than the greens being too soft for my liking (the heat) Mbombela was a treat to play.
25 March 2022
A friendly club in the heart of Nelspruit and a course well worth the visit. We stayed at the Matumi Golf Lodge on the ninth fairway, where you can cool off by the pool while watching play on the golf course.
30 December 2020
Whoever said that golf wasn’t exercise hasn’t walked Mbombela! Such a lovely undulating course lined with the most magnificent trees. The course is punishing if you aren’t accurate.
24 December 2020
Pleasant course, although lack of rain has affected its look. Greens receptive and faster than they look. Tree-lined fairways always in play, and you have to keep the ball "down the middle" or you're in trouble.
10 December 2020
Mbombela has hundreds of the most beautiful bushveld trees framing its fairways. Each of the 18 holes is named after a particular tree species found on the property. The most striking specimen is the Marula, of which there are several ancient giants, notably one behind the eighth green. Another stands behind No 12. The course has a number of excellent par 4s of varying distances, each with its own challenge, as Mbombela is a course where being on the fairway off the tee is generally essential to scoring well. And the greens, designed by Peter Matkovich, are superb. The course is dry at present, with little rain in the Lowveld, yet nothing wrong with that in bushveld surroundings.
01 December 2020
Mbombela is a beautiful layout set out on varied terrain and a good test of shot making. The Par 3s are particularly enjoyable and vary in length from 110m to 205m. The opening hole is a true challenge and it is unusual to begin on the Stroke 1. Mbombela is a good addition to any Mpumalanga tour combined with Highland Gate and Kambaku.
29 November 2020
Mbombela (Nelspruit) is a wonderful course with a great variety of holes. I think the overall conditioning has suffered a little from lockdown. This has impacted the fairways more than other areas. Greens are in good condition. Carry lots of water as it can get seriously hot in summer.
20 November 2020
Played a practice round in January with my son Leonard before SA U-15 Champs (he led after round one), then walked it for 3 days. Hot and humid and a great challenge. The area was experiencing a drought then.
14 April 2020
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