Yellow 5682 metres, CR75.4/135
Blue 5154 metres, CR71.5/132
Red 4597 metres, CR70.2/124
Women’s blue, CR68.9
Women’s red, CR64.7
R600 special on certain days,
for two including golf cart
Gerry Gibson 1987
Peter Matkovich 2007
035 753 1230
Richards Bay Country Club’s 18-hole course occupies a beautiful site on the shores of the Mzingazi Lagoon, and in these tropical climes hippos and crocodiles are at times among the hazards to be confronted during a round.
On my most recent visit I chanced upon the largest hippo I’ve seen, grazing contentedly next to the ninth green. This was in the middle of the day, and pro shop manager Alan Schultz informed me the hippo had taken up residence during the Covid lockdown in 2020. “We have to remove our flagsticks at night as he has a tendency to break them on his nocturnal walkabouts.”
Richards Bay is an attractive layout blessed with modern greens complexes designed and built by Peter Matkovich in 2006-07 when the property was converted into the Mzingazi residential golf estate. This development was the saving of the golf club, which had battled financially for many years following the completion of 18 holes in 1987. It had begun, as many smaller clubs do, with a 9-holer in the 1970s.
When it comes to a golf club converting part of the property into housing it’s usually a developer who approaches the club first. In this case it was the other way round. Richards Bay CC set out to find a developer and that person was Glenn Hesse. The R300-million estate was launched at the end of 2006. Today, the estate is an idyllic paradise for residents in terms of location, security and abundant wildlife. Some 138 different bird species have been logged.
Richards Bay is 5682 metres from the tips, yet it plays longer as there is little run on the fairways, and the par-71 layout has a Course Rating of 75.4. The opening eight holes before you return to the clubhouse has a bushveld feel, and the land is relatively flat. The eighth is a par 3 across water and its green adjoins the par-5 18th hole in front of the clubhouse.
The back 10 holes, beginning with the par-5 ninth, is more undulating and contains most of the best holes. However, you couldn’t describe the front nine as weak. It has two of the longest par 4s – the unusual opening hole which bends right in the shape of a banana, and the 410-metre seventh. That follows the driveable 260-metre par-4 sixth.
The back nine is where you get unrestricted views of the Mzingazi Lagoon, notably at the 14th and 16th where the greens are sited close to its banks. In these 10 holes there is an interesting variety of design on show, with three par 5s and a mixture of short and medium-length par 4s, only one of which, the 15th, is straight. The tenth is an attractive dogleg right par 4, and No 12 plays uphill through the coastal bush which is a feature of this back nine and gives many of the holes an exclusive feel to them.
The par 5s are all strong holes, and the round concludes with the most challenging of them, the 491-metre 18th where the brave line off the elevated back tee is over the top of the trees on the corner of the dogleg. Water fronts the narrow green.
1/ Richards Bay, which has a humid subtropical climate, was proclaimed a town in 1969 following a government decision to build a deep water harbour. That opened in 1976 with a railway line linking the port to Johannesburg. The first residential area, Meerensee, was developed north of the harbour in 1970. Today, Richards Bay is one of SA’s fastest-developing cities. It is an industrial centre that has been able to maintain its ecological diversity.
2/ The port was once the largest coal export facility in the world. It is also home to two aluminium smelters and a fertiliser plant. Exports include coal, aluminium, titanium and other heavy minerals.
3/ Empangeni Country Club is another attractive 18-hole course in an inland hilly setting just 25 kilometres away, with excellent views from the clubhouse. Golf was first played there in 1922.
2021 Alan Waller & Anke Hindriks
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