Kathu, Northern Cape - Northern Cape & Free State
General manager: Philip Adamson
Golf director: Theunis Spangenberg
Greenkeeper: Franco Vermeulen (STM)
Chairman: John Langeveldt
Club captain: Tommie Pearson
CRITERIA SUMMARY: Total points 77.2 out of 100
Conditioning15.8 / 20
Playability15.6 / 20
Aesthetics13.0 / 15
Design Variety11.7 / 15
Shot Values10.2 / 15
Memorability10.9 / 15
Four tees / Par 72
Yellow 6657 metres, CR74.8/143
White 6421 metres, CR73.3/142
Blue 5714 metres, CR70.2/131
Red 5384 metres, CR68.2/126
Women’s blue, CR77.0/146
Women’s red, CR74.4/140
Visitor green fee
Golf cart R240
Bob Grimsdell 1979
053 050 5727
13 (2021) & 21 (2020)
This isolated golf course on the edge of the Kalahari desert is one of the world’s least played golfing gems. It majestically reposes in a forest of ancient Kameeldoring trees that are a dominant feature of the layout and add character to each and every hole. Playing golf there is tranquil beyond measure and the course has been kept in outstanding condition for the last 40 years.
It was the last work of Bob Grimsdell’s lengthy course design career, and one of his best. Sishen is currently superb, the bent grass greens having been resurfaced by Southern Turf Management at the end of 2018.
Grimsdell was brought to the remote Kalahari in the late 1970s by management of the Kumba mine when he was 80 years old, and he left a wonderful legacy, a design that speaks volumes for his routing and creative talents. The original brief was for 9 holes, but he realised it had to be 18 on such a special site. Many of Grimsdell’s courses are from an earlier era in the game – he built the East Course at Royal J&K in the 1930s – and at Sishen he had earth-moving machinery. Original Grimsdell greens were plain in shape, but at Sishen he built elevated and sloping greens of a kind you rarely see in South Africa.
There’s not a weak hole to be found at Sishen. Each one has its own individual strategy, and the taller Kameeldoring trees provide aerial hazards for golfers far more effective than bunkers or water hazards. Some even stand in the middle of fairways, and so impenetrable they can dent the impact of a well-struck drive like casually swatting a fly. The golf ball comes off second best!
Sishen today has a modern clubhouse and houses have been built among the holes as part of the Kalahari Country Club estate developed by former Springbok rugby coach Andre Markgraaff. The course nevertheless retains a tranquil atmosphere. Springbok and impala roam the fairways.
The people of Kathu are extremely hospitable to visitors.
Additional Course Facts
61 by Theunis Spangenberg in 2005 club championship.
Golf director Theunis Spangenberg enjoys the 326-metre 14th, as it is the only shortish par 4 where it is possible to drive the green. The 472m sixth is a good risk-and-reward par 5 with water in front of the green. The 371m 18th is not long, but it’s a tight finishing hole with a raised green and another water hazard guarding the front. The ninth and 18th run parallel to each other, separated by the bush, and share the same large water hazard.
There are numerous guest houses in Kathu. Recommended on the golf estate are Mongoose (12 rooms) and Kathuhari (8).
There are daily flights to Kathu from OR Tambo on SAA Express; also smaller planes from Lanseria.
Excellent 300-metre long range which can accommodate 25 golfers, plus a 500-square metre putting green in front of clubhouse, and chipping green.
Men's Club Champion
2021 Lionel Pedro
2020 Theunis Spangenberg
2019 Lyle Pedro (age 15)
Did You Know
1/ The town of Kathu is built within a kameeldoring (camel thorn) forest and is known as “The town under trees.” The 4000-hectare forest, with trees that are hundreds of years old, has been registered as a natural heritage site. The town originated in the late 1960s when iron ore was first mined in the Kalahari. Kathu had one of the world’s largest open-cast iron ore mines. In the boom years it had a population of 40 000. Trains take the ore to Saldanha Bay nearly 1000 kilometres away.
2/ Sishen Golf Club is part of the Kalahari Country Club, which offers a variety of sports and leisure pursuits. There is a state-of-the-art gym on site.
3/ Sishen is remote. The nearest 18-hole course is at Upington, 214 kilometres away; the nearest Top 100 course is 460km, Bloemfontein.
4/ Golf director Theunis Spangenberg, who holds the course record, won the 2011 Zimbabwe Open on Sunshine Tour, and nearly won the 2016 Vodacom Origins at Sishen, losing a playoff to Jacques Blaauw after they had tied on 10-under-par 206.
5/ The Sunshine Tour regularly visits. The lowest tournament round is 63, by Jean Hugo and Ulrich van den Berg in the 2010 Vodacom Origins. Hugo had an ace at No 8 and a front nine of 29. The 2022 Sishen Classic over 72 holes was won by Deon Germishuys on 271 after a closing 64.
Course and Facilities Rating
Sishen's course is being prepped for its biggest Sunshine Tour event yet, the Sishen Classic starting on May 26. It will be interesting to see how it plays then. The course held the Northern Cape Amateur Open the first weekend of April. Casey Jarvis won the title by two from Yurav Premlall, but was only level par for 54 holes. He fought back from an 80 in the first round to shoot 70-66. There were only four sub-par rounds, evidence of how demanding a layout this can be from the back tees combined with some tricky pin positions.
12 April 2022
Now this is a real hidden gem. I never expected a course in such good condition given where it is. My overall experience of the course was awesome. The kameeldoring trees, some whitewashed by the water from the irrigation sprinklers on the fairways, give the course a very unique character.
Bereng Paul Mokoena
14 January 2022
Played 27 holes here in October when the course was still dry but the playing surface was in good condition. The greens were excellent and there was no need for placing on the fairways. Where it was scary was off the fairway in the sandy soil. However, this is the Kalahari, and Sishen is part of the Kalahari Country Club. The course is beautiful to look at but navigating the fairways was tough. A light breeze also played a significant part for this Gauteng golfer. Playing with members on the second day helped a lot with the lines to take. Too bad that this course finds itself in the middle of nowhere but then again one has to travel to find the best gems. I may have found my favourite route to the Cape and look forward to teeing it up here again.
02 January 2022
My arrival on a Saturday evening in Kathu coincided with a thunderstorm. The rain pounded down through the night. When I teed up the next morning there was no evidence of the storm on the golf course. No puddles anywhere. The bunkers were perfect. The greens magnificent. The course drains exceptionally well due to its sandy base. It's an arid area, yet Kathu usually receives a surprisingly substantial annual rainfall, perhaps due to the vast kameeldoring forest which is the stunning feature of the Sishen layout. So you have a green course in the summer. The densely strong thorn trees, named after the kameelperd (giraffe), said to be the only animal that can feed on the leaves, are impressive, a nuisance for any golfer who strays off the fairway or takes the wrong line off the tee. The way they block shots is like coming up against the Springbok rugby team's defensive line. Even the dead trees play their part as being a protected species it is illegal to remove them. When Sishen hosted the Sunshine Tour in August 2021 the winning score was only three under for 54 holes. The average score the final round was 75.6. A tough proposition.
24 December 2021
This past weekend the Northern Cape Open was at Sishen Golf Club. Wow and Wow! Sishen has always been on my bucket list and to play the course in a GolfRSA tournament was even better. I travelled to Kathu from the Western Cape. This is the best course I have played, best layout, best conditions. And one of the toughest courses off the tee I have played. Great test of golf from tee to green. Well done Sishen and thank you once again.
30 March 2021
Sishen has to be one of the most unique and enjoyable courses I’ve played. The Kameeldoring trees, nicknamed ‘sky bunkers’, provide an added test to the round. I was impressed by how warm and welcoming the staff were to visitors.
12 December 2020
Wonderful experience playing at Sishen. The layout is fantastic with each hole unique and perfectly crafted into the Kameeldoring forest. The greens and bunkers were superb and the overall playability exceptional.
12 December 2020
The course is in magnificent shape. We have been touring to Kathu for 23 years and have never experienced the fairways in such awesome condition.
11 November 2020
First time visit to Sishen. Best layout I have played in years. Played it 5 times in 3 days and each round felt like the first time and a new course. Very true greens. Conditions were great after good rains. Every golfer needs to experience this!
10 November 2020
Fantastic golf course which has a special place in my heart having grown up there in the Northern Cape. One of the best layouts in SA. The course challenges you in every way possible, and its natural beauty is what makes it special. The facilities for a country golf club is very good. Every golfer should try and make the journey to Kathu to enjoy this rare experience.
09 November 2020
The recent upgrade to the greens justifies the high regard golfers currently have for Sishen.
16 April 2020
Sishen will always be one of the best courses to play in South Africa, a hidden gem. The Grimsdell design gives you the opportunity to test every aspect of your game. You have not played golf until you play Sishen.
15 March 2020
Excellent new greens have enhanced the playing experience.
08 March 2020
Vast improvement to the course the last 12 months under STM and in best condition since 2016. Service in pro shop, reception and bar/halfway house needs to improve. Welcome addition of new halfway kiosk in clubhouse.
08 March 2020
Staying at the attractive Mongoose B&B on the first fairway a short walk from clubhouse, a tranquil setting in the kameeldoring forest. Sishen is simply a unique golfing experience, and you need to stay a few days to appreciate it. The majestic trees add an aura to the environment, and are constantly in play. The new bent grass greens are magnificent, and cynodon grass fairways provide for more run and excellent ball/turf contact.
08 March 2020
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