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
Golf cart R220
Bob Grimsdell 1979
053 050 5727
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.
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.
Lyle Pedro, age 15
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, and the lowest tournament round has been 63, by Jean Hugo and Ulrich van den Berg in the 2010 Vodacom Origins
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