Four tees / Par 72
Yellow 6194 metres, CR72.0/145
White 5953 metres, CR70.8/145
Blue 5329 metres, CR67.3/129
Red 4802 metres, CR65.1/111
Women’s white, CR77.7/155
Women’s blue, CR73.4/144
Women’s red, CR69.8/137
R220 affiliated Monday-Friday
R280 affiliated weekends
Golf cart R380
Sean Quinn (Golf Data) 2008
Clarens in the Eastern Free State has long been one of South Africa’s favourite destinations for weekend trippers, but a modern golf course came late to the scene in terms of activities in the area, the 18-hole layout opening for play in 2008 as part of a residential estate.
It’s an attractive and enjoyable course to play, overlooked by the magnificent sandstone mountains (the distinctive peak of Mount Horeb) which make Clarens one of the more beautiful towns in South Africa. There was a 9-hole course here previously, and part of that land was used by Golf Data designer Sean Quinn to build what he termed a “quirky but fun design.”
The quirky holes come on the property around the clubhouse, which has its entrance on the Fouriesburg road, and hosts functions and conferences. The front nine holes climb on to a ridge overlooking the attractive green-roofed clubhouse, and there’s an undulating stretch from the third tee to the eighth green using the hillside to interesting effect.
Clarens is 1818 metres above sea level, which makes it the second highest 18-hole course in the country behind Highland Gate (Mpumalanga), which is at nearly 2000 metres. The rarefied air means that at a distance of 6 194 metres from the back tees the course plays relatively short for its par of 72, although it does have a high Slope of 145 due to the terrain and some smallish and treacherous greens (bent grass) complexes.
Part of the fun of playing Clarens is the varied number of shortish par 4s. In firm conditions, particularly the winter months, their greens are within reach of a tee shot. There are half-a-dozen of them, including the opening four holes which measure 322, 344, 301 and 310 respectively from the club tees.
This is an unusual sequence of starting holes among SA courses; however, it is similar in that respect to Royal Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape which begins 294, 315, 290 and 272. The nature of the land as you venture on to the ridge means each of the four holes plays differently.
The first is a flat hole alongside a water hazard on the left, the second is played over a gully to a slightly elevated fairway, then the fun begins. The third is steeply uphill to a narrow green which falls away on the left. The fourth returns downhill, and you turn at right angles to face a green fronted by a deep ravine you don’t want to visit.
That’s followed by a run of 3-5-3-5, and the greens of both dogleg par 5s are easily within range after a good drive. The sixth tumbles down the side of the ridge to a raised green that’s so shallow it’s difficult to hold even with a short iron. The eighth has a wonderful back tee from high on the ridge over a stand of gum trees to the fairway below.
The ninth, stroke one with water fronting the green, is the longest par 4 at 404 metres, and it’s followed by stroke two, 370 metres. At this stage you leave the clubhouse area into the “old course” domain, using a tunnel under the main road. Confronting you is the excellent 373-metre 11th, possibly the best hole on the course, presenting a challenging tee shot to a fairway curving right.
The back nine undoubtedly has the stronger holes, with two lengthy par 5s, and trouble in the form of wetlands. But two cleverly designed short par 4s of 305 and 304 metres are there to provide balance and birdies.
Clarens has a quartet of superb par 3s, none of them simple, and No 17 occupies a stunning setting, played from a high tee atop a rocky koppie to the green in a valley below.
The course plays at its best in the summer months (weekends are busy) before the winter frosts strike. Winter days are beautiful and crisp, but temperatures can plummet to below freezing.
There is a range close by the clubhouse, adjoining the tenth hole.
2023 Hendre van der Watt & Rose Mokoena
2022 Gerhard Neethling & Rose Mokoena
2021 Malefane Mokoena & Rose Mokoena
2019 Wouter de Wet & Janice Brownlee
67 by Jan-Carel Rossouw, April 5, 2023
Numerous guest houses and self-catering units in the town, a Protea hotel and three boutique hotels. The Highlander off central square has 9 luxury rooms, a restaurant and a whisky lounge with a large selection of single malts.
1/ Clarens, founded in 1912, was named after Clarens in Switzerland, where Paul Kruger, president of the SA Republic, died in 1904 after leaving the country to evade capture by the British during the Boer War. It is a 3½-hour drive from Johannesburg and 4½ hours from Durban.
2/ Clarens, with its tranquil village ambience, surrounded by sandstone mountains, is known as a haven for artists, and there are many galleries in the village. The area has been acclaimed as having the best trout fishing waters in South Africa, and is the gateway to the Golden Gate National Park. Fossil remains of the largest dinosaur ever found in South Africa, plus others, were discovered in Clarens in January 2009.
3/ Caitlyn Macnab (Serengeti) shot 64 when Clarens hosted the 2017 Free State women’s championships. That was won by Woo-Ju Son on a 54-hole score of 205 (68-71-66). Macnab, who tied for second on 211, had a final round 64 with seven birdies and no bogeys. Nicole Garcia won the 2013 Free State title on 211 at Clarens.
4/ Golf club chairperson Janice Brownlee has won eight club championships. There is no club captain, instead the club, which is privately owned, has a golf advisory committee.
5/ Clarens offers activities such as hiking and biking trails, extreme adventures, and hot air balloon rides. The town hosts vintage car outings and motorcycle groups. The Surrender Hill marathon in March is a challenging run over the hill 10 kilometres from Clarens where a large Boer force surrendered to British troops in July 1900.
6/ The Clarens residential estate is separate to the clubhouse, the 111 homes being located in an area adjoining holes 11 to 17. There are 143 stands available for development. The two nines are connected by a security-controlled tunnel under the R712 road.
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