Sishen – Kevin Curren

Published by : Stuart McLean - 30 April 2024

First time at Sishen after being on my bucket list for 20 years. During our week-long Senior Interprovincial I played it 10 times. Intriguing and interesting to say the least. The piece of land the designer worked with is flat, providing a challenge to create interesting and diverse features. However, he was blessed with the unique Kathu vegetation which ultimately enhanced and contributed towards the challenges, playability and general layout. Following my first round in 40km winds, I was not impressed as it seemed many holes resembled one another. So many kameeldoring trees featured as fairway & approach hazards. Not knowing where and what club to tee off with was unnerving, as I realised this was the key to unlocking the course. A well-placed tee shot was paramount to a good score on a hole. A slightly errant one often resulted in a drop. As the week progressed and we played in calmer weather and different tees, I came to appreciate the design elements. I realised the average golfer would struggle to score here as they would not have the skills in line with their handicap. However, many would be enamoured and enchanted by the contrast of the harsh thorn veld surrounds and well-conditioned fairways and greens, along with ever-present springbok, meerkats and mongooses. A delight for anyone who appreciates wildlife and nature. The greens had too much of the same characteristics. At least 80% were precisely the same design, significantly raised with severe slopes back to front. In the IPT they were running at 11 and many forward pins created challenging putts when above the hole. The course would be a better experience if several fairway trees were removed and the greens were more diverse. Any ball that left the fairway found challenging rough and animal burrows. Fairway bunkers were few but could have been better designed (too shallow and not much of a hazard). Greenside bunkers were superb as they had both depth and design variety. Greens were in superb condition in terms of the golf ball roll and the tees well-presented and much depth. Fairways had no shaping and relied on the kameeldoring trees and rough as their defence. The rough alone provided enough defence and I would love to have seen more shaping of fairways and more friendly green designs. Given its remote location, it is commendable they have such a superbly presented course and it is a gem. However, when compared to a similar course in terms of harsh bushveld conditions, like Elements, I consider Elements superior. Sishen is deserving of a ranking between 20 and 30 which in itself is an accomplishment given its remoteness.

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