Published by : Stuart McLean - 06 February 2023

Mount Edgecombe Country Club is hosting two consecutive weeks of amateur men’s and women’s championship golf on their two courses, The Lakes (first week) and The Woods (second week) in February.

This is a continuation of the GolfRSA decision to combine the men’s and women’s programme at their respective SA championships. It was first introduced at Royal Johannesburg in 2020 as part of a three-year arrangement with the club to use Royal’s East and West courses.

Mount Edgecombe at The Lakes Golf Course
The par-4 13th green on The Lakes, with the Pani Dam in the background. It will play as the fourth hole in the SA Strokeplay.

However, from 2020 to 2022 the men’s SA Amateur and SA Strokeplay continued to be played at two different venues in Johannesburg, the Amateur at Royal and Strokeplay at Randpark. This year Mount Edgecombe will hold both, principally because it is the only golf club in the Durban area with courses in good enough shape to host such prestige tournaments. Durban Country Club is still recovering from last year’s floods.

The men’s 72-hole SA Strokeplay is being played at The Lakes from Monday, February 13 to Thursday, February 16; the women follow with their 54-hole Strokeplay at The Lakes from February 19-21. Interestingly, the nines will be reversed for both these championships, meaning that the dangerous long par-4 ninth alongside the Pani Dam and The Watershed Café will be the finishing hole.

The men’s SA Amateur is on The Woods from Sunday, February 19 to Friday, February 24; the women’s Amateur from February 22 to 24. The competitors will have to adjust from cynodon greens the first week to A4 bent grass greens the second week. The greens on The Woods used to be paspalum, but inter-seeding with bent for the last three years means there is very little paspalum remaining, even in summer when it is usually dominant. In winter it is 100 percent bent.

The top men’s amateurs, and international teams, are at Leopard Creek this week for the 72-hole African Amateur.

Mount Edgecombe has become the most popular golf club in KZN, and the two courses did 74 000 rounds in 2022 (there were 7000 in December), despite being closed for 31 days due to the April floods. It has gained numerous new members since the clubhouse was renovated. A major R4.5-million project has been completed on The Lakes to improve the par-5 15th, a dogleg hole where the fairway crosses a stream. A gabion channel has been built from the bridge crossing the fairway to a dam behind the green.

The Mount Edgecombe clubhouse (top left) overlooking the par-3 ninth hole of The Woods course.

Golfers in Durban and the surrounding region, however, face a difficult year in 2023, as both Durban CC and The Woods at MECC will be closed for a large part of it. DCC will be shut from late April until December 1 for upgrades, and The Woods from May 29 to October 2 for renovations to bunkers and tees. Zimbali, the new No 1 in KZN, is a private course with no access for day visitors. And Beachwood is in poor condition, out of the Top 100, and no longer popular. Amanzimtoti has not yet opened 18 holes since its devastating flood damage last April. So that’s an effective loss of five courses.

This leaves just Royal Durban, Bluff National Park and Windsor Park in Durban, Kloof and Cotswold Downs inland, plus Umhlali on the North Coast (another busy course), and Selborne, Umdoni Park, Umkomaas and Scottburgh on the Upper South Coast. The South Coast quartet, some 60-70 kilometres away from Durban, will be hoping to receive hordes of visitors in the winter months.

Could this thus be an opportunity for Windsor Park, a municipal facility, to improve its conditioning and shine? It’s an excellent design on the banks of the Umgeni River with such potential, if only there was some investment forthcoming.

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