Fancourt in the Garden Route is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading golf resorts, so it is no surprise that their Montagu course, ranked No 8, was judged the Best Conditioned Course in South Africa during the past year. Fancourt’s reputation was built on the immaculate preparation of its golf courses, particularly their greens.
The Montagu was voted as having the best quality Greens in the country, with an average mark of 8.6 out of 10. More than a thousand ratings for Conditioning were received on the Top 100 Courses website, which launched last year, and the Montagu narrowly took the No 1 spot from St Francis Links, the Eastern Cape golf estate ranked No 5, which scored 8.55/10.
For the first time in the history of the rankings, originated by Golf Digest magazine in 1998, the golfing public were allowed to vote on Conditioning together with members of the course rating team. Public participation is set to increase further in 2021 following the buzz around the announcement of the Top 100 rankings last week.
Conditioning statistics under the Golf Digest format used to be a broad brush stroke, one mark out of 10 from raters. Conditioning is now divided into five parts counting for a total of 20 points, or 20% of the total mark. Greens have their own category, worth 10 points, while Bunkers, Fairways, Tees and General Presentation count for the other 10.
Today we name the Top 50 courses with the top-rated greens in South Africa, plus regional lists for Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Garden Route and Eastern Cape.
These 53 courses (there was a tie) come from every part of the country. Gauteng, where the highveld climate confers an advantage in growing bent grass greens in an ideal environment, has 20 courses, the Garden Route 10 (most of the top 100 courses in this small region), KZN 6, Western Cape 5, Eastern Cape 4, Mpumalanga 3, Limpopo 2, Free State/Northern Cape 2, and one from North West. All three of the Fancourt courses are on that list.
The Garden Route courses generally have a higher standard of Greens conditioning than those in Gauteng as a percentage. Ten of their 13 courses in the Top 100 scored at least 7.6/10 for Greens. Only 16 Gauteng courses out of 35 in the Top 100 were in that same bracket.
The weakest region for quality greens was KZN, where the coastal courses have nearly all opted for paspalum grass, which gives a slower putting surface, to cope with the heat and humidity of the summer months. Their top-rated greens were all at inland venues (principally the Midlands), where bent grass is used. KZN has 16 courses in the Top 100, yet only six of them feature in the Top 50 of Greens.
Separate ratings for Greens has also identified lower-ranked courses which have historically boasted outstanding greens, but couldn’t compete previously with some of the bigger budget top-ranked courses on Overall Conditioning.
Wedgewood in Port Elizabeth ranks No 78, yet its magnificent greens are rated No 5 alongside Fancourt Links and Royal J&K East. Victoria in Maritzburg is ranked No 39, but its greens are the equal of those at Leopard Creek and Randpark Firethorn. Johannesburg’s Glenvista is No 72 and its greens are judged superior to four Top 10 courses.
Kingswood and Goose Valley in the Garden Route are ranked between 90 and 100; anyone who has played these courses will know that their slick surfaces are a delight. Kingswood’s greens match those found on the PGA Tour for speed and trueness.
The only 9-hole course in the Top 100, Bosch Hoek in the KZN Midlands, prides itself on quality greens.
TOP 50 FOR GREENS IN SA
1 Fancourt Montagu 8.6
2 St Francis Links 8.55
3 Blair Atholl 8.5
4 Sishen 8.45
5 Wedgewood; Fancourt Links & Royal J&K East 8.4
8 Leopard Creek; Victoria; Randpark Firethorn & Humewood 8.3
12 Glenvista 8.25
13 Elements 8.2
14 Royal J&K West; Steyn City; Glendower; Arabella; George; Pearl Valley; Fancourt Outeniqua & Wingate Park 8.0
22 Highland Gate 7.9
23 Royal Cape 7.85
24 Simola; Kingswood; CCJ Rocklands; Wanderers; Pretoria CC; Goose Valley & Killarney 7.8
31 Gowrie Farm; Olivewood; Plettenberg Bay 7.7
34 Bosch Hoek; Parkview; Knysna; Pecanwood 7.65
38 Centurion; Worcester; CCJ Woodmead; Oubaai;
Champagne Sports 7.6
43 Mbombela 7.55
44 GPCC; Hermanus; San Lameer, Bloemfontein, Bryanston 7.5
49 Euphoria; Woodhill; Modderfontein; Cotswold Downs;
Eye of Africa 7.4
TOP 25 FOR GREENS IN GAUTENG
1 Blair Atholl 8.5
2 Royal J&K East 8.4
3 Randpark Firethorn 8.3
4 Glenvista 8.25
5 Royal J&K West; Steyn City; Glendower; Wingate Park 8.0
9 CCJ Rocklands; Wanderers; Pretoria CC; Killarney 7.8
13 Parkview; Pecanwood 7.65
15 Centurion; CCJ Woodmead 7.6
17 Bryanston 7.5
18 Woodhill; Modderfontein; Eye of Africa 7.4
21 Ebotse Links 7.3
22 Eagle Canyon; Benoni CC 7.1
24 Dainfern; Ruimsig 7.0
TOP 15 FOR GREENS IN
THE GARDEN ROUTE / EASTERN CAPE
1 Fancourt Montagu 8.6
2 St Francis Links 8.55
3 Wedgewood; Fancourt Links 8.4
5 Humewood 8.3
6 George; Fancourt Outeniqua 8.0
8 Simola; Kingswood; Goose Valley 7.8
11 Plettenberg Bay; Olivewood 7.7
13 Knysna 7.65
14 Oubaai 7.6
15 East London 7.3
TOP 10 FOR GREENS IN KWAZULU-NATAL
1 Victoria 8.3
2 Gowrie Farm 7.7
3 Bosch Hoek 7.65
4 Champagne Sports 7.6
5 San Lameer 7.5
6 Cotswold Downs 7.4
7 Zimbali 7.0
8 The Woods at MECC 6.8
9 Umdoni Park 6.6
10 Prince’s Grant; Durban CC 6.4
TOP 10 FOR GREENS IN WESTERN CAPE
1 Pearl Valley; Arabella 8.0
3 Royal Cape 7.85
4 Worcester 7.6
5 Hermanus 7.5
6 Stellenbosch 7.35
7 Atlantic Beach 7.3
8 De Zalze 7.1
9 Steenberg 7.05
10 Clovelly 7.0