The Humewood links in Port Elizabeth has been included in one of the more interesting World Top 100 lists to be published in 2020.
It is ranked No 98 in Golf World UK magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play. By that it means courses the average golfer can access by paying a visitor green fee and without having to be invited by a member. Many of the top clubs in the United States and Asia are impossible to play without connections.
This is a considerable honour for Humewood, South Africa’s original links, and also for Fancourt Links, which is ranked No 90 on the list.
It’s also high time that someone published such a Top 100 which applies more to the needs of the general golfing public, a Top 100 you can conceivably play without begging for admittance. Saying that, though, it’s still going to cost you a load of money to achieve this particular bucket list dream, perhaps at least R500 000 on green fees alone!
Humewood aside (it’s by far the cheapest with a non-affiliated visitor green fee of R550 or $36) there are some expensive courses on this list. Fancourt Links, South Africa’s No 1, is one of them. The only way you can step on to the first tee is by staying at Fancourt and then paying a hefty price by SA standards. A hotel guest pays a green fee of R3 545 or $233.
You may ask why Humewood is even on this list, seeing that it currently ranks No 13 on the SA Top 100 rankings. Why not Glendower, Royal Johannesburg & Kensington East, or Gary Player CC, which all embrace visitors?
The answer lies in the fact that this list is a British initiative, and the people on the 12-man panel choosing the Top 100 You Can Play are all traditionalists when it comes to evaluating golf courses. One of them, by the way, is a South African, Craig Haldane, golf courses manager at Gleneagles in Scotland who previously worked as director of golf course maintenance at the Emirates in Dubai.
This panel was always likely to prefer a South African course like Humewood which embodies tradition and has unique design qualities. It was created 90 years ago by Colonel SV Hotchkin, whose flagship design Woodhall Spa in England is No 23 on the list. And the panel are clearly lovers of links golf. Half the courses on the list are links (or at least artificial ones), and many of the others have attributes associated with links or heathland golf, such as firm conditions and classic architectural features.
While the list contains 23 courses from the United States, the largest representation of any one country, the best area to play these courses is the UK and Ireland, where 46 courses have been chosen, 20 in England and 19 in Scotland. Private exclusive courses are few and far between. A visit Down Under would knock off 13 courses, 10 of those in Australia and three in New Zealand. Canada has five, as does the entire Asian continent.
I would have liked to have seen the green fee put next to each of the courses on the Top 100, as that seems quite pertinent for this particular list. I’d also like to see a Top 100 You Can Play for $100 or less. I’d guarantee South Africa would have a substantial representation in that.
The Top 100 You Can Play (first 25)
1 Royal County Down, 2 St Andrews Old, 3 Royal Melbourne West, 4 Turnberry Ailsa, 5 Muirfield, 6 Pebble Beach, 7 Royal Portrush, 8 Pinehurst No 2, 9 Royal Dornoch, 10 Cape Wickham, 11 Pacific Dunes, 12 Royal St George’s, 13 Sunningdale Old, 14 Kingston Heath, 15 Tara Iti, 16 Royal Birkdale, 17 North Berwick, 18 Carnoustie, 19 Barnbougle Dunes, 20 Portmarnock, 21 Kingsbarns, 22 Cabot Cliffs, 23 Woodhall Spa, 24 Sunningdale New, 25 Cruden Bay.