Having a river flowing through your course appears to be an attractive feature, a source of water and natural hazards, but it can also be a curse in these days of climate change and excessive summer rainfall in Gauteng.
Courses in this region affected by their respective rivers include Blair Atholl, which suffered a flood the week after hosting the SA Open in December, Dainfern, Steyn City, Randpark, Glendower, Modderfontein, Killarney, Irene and Centurion.
Three of these courses feature among today’s ranking of courses from 80 to 61, and all three coincidentally are climbing strongly back up the rankings. Neighbouring Irene and Centurion share the narrow and twisting Hennops River flowing through Centurion. Both have experienced dreadful flooding which has blighted the Aesthetics of their attractive layouts, notably the picturesque countryside look of Irene.
Plastic refuse stuck in trees and lodged in river banks has scarred both courses. In December 2019, Irene was a lake after a devastating flood. But the worst issue was a damaged pumphouse disabled for weeks. When the water receded there was no operational irrigation system to hydrate the greens in mid-summer. All 18 greens, plus practice greens and nursery were lost. It was six months before the new greens re-opened.
Irene fell from No 43 to No 67, and this year has battled back to No 61. Some holes closest to the river are still not where they should be, but the recovery is ongoing.
Centurion, one of three Peter Matkovich estate course designs in Gauteng North, languished in the 80s for over a decade. No hole in Gauteng has possibly suffered more from flooding than the par-5 seventh alongside the Hennops. Often it is played as a short par 4 or even a par 3. Berms have been built to try and stem the water. A greater appreciation of Centurion’s strengths has seen it recover to No 70, its highest position since 2008.
Dainfern has to deal with the broad Jukskei River running through the middle of the layout. The course is not as prone to flooding as the river banks are high. But the club has teams working daily on the river to clear the debris and rubbish.
Two years ago this Gary Player design was No 75, its lowest ever position in the rankings, and it’s now up to No 64. There’s been a significant turnaround in the quality of a course that’s remarkably undulating in places. One of the most thrilling tee shots in Gauteng is the drive from the back tee on 18 over the Jukskei River.
Two Western Cape estate courses, Atlantic Beach and Paarl, are among other climbers, the former up six places to No 62, its highest position since 2007, and Paarl five places to No 71, its best since 2011.
The two courses are very different from each other, Atlantic Beach a linksy modern layout close to the ocean, and Paarl a classic parkland experience adjoining a mountain range in the Winelands. It is part of an interesting 27-hole facility. The third nine, Boschenmeer, differs greatly from the other two in both its terrain, design and number of water hazards.
What Atlantic Beach and Paarl have in common are excellent greens complexes which distinguish both layouts.
An unusual and attractive feature of the Paarl Old Course is its pair of finishing holes in front of the clubhouse. Both the ninth and 18th are par 5s which run side by side with their greens separated by a water hazard. The Berg River flows past the course on the front nine, and designer Danie Obermeyer did well to take four holes as close to it as possible.
There’s been a dramatic fall in the rankings by Oubaai, the Ernie Els design at Herold’s Bay in the Garden Route. This was the first of Ernie’s trio of SA courses in the Top 100 and it drops 16 places from No 52 to 68 due to issues with the bunkers which require major renovation work and an uncertain future.
Oubaai and its hotel is owned by Kharafi Hospitality, which has business roots in Kuwait. The hotel was originally a Hyatt Regency, but they left when the contract ended in 2014, and evidently the hotel has subsequently struggled in terms of occupancy. The home owners on the residential estate don’t pay any levies towards maintenance of the course.
Due to financial constraints, Mark Wiltshire Golf, which was managing the golf club, have left, and maintenance company Turfworx are owed millions in monthly payments. The course would have closed in December during the holiday season had a home owner not paid for that month. It was a profitable decision as Oubaai did 3 500 rounds during the month. Will Turfworx continue having a presence in February or will Oubaai shut?
COURSES GOING UP
- Irene 6 to 61
- Atlantic Beach 6 to 62
- Dainfern 5 to 64
- Paarl 5 to 71
- Reading 4 to 73
- Eagle Canyon 4 to 74
- Glenvista 4 to 75
- Centurion 3 to 70
- Umhlali 3 to 67
COURSES GOING DOWN
- Oubaai 16 to 68
- Lost City 7 to 65
- Wanderers 6 to 66
- Mbombela 4 to 63
- Silver Lakes 4 to 69
- Bushwillow 4 to 76