Published by : Stuart McLean - 07 May 2024

There are five new entries in the Top 100 rankings, and two courses make their debut, having never featured before.

Gauteng is inundated with good courses, and as a result some newer ones fall under the radar. Jackal Creek, open since 2010, is in that category. It’s part of an unconventional residential golf estate, not far from Eagle Canyon, where there is a mixture of upmarket housing and high-rise apartments. Some residents aren’t familiar with golf, and have been known to use the course for picnics! Areas of the course are surprisingly wild and bushy, much loved as a home for their dens by territorial packs of black-backed jackals. They can be quite curious about the appearance of golf balls, the younger ones playing with them on fairways, and shredding the covers with their sharp teeth.

JACKAL CREEK: The par-3 seventh hole sits in an old quarry.

Hilly terrain makes for a varied and enjoyable course designed by the late Douw van der Merwe, whose talents weren’t always recognised in earlier years. His courses have improved with maturity, and are climbing up the rankings, notably Eagle Canyon, The Lakes at Mount Edgecombe, and Parys (which he co-designed with Cobie Legrange). At Jackal Creek he created beautifully shaped greens and one of the strongest 18th holes in Gauteng, an uphill dogleg right par 5 with a stream guarding the right of the fairway.

Former Sunshine Tour star Ashley Roestoff, now general manager at Jackal Creek, has in recent years smoothed out the course’s rough edges and improved its playability.

Magalies Park is another first-time entrant which has benefited from steady improvements over the years, mostly by long-serving golf club manager William van Mierlo, a PGA professional. The resort course has stunning Aesthetics, built on the lower slopes of the Magaliesberg range in a leafy bushveld environment, and interesting design variety with its mix of doglegs, uphill and downhill holes.

The 15th is a memorable downhill par 5 which typifies some of the more thrilling aspects of playing there. There’s even back-to-back 3s at 8 and 9, although that wasn’t the original intention. No 8 was a par 4 but the development of a residential estate meant it had to be shortened for safety reasons. It’s a short track, yet tight and challenging from tee to green. It was a qualifying venue for the DP World Tour event at nearby Pecanwood in 2022, and the average score was close to 73 even with five par 5s.

First-time visitors may be alarmed by extreme slopes on some greens, and two of the five par-3s, Nos 5 and 14, would be much better holes if the greens could be rebuilt.

MAGALIES PARK: The Magaliesberg is a majestic backdrop to the equally magnificent par-5 15th.

Schoeman Park in Bloemfontein returns to the Top 100 for the first time since 2007, joining its neighbour, the Bloemfontein GC. Another much underrated layout, one of a triumvirate of Bob Grimsdell designs in the Free State which have hosted SA Amateur championships. The third member of the group is Oppenheimer Park, which happily is making a comeback with a redesigned layout after a few holes were lost to flooding from a mining dam.

Schoeman Park is blue-collar golfing country, and the state of the car park suggests better days, but there’s a gem beyond the entrance which reveals why it regularly hosted top pro and amateur tournaments from 1970 through to 1995. It faded into obscurity after that and there was even talk at times of its possible closure.

Today there are signs of a strong revival. The course had some ugly and untidy artificial water features on the front nine, yet these have been better managed, and the conditioning taken to new heights. Forests of tall bluegum trees are a feature of a tree-lined course, and define the strategy of many holes. The back nine has a series of notably excellent holes, with an outstanding finishing stretch from 15 to 18. Four pars is a good return.

SCHOEMAN PARK: One of the strongest par-4 18th holes in South Africa.

Port Elizabeth GC has been in and out of the Top 100 over the years, and returns after an 8-year absence with the spacious parkland course looking in decidedly better shape than before. One of SA’s oldest and most historic clubs – it was hosting national tournaments in the 1890s – the club has undergone a resurgence in recent years under proactive management and is again bustling with members.

Modern equipment has made “The Hill” easier to play today, yet its varying layout, full of doglegs, still has plenty of teeth for members, and it’s always been a course where you pay a price for missing fairways as the hard ground is unforgiving.

Port Elizabeth Golf Club
PE GOLF CLUB: An aerial view of the 13th and 17th greens.

The last of our newcomers is Parys, another Free State entry, which was only missing for a year. Conditioning of greens and bunkers is up several notches to improve the general playability of this scenic modern championship design. This is a true Vaal River golf experience, as 14 of the 18 holes are on an island in the middle of the river as it flows through the town of Parys. It makes for beautiful views and close encounters with the river.

Nothing will prepare you for the daunting challenge of the signature hole at Parys, the 425-metre sixth. A long straight drive is essential to take on the second shot to a raised green within the river. The front nine is formidable at 3499 metres off the back tees, the shortest 4 being 388 metres. Golfers cross the Vaal River at the par-5 ninth, with the green on the opposite bank, and there are four holes on the mainland before returning to the island, undoubtedly the weakest holes too.

Falling out of the Top 100 from the 2023 rankings were the Western Cape duo of Devonvale (99) and Worcester (96), North West’s Orkney (94) and Benoni Country Club (100).

PARYS: The par-4 14th on banks of the Vaal River.
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