Published by : Stuart McLean - 31 January 2022

Two new entrants to the Top 100 feature on the first day of the annual Rankings Countdown. Waterkloof Golf Club in Pretoria comes storming in at No 92, while Devonvale in the Cape Winelands clinches the 100th spot. The two courses which have fallen out are Koro Creek (Limpopo) and State Mines (Ekurhuleni in Gauteng).

Waterkloof Golf Club – Pretoria

Both Waterkloof and Devonvale are newcomers to the Top 100. Devonvale has never been in such exalted company before, while Waterkloof was briefly in the Top 100 when it was known as Monument Golf Club. It featured at No 99 in the very first official Golf Digest Top 100 in 2002. This was after I had competed in the 2001 SA Senior Amateur championship at Monument (won by Jock Wellington who was also then rating courses). A few years afterwards the course was redesigned by Peter Matkovich to accommodate a residential estate on the property.

For reasons unknown Waterkloof evaded the radar of the rankings until last year when I visited the course during a lengthy stay in Gauteng evaluating courses. One look at the layout driving around the 18 holes with club manager Ernst Uys convinced me that Waterkloof deserved immediate admittance. I felt embarrassed by its long-time omission.

Golfers in Gauteng North certainly knew not only how good a course Waterkloof was to play, and that it offered great value in terms of a visitor green fee. There were 49 000 rounds played there in 2021.

My own assessment of Waterkloof was confirmed by Gauteng course rater Jon James who proclaimed Waterkloof’s greens and bunkers as being among the best in Gauteng in his course review. He was also delighted by the quality of Matkovich’s creative greens complexes. Very different from his earlier work in the Gauteng North area at Silver Lakes, Centurion and Woodhill. More modernistic.

Water hazards are not quite as ubiquitous as they are on many of Matkovich’s courses, although the one guarding the green of the 210-metre par-3 17th is particularly scary. The par 3s are memorable holes.

Waterkloof is relatively close to the centre of Pretoria – the R21 highway from O R Tambo Airport to the city runs past – yet it is surrounded by attractive countryside, notably the Groenkloof nature reserve. The Voortrekker Monument can be seen from certain holes.

Devonvale, situated close to Stellenbosch, is a short course at under 6 000 metres from the back tees, yet it presents a surprisingly strong challenge for the best of golfers. It has hosted numerous tournaments, including the SA Women’s Open, and Ryan Dreyer won the 2021 SA Mid-Amateur Championship with a seven-under-par total of 209 for 54 holes. Recently it has become the venue for the national finals of the Windhoek International Pairs.

Devonvale Golf Club
The club house at Devonvale in the Cape Winelands

It occupies an attractive hilly site, and its opening hole, an uphill short par 4, does not augur well for what is to come. The sloping green is a tiger and can make you feel foolish and frustrated. It’s followed by two strong par 5s though, along the boundary fence, and the course has a good flow to it after that. A feature of the property is a vast crater of a dam around which the last three holes on the front nine have been built. I’ve never seen this dam close to being full.

Interestingly, Devonvale, built in the 1960s, could have become South Africa’s first golf estate. It was originally part of the neighbouring Hartenberg wine farm, and owner Simeon Blumberg in the 1970s was set on a residential development among the holes, having been inspired by the estates he had seen in the United States. But it never happened until much later. Today, the residential component is clustered around the clubhouse, and not on the course.

There was significant movement among the courses in the positions 81 to 100 announced today. Rising 10 places to No 88 was The Lakes at Mount Edgecombe, a course making a strong comeback after a period outside the Top 100, while the Garden Route pairing of Knysna and Goose Valley each climbed 8 places to Nos 83 and 85 respectively.

Falling precipitously were Parys (down 14 to 95), Benoni CC (down 12 to 91), Goldfields West (down 10 to 94), Wedgewood (down 8 to 86) and Southbroom (down 7 to 99).

View today’s rankings here: https://satop100courses.com/

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