Zwartkop Country Club, the 18-hole course owned by the family of Dale Hayes, is being converted into a “Golf, Lifestyle, Practice and Entertainment Centre.”
It will be reduced to a 9-hole course, complemented by an extension to the existing driving range including a short-game area. A TopTracer facility will be installed, the first in Africa. Golfers will be entertained by “the best driving range experience,” one that offer games and technology in the form of data-driven performance analysis and ball tracking.
TopTracer ranges are today ubiquitous in the United States and many other parts of the globe. When they launched in Australia three years ago, one range doubled its previous business. It is successful at attracting newcomers to the game.
Zwartkop CC, founded in 1933 on farmland south of Pretoria, has been associated with the Hayes family for more than 80 years. Dale’s father Otway was the club pro for 56 years from 1940 to 1996. Dale’s first professional victory, age 19, was at Zwartkop in the 1971 Bert Hagerman Invitational. Dale bought the course and clubhouse from Iscor in 2001 and has been looking after it since with members of his family.
However, in the last four years the course, an early 1950s redesign by Bob Grimsdell, has suffered dreadful damage from the repeated flooding of the Hennops River, which runs through the three Gauteng North courses of Irene CC, Centurion and Zwartkop. The holes worst affected by the flooding are the ones being removed.
“Making this decision to change the business operation of the club was extremely stressful,” said Hayes. “My brother Brian and I were both born at Zwartkop and grew up in our family home close to the fourth fairway. We had to do this for the survival of the club. This centre will be something new and unique.”
The 9 holes remaining will be upgraded – three greens enlarged to accommodate two separate pins – and new tees built on five of the holes to add variety to the two 9-hole loops.
Padel courts and a kids playing area will be added to the centre, plus a delicatessen and eatery in the club shop.
Zwartkop has played an important role in the history of SA golf. It is one of only two Gauteng courses, along with Houghton, to have hosted both the men’s SA Open (1955, won by Bobby Locke) and SA Masters (1966, Cedric Amm). It was the venue for many of the 1960s and 1970s exhibition matches between Gary Player and international stars such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Gene Littler and Seve Ballesteros.
From 1985 through to 1995 it was the venue for the long-running ICL International on the Sunshine Tour, won by such legends as Nick Price (3 times), Tony Johnstone (2), Gavan Levenson, Fulton Allem and Ashley Roestoff, who took the last title in 1995. Price had a 61 in the first round of the 1994 ICL and won the 72-hole tournament by nine shots.