Rating – 74
Length – 6807m (blue tees)
Best Time to Play – March, April, May
Not many people get to build a golf course in their own back yard. But, Gary Player is not “many people” and the man who has won nine major titles finally realised his dream in 2007, after teaming up with the right people to ensure that at the bottom of his garden lies 18 holes. Player no longer spends much time there, but part of the current Blair Atholl golf estate has been home to the Player family for over 20 years. It was always Player’s dream to build a championship golf course that would rival the best in the world. “I wanted to design a course that took advantage of the massive scale of the site and the sweeping vistas of the surrounding natural bush,” said Player. “We have large green sites and broad fairways with no two holes playing side by side. So, golfers feel like they are playing by themselves on this magnificent estate.” Blair Atholl is a members-only course, but if you have the right connections, you can get on and play as a guest.
“It’s a long course (rated 77 off the tips and 74 off the blue club tees..), but you can manage it”, says former Director of Golf, Roy Yates.”There are lay-ups on just about every hole and there’s plenty of risk-and-reward. If you try and muscle it, it will hurt you. The bunkers, with their seven-foot faces, will catch you, as they are put strategically to catch those who want to just grip it and rip it.” Besides the beautifully-crafted bunkers, the standout features are the wide fairways and enormous greens, which are in great nick and fairly slick. If you’re a bit shaky with the putter, then Blair Atholl might not be for you, with the potential for four-putting lurking somewhere out there. Holes 14 to 17 provide a particularly stern test and that’s without the prevailing wind, which can make for an even tougher back nine. The pinnacle of that is the monster stroke-one 16th. It’s a par-four, but at 515 metres from the tips and 484 metres from the supposedly friendlier blue tees, you have to throw the kitchen sink at it, if you have lofty ambitions of getting up there in two.
Standing on the 3rd tee, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were about to play the famous par-three 12th at Augusta. It has the water guarding the front of the green, the trees framing the back, the bunkers and the slightly elevated green. “The prevailing wind is right to left, so it’s across the hole,” says Yates. “You’ve got to think it – you can’t just beat it to death. My choice is always take at least a club more and try and hit it softer. Don’t try and burn it with the club that the yardage might tell you. It’s a management hole. You should aim it at the left edge of the back bunker and try and hit a soft cut in. I just let it go against the wind. The water plays on people’s minds – not the bunkers. Forget about it. Look at that bunker at the back and just hit your ball at it, with a soft cut.”
Rates (18 holes)
Member Guest – R750
Caddie – R200
Where is it?
The Blair Atholl estate is approximately two kilometres and a short drive from Lanseria Airport, which is the smaller of Johannesburg’s two major airports, located to the north-west of the city. Lanseria is approximately half an hour’s drive from Sandton.
Tel: +27 11 9966300, blairatholl.co.za