Golf Course Review… Pilansberg

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FACT FILE
Par- 72
Rating – 71 (club tees)
Length – 5962m (club tees)
Best Time to Play –  October, April-August

HISTORY
When construction of the Sun City Resort began in 1978, the decision was taken to build a golf course that would rival the best in the world. Gary Player was an obvious choice to route the course in what is the crater of an extinct volcano. The result was the first golf course in South Africa to conform to the stringent USPGA specifications. The golf course at the Gary Player Country Club opened in 1979 and has been consistently ranked in the top five golf courses in South Africa ever since. It’s also the home of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which last year celebrated 30 years of existence.

THE COURSE
This immaculately groomed layout is famed for its length (over 7000 metres from the championship tees), its dramatic backdrops of the Pilanesberg Mountains, and its spectacular indigenous vegetation that flanks the fairways. The first facility in South Africa to be built with multiple tees, the course can be enjoyed by golfers of all levels of skill, but even from the forward tees it remains a challenge. One of the distinguishing features of the course are its greens complexes, which allow for interesting pin positions on the clover-shaped putting surfaces, which are protected by strategically placed bunkers. It’s a bushveld course and it carefully examines every aspect of one’s game. Both the inward and outward loops are nicely balanced, with just about every club in the bag being tested along the way. A particular strength of the course is that it favours no particular shape of shot. The fairways, clad in manicured kikuyu grass, make for the perfect surface from which to hit approach shots to the bent grass greens. Imaginative bunkering protects the sand-based putting surfaces, all large and undulating. The magnificent views of the resort’s four hotels and lake, as well as the surrounding mountains that form part of the Pilanesberg National Park, make this an 18 holes to remember. “The Gary Player Country Club is a true test of golf and being a ‘strictly walking course’, it truly promotes golf in its purist form – the way the game is meant to be played,” says Director of Golf, Antonie Els.

SIGNATURE HOLE
The signature hole is the par-5 ninth hole, which measures 545 metres from the tips. It’s the iconic hole at the Gary Player Country. This par-5 is a genuine three-shot hole for most golfers. The island green is more susceptible to a short iron third shot, rather than a long fairway wood for the brave. A par-5 is always a good score. The hole is long, but is normally set up so as to encourage the second shot at the green, which can be intimidating. Even after laying up short of the lake, if the pin is cut in the back left or right, it is a tough shot. A couple of yards either way, and the ball will find its way into the water.

RATES
Visitor – R750 (includes lunch) 
Hotel Resident – R650 (includes lunch)
Caddie – R175 + tip
Cart Hire – None – walking only
Club Hire – R400 (18 holes)

DIRECTIONS
From Johannesburg, take the Malibongwe off-ramp from the N1 and turn right towards Witkoppen. Continue straight over Witkoppen towards Hartebeespoort Dam. At the T-junction, turn right (R512) to Brits. At a four-way stop, turn left towards Brits and Rustenburg. Pass the first Brits turn-off and turn right at the second (Rustenburg R27). Take a left onto the R91 to Pilanesburg. Exit left off the highway and turn right. Continue across the highway straight into Sun City.

CONTACT
Address: Sun City Hotel, Pilanesberg, 0316, +27 14 557 3455/3700, suninternational.com

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