Cape Town - Within the space
of a week on the European Tour this month, two of the game’s most iconic golf
courses saw their course records fall.
During the Alfred
Dunhill Links Championship, Tommy Fleetwood tamed the traditionally tough
Carnoustie with the first 63 in its illustrious history, and then a few days
later Ross Fisher shot 61 on the Old Course, and this while coming very close
to a 59.
courses were played in benign conditions. But add in the 62 - the lowest round
in men’s Major championship history - by South Africa’s Branden Grace in the
third round of The Open at Royal Birkdale, and then American Justin Thomas
starting the year with a 59 in the Sony Open, and Gary Player’s call for limits
to be placed on the golf ball become increasingly relevant.
headed to South Africa later this year for the Nedbank Golf Challenge, while Fisher and Grace are also likely to be at Sun City.
host, Player always keeps a keen eye on the scoring on the golf course he
designed and which has traditionally been able to withstand the advances in
golf equipment technology. And as the host of his own annual Gary Player
Invitational at the Lost City Golf Course, the Black
Knight can also see first-hand the effect technology has on another of the
courses he has built.
But Sun City Golf
Director Ken Payet is not yet ready to start setting up either of these courses
just to protect them against the long hitters.
“Any older golf
course is vulnerable to technology in the game. But I’m of the opinion that
it’s a very small percentage of a field that hits distances to that magnitude,
and we can only stretch golf courses to the point where they get utilised. It’s
no good building a tee that’s way back but only gets used for one week in a
“There are also
other ways you can toughen up a golf course. You can narrow the fairways, grow
the rough, and place strategic bunkers. And on the Gary Player Country Club,
the clover-shaped greens allow us to really tuck the pins in some difficult
For Payet, Sun
City’s two golf courses and the tournaments they host offer two very different
golf offerings that he also believes reflects what needs to be a general focus
in the game at the moment.
“The Gary Player
Country Club is still my number one golf course. You have the tradition of
walking the course and the caddies here are so knowledgeable. It’s a true test.
It tests the best in the world and your high handicap golfer. It always
requires you to be on top of your game.
“Lost City gives
us a different golf offering. We use golf carts there. It’s more a desert-style
course and target golf, but it can play difficult. It offers us two totally
different golf experiences, which is exactly what Gary Player set out to
achieve in their design and setup.
“I just feel we
need golf courses that are challenging for the best players in the world, but
they must be enjoyable for the average golfer as well.
change golf courses for a very small percentage of the field that hits it
miles. A course mustn’t become too tough and too long. From a Sun City resort
point of view, that’s not our focus.”
For Payet, the
true test of the enduring strength of a golf course lies in the phone in their
golf bookings office.
“During the week
of the Nedbank Golf Challenge the phone never stops ringing with golfers
booking rounds here. From an experience point of view, I want to blow people
away and make sure they go away and tell their friends and family and come back
Clearly, when it
comes to Sun City’s two golf courses, if that phone is ringing, then the
balance between them remaining challenging enough for the pros but still
enjoyable for the amateurs is still perfect.