One of the country’s most unique layouts is a remarkable success story – and one of Gauteng’s elite courses, writes MARK SAMPSON in Compleat Golfer.
Ebotse Links, designed by Peter Matkovich and Dale Hayes, is one of the most esteemed layouts in South Africa.
Regarded as Matkovich’s ‘little secret’ – few people are aware how spectacular it is – the course is worth adding to your bucket list. When describing his handiwork, Matkovich declared, ‘Ebotse was a wonderful opportunity to create an environmentally sensitive and balanced golf course, combining links, lakeside and parkland areas.’
His team moved two-million cubic metres of earth on an old mining site to create one of the country’s most impressive layouts, set around a flooded quarry, which became the 40ha Rynfield Dam. It seems he achieved the ultimate goal in matching his creation with the chosen name of Ebotse, meaning ‘a beautiful place’.
Built to US PGA specifications and having seven holes with water protecting them, this 6 372m par-72 layout has several unique factors.
Most distinctively, the numerous changes in elevation, due to the heavy sculpting, form one of its main lines of defence. On some holes the rise and fall can be 30m, so club selection and shot-making are always important. And as is the case with most links courses, part of its protection is the wind.
Since opening in 2008, the course has undergone a few changes to make it more playable, as it was initially perceived to be a bit difficult for the average golfer.
The course is renowned for its four short holes – all different in nature, but collectively a talking point – and also the closing holes 16, 17 and 18. However, the 12th is regarded as the signature hole. Golf director Craig Stickling gives us the inside information to tackling this monster on page 67.
The first of the par threes is the 2nd hole, with its tee positioned atop one of the high points of the course. At 185m and generally facing into the prevailing wind, its stroke 11 is debatable, as the green’s shape and bunkering make it a tough target.
The next par three comes at the 8th in the form of a short 137m beauty. One of the seven holes with water, it plays from an elevated tee towards Rynfield Dam. The green makes for a difficult target as it has bunkers left and right, and a watery grave over the back. It may be short, but with all the dangers around, it’s also rather scary.
The 11th is only 150m and a hole at which you would expect to score par. Don’t let the high stroke of 14 mislead you: the tee is set some 30m above the small green. Left of it lies a watery demise, while chickening out right will leave you with a nasty bunker shot back towards the water. And all this before taking the wind into account. Did we mention it’s the stroke 14?
The final par three of the course is the 15th. It owns the highest stroke rating, while also being the shortest at 136m. In links terms, it’s a postage stamp not too dissimilar to the 8th at Royal Troon, with its small surface protected by a number of bunkers. The change in elevation from tee to green and the wind will need serious consideration before selecting your club.
The 15th opens the door to what is regarded as one of the most challenging finishes in South Africa.
The 16th is a long, straight par four of 432m. Avoiding the bunkers left and right of the landing area from the tee will leave you with a long approach. The elevated, two-tiered green is a tough proposition with a long-iron, and keeping the ball on the correct level is advisable in order to avoid a three-putt.
The final two holes skirt the edge of the water; again demanding accuracy off the tee.
The 17th is shorter than the 16th, but it holds the stroke-two rating. Water down its entire left flank is the main protection, while a bunker on the right restricts the landing area. The green, with the hazard left and a large, deep bunker right, can prove elusive with a medium-iron, especially if the wind is up.
The finishing hole is the second-longest on the course, measuring a whopping 532m. The hole follows the water left from tee to green and numerous pot bunkers are strategically placed in the landing and lay-up areas.
Only the longest hitters will be able to reach this green in two. If laying up, be sure to keep in mind the position of the flag to allow access. It is stroke 12, but don’t underestimate the clubhouse pressure as the green is directly below the 19th.
Speaking of the 19th, the clubhouse is spacious and open with a 180-degree view of the 9th and 18th holes, practice putting green and Rynfield Dam. It’s easy to understand why it is a very popular place and makes up the social hub of the estate.
Incidentally, the Rynfield Dam forms part of a unique driving range. It has a number of floating greens for targets and floating golf balls for reuse.
The competitive layout has hosted numerous tournaments, including three Sunshine Tour events, one Nomad National (the biggest amateur event in the world), Senior Interprovincial and League Finals. The attraction of the course is also confirmed by a number of well-known ambassador members, who include Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis, Swys de Bruin and Andre Watson.
Ebotse is Benoni’s premier property development with its enclosed dam and genuine natural beauty presenting a safe haven for families.
It is located only 15 minutes’ drive from OR Tambo International Airport and the Gautrain’s Rhodesfield Station. Top-class primary, secondary and tertiary education institutions, major medical facilities and upmarket shopping centres are all in close proximity to the estate. Other than golf, residents can also enjoy boating, fishing, cycling, jogging and walking trails, bird watching, squash and tennis.
An unyielding respect for the land and its natural surroundings, in line with the designer’s philosophy to ‘listen to the land’, is obvious when playing Ebotse. Its credo of ‘Playability, Consistency and Tranquility’ rings true every time you walk off the course, making it undeniably one of SA’s must-play courses.
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– This article first appeared in the June issue of Compleat Golfer