Bosch Hoek Golf Club, another jewel in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, has caught our eye, and it will catch yours too, writes MARK SAMPSON in Compleat Golfer.
If it weren’t for the signs on the N3 between Joburg and Durban, you would probably miss the turnoff to Bosch Hoek Golf Club. Maybe that’s just how they want it to remain.
Any golfer lucky enough to call themselves a member of this little gem would undoubtedly want to keep the secret to themselves. And who could blame them? From the moment you sign in at the entrance and the boom rises, the magic of this elegant housing estate, abundant in wildlife and waterways, captivates you.
As the road winds up towards the course the bushbucks eyeball you, as if to say, ‘Yes, this is all real’. It is situated in typical KZN Midlands rolling landscape, with waterways, trout-filled lakes and rising hills.
Just like the surrounding area, the farm on which the course lies has a long and interesting history, dating back to 1850 when it was first catalogued as ‘owned land’ in the name of Jan Abraham Naude and Lucas Janssen van Vuuren.
They were clearly not British settlers, as so many were in that era. An official survey set the original farm at a massive 5 863 acres, but as time marched on and the area became more popular for farming, parts were sold off.
Moving 100 years on, the farm, now known as Bosch Hoek, was bought by Charles Sydney ‘Punch’ Barlow, the well-known industrialist and an agricultural visionary. With his input,Bosch Hoek soon became a huge success story for animal husbandry and trend-setting agricultural methods.
Barlow was also one of the founder members of the River Club in Sandton, a private club where entry is strictly by invitation, and new members are ‘capped’. He commissioned well-known golf architect Robert Grimsdell to design the layout and added a nine-hole course at Bosch Hoek to the deal.
The Midlands course, intended for use by Barlow, his family and friends only, was ‘unofficially’ opened in 1963. After his death in 1979, his stepson, Peter Gallo, took over the farm and the course, and it was only in 1990 that the gates were opened to the public.
Andrew Clark, the current owner and CEO, plays a pivotal role in maintaining and directing the course’s growth.
Bosch Hoek has a stunning layout of nine greens and 18 tee boxes. It meanders its way through huge trees, rivers and around a massive lake.
In parts, it is amazingly similar to Augusta National, with impeccable gardens surrounding water features and a variety of trees, reminiscent of the nursery area of the great course in Georgia.
At 5 870m off the men’s tees, it may seem a tad short, but don’t be fooled. It’s clever Grimsdell, requiring you to shape the ball – specifically a draw for the right-handers – and with 14 of the 18 holes having water, it’s no pushover. It has undergone several changes, the most relevant being the resurfacing of the greens with bent grass in 2013.
It has a number of memorable holes, none more so than the par-three 5th. Golf director Brad Ross talks us through playing this stunning short hole on page 67.
Other notable holes, and it’s a tough choice, are the stroke-one, par-four 8th and the par-five 15th. After playing one of the shortest holes on the course you turn to play one of the longest at 380m. The fairway with its right-to-left layout requires a draw, but there’s a water hazard up its left side. The fairway also has a strong left-to-right slope and any ball pushed right is closed off from the green by a clump of trees on the right of the fairway. A decent drive will leave you a mid-iron into the green. It is large, but well-protected by three bunkers, and the surface slopes away from the centre. A par here is as good as a birdie on any other hole.
The par-five 15th is another attractive hole, strewn with danger. From the tee box a water hazard must be cleared to find the right-to-left fairway. An aggressive line would be to cut the corner slightly, but that also brings in the massive lake down the left side. If you push the ball too far right a lonely bunker will gratefully accept it.
After a good drive the bigger hitters have the option of going for the green, although a birdie will most likely come from laying up. The green is built out into the lake, and finding it in two is not the issue; stopping the ball from going over the back is. It may be a stroke 12, but is by far a stroke one when it comes to looks.
The charm and history of the course is noticeable when stepping into the country-style clubhouse. The walls are covered with trophies, paintings of the surrounding area and detailed architectural drawings from the original layout of the course.
Although small, it adds to the welcoming and cosy feel of the club, and the log fire is a relief if the area is hit by an all-too-common wintery cold snap.
Bosch Hoek may not be that well-known, but it is fast growing in stature and gaining momentum as a must-play course.
Accommodation is being built on the property and will be available later in the year, providing just one more reason to stop over and play a round on this enigmatic layout.
The course is a 90-minute journey from Durban along the N3 towards Johannesburg. Take the Balgowan and Curry’s Post glide-off (Exit 125).
At the top of the glide-off turn right over the N3 and travel 500m to the Bosch Hoek Golf Club gate.
Bookings and enquiries: (033) 234 4232 and [email protected]
– This article first appeared in the October issue of Compleat Golfer