Presented with the opportunity to ‘go for it’ or ‘play it safe’, these 10 holes will test your course management and shot-making skills.
‘Everyone got hooked to the game of golf via TV because of Arnold [Palmer],’ said Tiger Woods after the passing of ‘The King’, one of golf’s original ‘Big Three’ alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
It was Palmer who ushered in the era of rolling up the sleeves and going for broke, the perfect style to introduce a new audience to a previously drama-free game. The late Palmer’s influence of risking it all in the name of entertainment and glory continues to dominate the way the world’s best and amateurs around the globe play the game.
With that in mind, we look at the holes around South Africa that Arnie and you could be tempted into risking in search of greatness.
Leopard Creek Country Club
18th, par five
No list of holes that define the term ‘risk and reward’ would ever be complete without mentioning the 18th at Leopard Creek. Those playing the course, which is undergoing renovations in 2018 to make it an even more memorable experience, arrive at their second on this hole to face arguably the biggest conundrum of their career: take on the green surrounded by water in search of glory and in the face of grave danger, or lay up and nervously attempt to pitch and putt for birdie. The choice may just linger on your mind for longer than you think.
Oubaai Golf Club
12th, par five
The course where Ernie Els says he put all his knowledge and experiences from playing around the globe into the design. That design comes to life as you face the opportunity of reaching the green in two. Flying the bunker down the left on to the fairway is just one part of the plan before you decide to take on the green that is protected by a bunker short left and the hazard in front.
Glendower Golf Club
10th, par four
It might be counter-intuitive to the thinking of risk/reward, but any time you are out of position off the tee on the 10th hole at one of the country’s leading courses, the term will make sense. Water is the obvious obstacle, with bunkers littered around the green for added protection. If you are off the fairway to the right and playing to a pin right, you might have to be more than creative to find the green in two. Many low-handicappers have taken the option playing short of the hazard and relying on a world-class up-and-down to save par. It’s that or take on the hazard and hope for the best.
Serengeti Golf Club
8th, par five
Water runs down the right of Serengeti’s Signature Course’s most photographed hole. Once you find the left half of the fairway, which slopes towards the right rough, you are faced with the options of taking on the island green or laying up and pitching your way close to the hole. This par five has low scores and high numbers in almost equal proportion, so be prepared for either.
Arabella Golf Club
9th, par four
One of the country’s most picturesque holes as you play your way back to the hotel after coming down the par-five 8th. The options are: take a direct line to the green with a 3-wood or driver and avoid the waste hazard for any ball hit offline or short. The reward is a two-putt for birdie, but with the wind almost always a factor, there are many who prefer the safety of an iron off the tee to the corner of the dog-leg and the par that should follow.
San Lameer Country Club
13th, par five
Water is never more in play than on the 13th – a hole lucky for some and not so for others. A drive that reaches past the corner of the dog-leg left leaves you with some 200m to the green – it’s a case of course management and a par or risk it by going in with a low-iron or hybrid to the island green. It’s not just a case of taking out the longest club and hitting it sweetly, as you must factor in the bunkers that guard the back of the green. Be brave and you could prosper.
Durban Country Club
18th, par four
As much as Durban Country Club is ingrained in the history of South African golf, so too is the club’s finishing hole. A ‘looks can be deceiving’, drivable par four can produce its share of eagles and doubles on any given day. A drive down the left should see your ball trickle to the right and on to the green, but if you are wayward, trouble looms. The stroke 18 demands you risk it with conviction, as another dropped shot will see you lose ground and damage your round.
De Zalze Golf Club
18th, par four
At 275m to the green from the club tees, most would favour a drive that takes on the river that cuts the fairway in two. Laying up is not a foregone conclusion, with any shot long and left bringing the large tree into play that makes the approach to the fairly large putting surface trickier than it first looks from the tee. Rated the ‘easiest’ hole on the course, scores have been known to unravel the further back the tee box goes.
Steyn City Golf Club
11th, par four
Danger lurks down the left as water runs all the way from the tee box to the green. The longer hitter is presented with a great chance for a two-putt birdie, but will still need precision, as length is not the only requirement to avoid the trouble that lurks short and left of the green after the long carry. The short hitter will no doubt be forced to go 4-iron and wedge and even then, there is no guarantee of par.
Pretoria Country Club
18th, par five
One of the more intriguing decisions you will ever have to make on the tee: whether to fly the dozen or so pot bunkers to set yourself up for a dip at the elevated green in two. Anything but a driver off the tee and you are almost always unable to reach it in two. Many pros choose safety first as they end their rounds on this championship layout with three shots in front of the gallery, looking on from the esteemed clubhouse.