In the heart of the platinum world in the North-West province, an intimate golf club has been rescued by a local businessman writes SIMON OSLER.
If you are asked to describe the Rustenburg Golf Club in one word, it would probably be ‘Family’.
Everyone there has a smile and a greeting for those arriving at the course, whether they be members or visitors, and they are treated as being part of the family.
It wasn’t always like this. The atmosphere has changed over the past few years.
If you were to go back to 2016, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. Membership was in decline and there was a very real chance that the club would have to close its doors.
Up stepped local businessman MH Tayob with a plan to revitalise the club. Having secured a lease from the municipality, Tayob rolled up his sleeves and persuaded the staff do the same.
General Manager Ilse Marais is Tayob’s ‘go to’ person at the course and her vibrant and positive attitude runs through the team. Not a golfer, Marais came from the banking sector, and her experience was in the management of people. She’s certainly getting the best out of the team that she has working with her.
So what makes the Rustenburg club so family oriented?
In addition to the golf facilities, which are constantly undergoing improvements, there are attractions for the non-golfer too. From a beauty salon and restaurant, which has become a popular meeting place, along with a separate pizza restaurant adjacent to the driving range, to kids’ entertainment in the form of an upmarket putt-putt course and trampolines.
Then there’s the dam in the centre of the course where parents can take youngsters fishing (on a catch and release basis) knowing that the venue is safe and secure.
The on-course pro shop is as well-stocked as any of the major courses around the country and should you want something that is not in stock, they will arrange for it to be brought in.
The course is getting a reputation for its friendliness and quality, says Marais, adding that they are starting to draw regular visitors from the greater Johannesburg area, some two hours away by car.
And by entering into corporate partnerships with the big companies and schools in the area, the club is ensuring both its short-term and longer-term viability.
The early November rains did wonders for the conditioning of the course and it is looking spectacular.
The 18-hole parkland layout is set up in two out-and-back loops of nine holes a side, both starting off tough and gradually getting a little easier. They are slightly different lengths, with par being 37 on the outward nine and 35 coming back.
As it’s not a particularly long course, and at an altitude of 1,100m, we will play it from the yellow tees. All distances are to the centre of the green.
The opening hole, a 380m par four, requires a straight drive. The longer hitters will be able to clear the pond on the left of the fairway which then opens up a green protected by two bunkers at the front.
Next up is the stroke one, a 420m par four which runs perpendicular to the opening hole. Favour the left half of the fairway to stay away from the stream which runs down the right and then cuts across the front of the green.
As you walk off the left of the green to head to the 3rd, you will be headed back towards where you have just come from. It’s another par four, around the 385m mark, and slightly uphill, there’s relatively little trouble in play.
Next up is the first of the par fives, which plays at 530m along the western boundary of the property. Accuracy off the tee is required as there are plenty of trees on both sides of the fairway. Your second shot should be played with the third in mind – the green is small and well protected by bunkers, so pick a club that will leave you with a favourite wedge to the green.
The 5th is a short hole at 170m from the tips but from the forward tee it is only 136m. Your bailout areas for safety are short or right.
The par-five 6th has bunkers left and right of the fairway at driving distance for regular players, while the bigger hitters will fly them comfortably. There’s a lot of water in play short and right of the triangular green but smart strategy should take it out of play.
Your second par three is similar in length to the first one. For those intimidated by needing to carry over water, here’s your chance to “play three off the tee”. There’s no need to worry about the water as there’s plenty of landing area the other side of it short of the green, which is protected by two bunkers on the left.
The 8th is another par five but it is short at only 450m. There’s water in play all the way down the left and across the front of the green too, so while it is relatively easy to manoeuvre your way down the hole and make par, earning a birdie is somewhat tougher and eagles are probably fairly rare given the aggressive line that would have to be taken with the second shot.
The 410m par-four 9th takes you back to the clubhouse. There are plenty of trees down the left-hand side and a scattering more, as well as the well-appointed driving range, on your right as you approach the green.
The back nine is 430m shorter but you need to be firing straight out of the blocks on your restart, with three tough par fours to negotiate.
The stroke-two 10th is narrow and tree-lined and will require two good shots to avoid all the trouble along its 410m length, and bunkers will be in play too.
The 365m 11th will then bring you back to the clubhouse via a slight dog-leg to the right. Again trees abound on both sides and the green is not particularly large, so accuracy is required.
The 12th is just 350m but plays across a stream. The shorter hitters will definitely be laying up at the hazard and leaving a medium iron to a green protected by water on the right and bunkers on the left. Slightly short of the green is your safest bailout option and, given how well manicured the course is, using a ‘Texas wedge’ from off the front is a good option.
The 13th is the signature hole. It is by some measure the shortest hole on the course at just 140m from the tips.
And from the forward tee it plays just 100m. So it’s a short carry over the water to the green which is surrounded by five bunkers. Trouble looms everywhere. The key to playing this hole successfully is precision, so you need to know your club yardages well.
On to 14 and it’s another lengthy par four at just more than 400m. This hole offers the opportunity for one to open the shoulders and hit a big drive. Clear the trees down the left and you will be left with a mid-iron in.
The 15th tee box is tucked away in the north-east corner of the property, adjacent to the town’s fire department, taxi rank and the R104 arterial road. The biggest of hitters will be thinking of driving this green, just 320m from the tee. Coming up 10-20m short of the green would be no hardship for them. Regular players will want to hit a tee shot 220m to the widest part of the fairway and then have a solid wedge to the green. This is definitely a scoring opportunity for most players.
The 16th is the only par five on the back nine and runs along the northern boundary of the club, next to the Rustenburg Mall. With a lengthy, somewhat bare fence running the length of this hole, it offers enterprising business(es) a chance to put up some long advertising hoardings, says Marais.
At almost 500m, it’s a decent test for the bigger hitters wanting to get to the green in two, or for regular players to tackle the slight dogleg in a more traditional three-shot approach. The green itself is a pretty small target with bunkers in front and out of bounds over the back. Precision is the key here.
The 17th is the easiest hole on the course at just 152m. Clear the front bunker and a par should be the worst score you make on this hole.
The closing hole runs parallel to the first as it brings you back to the clubhouse. At 345m it’s not long, and most players will be able to clear the water on the left and right at about 170-200m. Long and slightly left off the tee is a good place to be to approach the green. Playing for the back half of the green will also negate all the trouble at the front, including water and bunkers, so take an extra club as you finish up the slight hill towards the clubhouse.
And that concludes your round at what is a diamond in the heart of precious-metal country.
With the welcoming club staff to greet you for your post-round refreshments, you can get to the dissection of what worked well and where your game could be improved upon while enjoying a delicious pizza or a light meal.
And if you need to take bread and milk home with you after the game, the halfway house offers the ‘convenience store’ facility too, with fresh deliveries daily.
Rustenburg Golf Club really has developed into the heartbeat of the town where you know you will be treated like family.
13th hole, 140m, par three
The 13th is by some measure the shortest hole on the course at just 140m from the tips. And from the forward tee it plays just 100m. So it’s a short carry over the water to the green which is surrounded by five bunkers. Trouble looms everywhere.
The key to playing this hole successfully is precision, so you need to know your club yardages well.
Pick a club, put a good swing on it and you are halfway towards a decent score on the hole. If you can hit the middle of this smallish green, which has quite a bit of slope on it, you will definitely have a chance to look at birdie.
Because of all the water being so close at hand, this hole is probably the greenest on the course – an emerald set in the platinum belt.
One of the country’s best-known golfing families is the Stone family. Kevin Stone used to be the pro at Rustenburg (he’s now the golf director at Mount Edgecombe in Durban) and his son Brandon grew up at the course and would go on to win the SA Open and the Scottish Open in recent years. This is Brandon’s favourite hole on his favourite course in South Africa.
‘The best of all is the 13th,’ he said. ‘Measuring no more than 130m it’s an 8-or 9-iron for most. However, the green is littered with bunkers, punishing any errant tee shot.
‘The green also slopes severely from back to front which makes any putt above the hole very slippery and an easy three-putt if you’re not careful.’
Fulfilling the adage that dynamite comes in small packages, this hole shows that length is not important when it comes to good golf holes.
It’s definitely the gem of this course.
- Affiliated visitor: R250
- Members guests: R250
- Rangefee: R30
- Bucket: R30
- Johannesburg: 155km
- Bloemfontein: 454km
- Pietermaritzburg: 625km
- Durban: 704km
From OR Tambo International Airport, take Voortrekker Road to R21. Continue on R21, then take M4 to Helen Joseph Drive and take exit 179 from the N4. Follow Beyers Naude Drive to Brink Street and on to your destination.
Rustenburg Golf Course, 183 Bethlehem Street, Rustenburg, 0300
– This article first appeared in the January 2023 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.