If you can shape the ball from left to right and hit your driver well, you’ll love the layout of The Els Club at Copperleaf, writes BEN KARPINSKI in Compleat Golfer.
Ernie Els may not have been as prolific a golfer as Gary Player, but for a variety of reasons many South Africans think of him as the country’s favourite golfing son.
Though that claim may be debated, there is no doubting that Ernie is a golfing legend. No wonder then that The Els Clubs he helped create around the world reflect this, and provide homes for golf and leisure activities that mirror his unique character.
The Els Club at Copperleaf is the South African home of this golfing way of life, made even more special by the fact it sits on land his grandfather, Ernie Vermaak, once called home.
Forty minutes from central Sandton, and even closer from the Pretoria side, The Els Club at Copperleaf is a golfing destination within reach of your everyday life.
At the heart of every Els Club is an impressive championship golf course. At Copperleaf it’s a real show-stopper – set up brilliantly for professional tournaments, yet offering a great deal of weekly enjoyment for members and visitors alike.
As you warm up on the driving range that looks out towards the Magaliesberg region, the first impression you get is that of space. This modern classic provides a real ‘big course’ presence with defining grassland areas and large bunkers to add texture and charm. Measuring 7 360m from the championship tees (6 616m from the men’s tees) this looks like a bombers’ course on the scorecard, but it’s also one where intelligent design places as much importance on where you hit it, as it does on how far you hit it.
The 1st hole eases you into the round with a gentle downhill par four which, turning slightly to the right, offers a friendly fairway.
The 2nd hole gives you more of a taste of what lies ahead with a risk-and-reward tee option. Shorter hitters may favour the right side, away from the bunkers. The longer hitters capable of flying it left of the central fairway bunkers can earn the right to a shorter, more direct shot to the putting surface.
If the prevailing breeze is up, the 3rd becomes more difficult, which is a bit cruel considering the hole is a 256m par three from the championship tee and 239m from the men’s. Not only is it long, but there is also water in play to the left of the green and some tricky bunkers to the right, not allowing for much of a bail-out. But this hole is just the tip of the iceberg length-wise.
The par-five 4th again features water and a challenging complex of bunkers to navigate throughout.
By now you’ll have realised you need to bring your ‘A’ game in the long-game stakes. The par-three 5th is more conventional, and the par-four 6th picturesque but challenging, and is rated stroke one.
Thankfully for your nerves, and your scorecard, the 7th and 8th allow you a bit of breathing room with two enjoyable high-stroke holes where you can really let something fly off the tee.
The 9th, though, gets the heart racing again with a brutal par four where most players will have to take the safer right side to have a realistic shot into the green. It is superbly guarded by deep bunkers on the left side, and a deceiving false front that will penalise anything under-clubbed.
The back nine starts as strongly as the front nine finishes. The 10th is again a hole where you need to be smart about where you place your drive, as well-positioned bunkers guard key landing areas. A safe strategy may lead to longer approach shots, but that is always a better option than dealing with the signature Els bunkering.
If you have played other Ernie Els-designed courses, you will pick up certain design characteristics at Copperleaf. One that is always a huge plus is how tee shots are so well framed, and provide platforms where you feel you can give it a good rip with the driver.
The 11th is a perfect example of this. It’s a long downhill par five with rolling countryside in the distance, framed by houses either side. Here it’s all about distance, but the sloping does assist in getting you down towards an elevated green that puts you in a very tranquil part of the course.
At this stage it becomes apparent how memorable each of the holes are, and how each also comes with much consideration strategy-wise. The 12th hole demonstrates this well. With a huge amount of space on the left, it pays to play it safe, short of the bunker rather than belting a driver towards the green. With water in play just off to the right, this is certainly valuable advice for your first time out here.
The 13th is a great short par four where a slope can help the longer players get to the putting surface with their tee shots, provided they follow the line inside the right fairway bunker. The 14th is an unassuming brute of a hole which can see you post a big number if you go too far right, but a par sets you up nicely for another one of Copperleaf’s best holes.
It’s the par-five 15th, a dogleg left that again offers a big incentive for the longer hitters. The tee shot right of the fairway bunker is pretty straightforward, but the approach can be played in two ways. The lay-up is down the right side to the flat portion right of the centre bunkering. If you have the mettle to get to the left side, though, it needs to be favoured.
There is just so much to enjoy about this course. It keeps you guessing, but also gives you terrific scoring opportunities. The par-four 16th continues this theme and may only require a 3-wood for longer hitters to reach the green off the tee. Again, a safer option is available with a landing area short of the sandy fairway graves. The 17th is a delightful short hole that plays a little more downhill than you think towards water on the right. Then in true Els fashion, a grandstand finishing hole presents another spectacular tee shot opportunity to a generous fairway, where you can hold your finish to an accommodating green overlooked by the clubhouse.
The Els Club at Copperleaf is a fun layout, especially if you shape the ball from left to right off the tee. It’s open and enjoyable from start to finish, and makes you want to come back for more. It can be considered among the other ‘destination’ courses of the Gauteng region and surely one that will go on to do the Els name proud for many a year.
ABOUT THE ESTATE
With a name like The Els Club at Copperleaf, there is no mistaking this estate is a place that prides itself on its golfing drawcard. Like other top golf estates, though, it is moving with the times, and working on offering a more comprehensive way of life for all. Ernie Els said that The Els Club at Copperleaf encapsulates everything he loves about family living in a country club environment. All estates go through their ups and downs in attracting enough home owners to make it a thriving community, but throughout this process Copperleaf has worked on becoming unique with qualities that make you feel at home in keeping with Els’ taste and vision. The luxury spa and creche pair very well with the gym and adjoining dining areas, making the traditional clubhouse structure an obvious central hub. From there the outdoor spaces are well utilised. There is an impressive cricket oval and pavilion, the ever-popular running trails and a network of paths and tracks that are being expanded for mountain bikers. Natural wetlands and wild grass expanses are seamlessly integrated with everyday life here, providing a natural aesthetic, as well as homes for numerous endangered species. On paper there are other estates that can boast similar offerings, but here the balance is just right.
Phone: (012) 668 8900/01
Email: [email protected]
Golf shop: 066 143 0783