The past decade has seen Centurion Country Club mature into a thoroughly enjoyable experience of golf and estate living, writes BEN KARPINSKI.
Gauteng is the golf estate capital of South Africa. In the 1990s, the demand for safety and tranquility inspired these developments, with Centurion Country Club one of the early creations. Situated conveniently between Sandton and Pretoria, just off the N1 highway, it was a popular choice, with a golf course beautifully defined by the Hennops River.
In the early days this Peter Matkovich design featured unique desert-type features that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Arizona. The course that awaits the golfer today, however, is an established parkland layout, with mature trees, water in play on 10 of the holes and an exciting finish you won’t easily forget.
For the purists, estate golf courses are often a little hard on the eye, with houses lining the fairways and overpowering the natural aesthetics. Though Centurion is a large residential estate, the golf course is set away from many of the homes, allowing for the parkland theme to be the key feature.
This is notable from the 1st hole. It is a relatively gentle par five but, with a well-placed bunker on the right of the fairway and the river running down the left, accuracy is of paramount importance. As it is on the 2nd hole,
a tough par four which uniquely has no bunkers, but a well-hit mid- to long-iron will be needed with your approach.
In the early stages you will become accustomed to the gentle sloping of the greens. This provides ample reward for accuracy into the green and is a Matkovich design element that adds great character.
The par-four 4th hole presents a risk-and-reward prospect. Measuring 439m from the club tee, this dogleg hole has out of bounds running down the left, penalising any player overcooking an aggressive line around the corner. The more conservative line to the wide part of the fairway will leave a short-iron into a well-bunkered green.
The short par fours of the 5th and 6th holes again entice the long hitters to search for birdies by trying to get close to the green. At this stage you rejoin the Hennops River, and the thought of this being just another estate course could not be further away.
It’s not often that the stroke one on the Highveld is a par five, but the 7th hole is most deserving of this index. With the river running down the right and bunkers down the left, it is important to keep your drive on the right half of the fairway to have any chance of realistically reaching this green in two. Should you choose to lay up, again favouring the right is key as trees start to cut into the fairway from 100m away from the green, sitting diagonally to the fairway. An approach to this green from any distance will require a fair amount of skill.
The gentle par-three 8th provides some brief respite, albeit with water again in play on the left. That same body of water comes into play a lot more as you stand on the 9th tee. This 411m monster has a watery grave down the entire length of the hole on the left side, with anything too cautious on the right side getting caught up with well-placed bunkers. Should your tee shot finish unscathed, distance control on the approach to the green needs to be pinpoint with the water coming into play not just on the left, but also wrapping around the front.
The back nine gets off to a distinctly drier start. The 10th is a relatively short par four and realistic birdie chance. It is followed by the par-three 11th, with a large waste bunker looking to catch anything lost to the right. Moving to the more developed part of the course, the par-five 12th is another demanding long hole. With a stroke index of two, this left-to-right dogleg has out of bounds on the right, penalising anyone who tries to take too much off the corner on their drives. Again it’s realistically a three-shot hole for the average player, but with a large bunker guarding the run-up to the green, precision with the yardage is a must.
As testing as Centurion is in places, the layout also provides balance with holes that offer ideal scoring opportunities.
The 13th and 14th are par fours that double back on each other, with the 14th in particular being a hole of which to take advantage. Within range for the longer hitters from the tee, it’s only real defence is out of bounds through the green should you overhit your approach.
The theme of long and taxing par fives continues with the 15th hole. With a stroke index of four it is also the longest hole on the course. Out of bounds down the left and right places a fair amount of pressure on the drive. The Hennops River then returns to guard the green at the front, again demanding precise distance control to give yourself a look-in at a birdie.
Many estate courses in South Africa offer a fair amount of hype, but then don’t deliver from a golfing perspective. Centurion, though, is wonderfully understated at the outset, yet offers genuine surprises and highlights along the way. The course unfolds brilliantly towards a dramatic finish, with the short par-four 16th hole kicking this off. It’s a hole that’s all about positioning as the river runs through the length of it. Avoiding the water here is a must not only to make par, but also to prepare you for the last two holes. See page 65 for more on the signature holes, the 17th and 18th.
With so much happening out in front of the clubhouse, you are then provided with the perfect setting to relax after the round. Looking out to the 9th, 17th and 18th greens, it’s easy to relive the moments of your round with your playing partners. And certainly be inspired to book a repeat round.
Along with the course there is a four-hole mashie course for those new to the game. Providing something for golfers of all levels is becoming a pleasing trend with estates nowadays. Something that is further supported with the Kyle Phelan Golf Academy, where members and visitors can fine-tune their game. Tennis and squash facilities are also available for those looking to break a bit more of a sweat from their sporting pursuits.
Centurion is an estate that has matured wonderfully over the past decade, and achieves what every estate should – to provide a comprehensive offering for the homeowners, and a home away from home for visitors.
HOME OF CHAMPIONS
Being such a hospitable and well-located estate, it’s little wonder rising and established stars of South African golf have chosen Centurion as their home. Compleat Golfer playing editor Brandon Stone is one of them. Easily identifiable on social media for sharing his travels, along with his love for coffee, cars and his golden retriever, it is here where the 26-year-old calls home when he’s in the country. The family connection naturally predates Brandon. His father, Kevin, was the resident professional at Centurion and it is where Brandon learned the game under his watchful eye.
Darren Fichardt grew up in the area too, and like Stone has based himself at the estate while playing on the Sunshine Tour and European Tour.
Jacques Kruyswijk is another who uses Centurion as a home base to develop his game with resident teaching professional Kyle Phelan.
The fourth of a notable quartet of professionals to have succeeded locally and internationally in the game is Kim Williams. Having turned pro in 2014, Williams secured her Ladies European Tour card in the same year. She is now directly involved in the club working with club professional Jannes Sik while pursuing her playing career.
Clubhouse: (012) 665 0279
Pro Shop: (012) 665 9602
Email: [email protected]