A new host golf course brings with it a new challenge for this week’s Joburg Open field.
The leading professionals in this Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour co-sanctioned tournament are excited about what they’ve seen from Houghton Golf Club so far.
After a first look at the course in Tuesday’s pro-am, most of the field agreed that accuracy off the tee and a good short game will be key to success this week when the first round tees off on Thursday.
“The rough is not up this week so I think the scoring will be low, but the greens are pretty slopy so missing on the wrong side of the hole will result in sloppy bogeys,” said Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who is looking to add the Joburg Open to his already impressive list of victories in co-sanctioned tournaments on South African fairways.
“You also need to keep it in play off the tee. The fairways are narrow and tree-lined so I feel if you can drive the ball well this week you’ll give yourself lots of chances.
“The Joburg Open has always been a tournament that I would like to win. I’ve come close a few times and it would be nice to tick this one off.”
Richard Sterne, a two-time winner of the Joburg Open in 2008 and 2013, agrees that the Houghton Golf Club greens will play a big role in deciding this week’s champion.
“There are a couple of tough par fours out here, and the greens are where they’ll tuck the flags and make it tricky. The course is in lovely condition and there isn’t much rough, so it will come down to what you do around the greens and being able to score with the putter.”
George Coetzee, the 2014 Joburg Open champion and a two-time winner on the Sunshine Tour this year, has his focus on a strong game off the tee.
“It’s my first experience of Houghton Golf Club. The golf course looks great and I think everybody will be pretty happy with it this week.
“You have to shape your shots off the tee pretty well. I’d say your seven iron to wedge game needs to be pretty good around here, and then obviously controlling it on the greens and making a few putts.
“It’s kind of the same story every week, but I feel this week, in particular, is going to place greater emphasis on shaping it off the tee and having good control around the greens.”
It was a feeling shared by Shaun Norris, who in March this year made his DP World Tour breakthrough with victory in the Steyn City Championship.
“I’d love to add a second DP World Tour title this year. On this golf course, you’ll have to hit the ball well off the tee and then putt well,” he said.
Dylan Naidoo, who has a long history in the Joburg Open as first an invited amateur and now a professional, is equally excited about the new challenge Houghton Golf Club will pose.
“This tournament means a lot to me. I’ve been playing it since I was 16 years old and I’ve really wanted to play better than I have in the past, so I’m excited by a new golf course and a new test. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great golf course. I played a lot here growing up.
“I think the scoring will depend on the weather. If it’s windy and cold and wet it’s not going to be that easy. If the sun shines and there isn’t a lot of wind the scoring will be low.
“It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. But you just have to look at the task in front of you, play the shots, execute the plan, and then you look up and see where you are on the leaderboard.”
And Haydn Porteous is hoping a return to Johannesburg and a tournament he won in 2016 will spark something special in his own game.
“I’m enjoying being home. It’s been a couple of tough seasons for me and to be home and play on familiar ground is nice and hopefully I can get a bit of confidence from that.
“I haven’t been here for a while but I think it’s a great golf course. There are a lot of tough holes out there but also some holes where you can take advantage.
“It should be a good week and I think it will be an enjoyable one for all concerned.”