GOLF COURSE LIV­ING IN LIM­POPO

Koro Creek has pros­pered and grown into a suc­cess­ful res­i­den­tial golf es­tate in Lim­popo, with a cham­pi­onship course.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - News - By Stu­art McLean

Koro Creek and Thorny Bush are two res­i­den­tial bushveld golf es­tates.

IT’S AL­WAYS a good mea­sure of a golf course’s pop­u­lar­ity and club­house func­tion­al­ity when it is asked to host a tour­na­ment as part of the an­nual Vo­da­com Ori­gins of Golf se­ries on the Sun­shine Tour.And Koro Creek Bushveld Golf Es­tate stepped up a notch in terms of recog­ni­tion when it re­cently hosted an event for the first time in this pro-am se­ries.

The course at Koro Creek, in the Lim­popo town of Modi­molle, was opened for play al­most 10 years ago, but for most of that time it has kept a low pro­file, even while the es­tate was suc­cess­fully go­ing about its busi­ness dur­ing tough eco­nomic times which se­ri­ously af­fected other life­style es­tates in the Water­berg re­gion north of Gaut­eng.

Koro Creek has evolved around dif­fer­ent es­tate plan­ning com­pared to the likes of Ze­bula, El­e­ments and Eu­pho­ria, which all launched within a few years of each other, in that it con­cen­trated on pro­vid­ing se­cure up­mar­ket res­i­den­tial hous­ing within the con­ve­nience of a town’s in­fra­struc­ture, rather than be­ing a sec­ond­home wildlife des­ti­na­tion deep in the bushveld.

Koro Creek is to­day a pros­per­ous and rest­ful look­ing es­tate bor­der­ing the leafy sub­urbs of Modi­molle, con­tain­ing more than a hun­dred large homes built on spa­cious stands over­look­ing the course, and as the es­tate has grown over the years so has the town it­self. There’s a new shop­ping mall (ModiMall) on the main R101 road through the town, built due to the de­mands of an in­creas­ing num­ber of af­flu­ent res­i­dents in the area. Modi­molle is now re­garded as the ad­min­is­tra­tive and com­mer­cial hub of the Water­berg District.

The town is at­tract­ing a large num­ber of re­tirees, drawn there by a broad se­lec­tion of re­tire­ment vil­lages, in­clud­ing at Koro Creek, and the coun­try life­style. And it’s close enough to the N1 that it’s just an hour’s drive to Pre­to­ria. So the kids and grand­kids are not that far away. And, if you’re a re­tired golfer, Modi­molle is es­sen­tially the cen­tral point of golf in the Water­berg. You can choose among half-a-dozen cour­ses within an hour’s drive.

It is this con­ve­nient ge­o­graph­i­cal po­si­tion­ing that makes Koro Creek a won­der­ful base for golf­ing groups com­ing on tours to the Water­berg.

There are six guest houses on the es­tate where they can be ac­com­mo­dated. I stayed for two nights at Die Pap Pot, a lux­ury B&B over­look­ing the sec­ond green. A beau­ti­ful spot for sun­down­ers in the evenings, with the wildlife wan­der­ing around the es­tate. Strolling around a few holes, I bumped into some home own­ers go­ing on a game drive in their golf cart.

PGA pro­fes­sional David Rid­dle is the gen­eral man­ager at Koro Creek. He knows the Lim­popo re­gion like the back of his hand, hav­ing grown up play­ing ju­nior golf with Retief Goosen at Polok­wane. He was for­merly at Leg­end Golf & Sa­fari Re­sort, where he helped in the design of the course, built a 10-hole par 3 course with replica greens from fa­mous holes around the world, and was re­spon­si­ble for the design and con­struc­tion of Leg­end’s Ex­treme 19th. He has em­braced his new role at Koro Creek by bring­ing a re­fresh­ing buzz of ex­pec­ta­tion to the golf club and course.

“We have a strong core of older mem­bers here – many of them from the old Nyl­stroom Golf Club – but Koro Creek needs vis­it­ing golfers in or­der to flour­ish,” says Rid­dle. “We have an af­ford­able mem­ber­ship deal, and have be­come an at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tion for week­end golfers from Gaut­eng. It was great to have the Vo­da­com Ori­gins tour­na­ment here in Oc­to­ber, be­cause we were able to show­case our course and fa­cil­i­ties to both the tour pros and the am­a­teurs who were part of that week.We like to project a wel­com­ing ex­pe­ri­ence here, and I think we achieved that in the way the golfers par­tied at the club­house ev­ery evening.”

The large thatch-roofed club­house is built for out­door liv­ing and the warm weather you get in this part of the coun­try. Not only golfers, but home own­ers take ad­van­tage of good cater­ing to fre­quent the 80-seater restau­rant and bar. There’s a well-stocked pro shop.

The golf course is a good cham­pi­onship lay­out, which plays to 6 795 me­tres off the back tees (club tees are 6 410), but its fair­ways are gen­er­ously wide, and the course can be quite flat­ter­ing to the club golfer if he’s hit­ting the ball well. Dean Burmester won the Vo­da­com Ori­gins ti­tle at Koro Creek with a 19-un­der-par to­tal of 197 for 54 holes. Mind you, with su­perb bent grass greens, golfers are go­ing to hole a lot of putts.

The course was laid out by Douw van der Merwe of DDV Design, and it has fea­tured in the Golf Di­gest Top 100, although not in the last 2014 rank­ing. But since Rid­dle’s ar­rival in 2014 there has been a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in the con­di­tion­ing and look of the lay­out.The first of sev­eral pro­posed design changes have been made, no­tably on the par-five 18th hole where the wa­ter fea­tures now come into play, and ad­ja­cent houses taken out of play, while the fair­ways now have a healthy cov­er­ing of grass .“Fair­ways as such as golfers ex­pect to play on didn’t ex­ist when I ar­rived,” said Rid­dle. “It was a very dry and fast-run­ning course.”

Koro Creek as a design is full of po­ten­tial. What I like about play­ing there are the many ex­cit­ing and chal­leng­ing holes it has to of­fer the golfer.The cor­rec­tion of some design flaws will cer­tainly en­hance it. For ex­am­ple, if you’re play­ing the open­ing hole, a par 5, for the first time, from the mid­dle of the fair­way the green looks em­i­nently reach­able from 200 me­tres out and a great birdie op­por­tu­nity to start your round. How­ever, what the golfer can’t un­for­tu­nately see from the fair­way is a large wa­ter hazard fronting the green. That’s a weak­ness in the hole and needs to be rec­ti­fied.

The front nine is the shorter nine, but it also has the more dif­fi­cult greens. Some of them have se­ri­ous slopes, and putting is tricky if you’re on the wrong side of the pin. By con­trast, the back nine of­fers more birdie op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Koro Creek has prob­a­bly the only par 3 in the coun­try which is a stroke 1 hole. If any read­ers can en­lighten me on another, please let me know. This is the par-3 sev­enth, and what a spe­cial hole it is. Very much a bushveld creation.

From the club tee it’s a healthy 205 me­tres, and you can hardly see the green be­cause of high trees block­ing the view. Your tee shot has to carry these trees to seek out a green that has wa­ter haz­ards on both flanks. Short or long is safer than wide of the mark. For the Vo­da­com Ori­gins event, by the way, it was never played longer than 192 me­tres. I think a sen­si­ble de­ci­sion.

PGA PRO­FES­SIONAL DAVID RID­DLE HAS OVER­SEEN SIG­NIF­I­CANT IM­PROVE­MENTS TO THE CON­DI­TION­ING AND LOOK OF KORO CREEK’S CHAM­PI­ONSHIP COURSE.

TOUGH CHAL­LENGE The par-3 sev­enth hole at Koro Creek is stroke 1 on the card.

OUT­DOOR LIV­ING The club­house at Koro Creek.

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