TOP 100 COURSE RANK­INGS ARE ALL ABOUT ‘BRAG­GING RIGHTS’

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Above) -

he lat­est rank­ing of South Africa’s Top 100 cour­ses has given cause for me to make some ob­ser­va­tions which may not be in keep­ing with your mis­sion. Of course, the cri­te­ria you use in con­duct­ing this ex­er­cise are your own but per­haps I could start there.

Who is be­ing tar­geted with your rank­ings? Is the in­ten­tion to pro­vide recog­ni­tion to green­keep­ers for a job well done? If so, how does one make any mean­ing­ful as­sess­ment with­out know­ing what bud­getary and cli­matic con­straints ap­ply? A green­keeper may be do­ing a mag­nif­i­cent job un­der dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances but how crush­ing must a down­grade be in such cir­cum­stances? Or is the in­ten­tion to di­rect golfers to­wards those cour­ses that are cur­rently in the best con­di­tion?

If so, as­sess­ments should only be made in the three months prior to your re­sults be­ing pub­lished. Eval­u­a­tions older than this are ir­rel­e­vant in­so­far as con­di­tion­ing is con­cerned. I may be read­ing be­tween the lines but I also have the im­pres­sion of a slant, how­ever slight, in favour of the lowhand­i­cap golfer who is to be “chal­lenged,” while high hand­i­caps are to be of­fered “en­joy­able op­tions.” A bit con­de­scend­ing this. Again, is the rat­ing in­tended for the

Tlo­cal golfer or for tourists? If the lat­ter, per­haps travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion are fac­tors to be con­sid­ered. Lo­ca­tion cer­tainly en­ters into the reck­on­ing in as­sess­ing value for money and your in­clu­sion of green fees is help­ful here. I have a sus­pi­cion, how­ever, that brag­ging rights are the main ap­peal of the sur­vey and that lo­cal golfers will con­tinue vis­it­ing their favourite cour­ses un­less your com­ments are re­ally deroga­tory. It is this last as­pect where I feel you have trans­gressed and is why I wish to take you to task.

A course does not have to be of su cient length and ob­vi­ous op­u­lence, cost­li­ness and modern de­sign to ap­peal to the dis­cern­ing golfer. Dur­ban CC is just such an ex­am­ple. In ad­di­tion, the av­er­age age and abil­ity of the ma­jor­ity of golfers pred­i­cates that a cham­pi­onship course, al­though ad­mirable on tele­vi­sion, would in­tim­i­date most of us in re­al­ity. In­deed, for many cour­ses, the least used ex­trav­a­gance is cham­pi­onship tees. It is con­se­quently ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing to read your dis­parag­ing re­marks ( March) about one of my favourite cour­ses, Sel­borne, to which I have been for­tu­nate enough to have en­joyed many vis­its over more than 20 years.

The com­ments about the course con­di­tion pro­vides proof that nei­ther you nor your vol­un­teers have vis­ited Sel­borne for some time. I will not de­tail the tra­vails the es­tate and club have been through but can say that, thanks to the love and ded­i­ca­tion of a cou­ple of pro­fes­sional mem­bers who have do­nated their time, travel and ex­per­tise, Sel­borne is now even bet­ter than be­fore not­with­stand­ing your dis­like of a par­tic­u­lar hole. Storm dam­age from the past has al­ways been ac­com­pa­nied by im­prove­ments.

The course now be­longs to the home own­ers and the ho­tel has been pur­chased by a pro­fes­sional en­ter­prise who have re­stored the gra­cious build­ing and sur­rounds with lov­ing care with­out spar­ing any ex­pense.

Where you re­ally put your foot in it, how­ever, is in de­scrib­ing Sel­borne as an es­tate course, “where the over­pow­er­ing prox­im­ity of hous­ing has re­duced the ap­peal of play­ing for golfers who like to es­cape to more nat­u­ral sur­round­ings.” On the con­trary, it has prob­a­bly one of the low­est den­si­ties of taste­ful hous­ing of any es­tate course in the coun­try and in­dige­nous for­est with roam­ing bush buck and duiker and bird life sim­i­lar to that found at Um­doni. The es­tate ac­com­mo­dates the de­light­ful Faye Barker Trail and when I read your com­ments, I ques­tion whether any of you have ac­tu­ally ever been to the Sel­borne I reg­u­larly visit.

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