Twice the size of Ire­land

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Promotion -

To give you an idea of the enor­mity of the Eastern Cape, it is twice the size of Ire­land. But while Ire­land has over 400 cour­ses, the Eastern Cape has 50. Of our nine prov­inces, only the vast North­ern Cape is larger in area. It’s a day’s drive on the N2 to get through the Eastern Cape; 900 kilo­me­tres from the Fyn­bos 9-holer on the western edge of the province, to the Wild Coast Sun CC on the eastern edge. The Wild Coast is tech­ni­cally part of the Eastern Cape, af­ter pro­vin­cial bound­ary changes, but not for the pur­poses of this ar­ti­cle.

You could spend weeks ex­plor­ing the re­gion’s cour­ses, but the eas­i­est way to get around to the best of them is to start in Port Elizabeth, the big­gest cen­tre, take the coastal road to East Lon­don, and re­turn via in­land routes.A de­tour west to St Fran­cis Bay will com­plete a trip of about 1 000 kilo­me­tres.

The Hume­wood Links on Al­goa Bay is the crown jewel of Eastern Cape golf. It may only rank No 11 in Golf Di­gest’s Top 100, yet more rev­er­ence is at­tached to this nat­u­ral piece of linksland by over­seas raters than lo­cals. The much trav­elled Aus­tralian Dar­ius Oliver be­lieves it is South Africa’s best course, and has ac­cord­ingly ranked it in his Planet Golf World 100 rank­ing, at No 94.

Sev­eral cour­ses in South Africa are loosely termed as be­ing a “links,” but Hume­wood is the real deal, com­pa­ra­ble in de­sign and looks to the fa­mous links of the UK and Ire­land.The re­mod­elling of all 18 greens eight years ago made a big dif­fer­ence to the playa­bil­ity and chal­lenge of Hume­wood, im­prov­ing it dra­mat­i­cally. Its bent grass putting sur­faces are the equal of any course along the coast. It’s un­for­tu­nate that Hume­wood has never been a wealthy club, be­cause money could po­ten­tially trans­form their links into South Africa’s No 1, with im­proved clas­si­cally shaped bunker­ing and the re­moval of all kikuyu grass from the prop­erty. Noth­ing much else needs to be done. A bril­liantly routed lay­out, won­der­ful in­di­vid­ual holes, and one of the coun­try’s best club­houses, al­ready makes Hume­wood spe­cial.

An­other rar­ity about Hume­wood, and one which makes it a great cham­pi­onship venue – it’s be­yond rea­son to think that only one SA Open has been played there in the last 60 years – is a ter­rific prac­tice fa­cil­ity.You sel­dom find such a spa­cious range at an old mem­bers club.

Hume­wood was once part of the Port Elizabeth Golf Club, un­til they be­came sep­a­rate clubs in the early 1950s.The PEGC has long been the city’s premier club, with a park­land course in the sub­urbs. It’s par­tic­u­larly well kept, and al­ways an in­ter­est­ing lay­out to play. I am at odds, though, with its sig­na­ture hole, the par-5 eighth.The green sits on the op­po­site bank of a large dam from the fair­way, re­quir­ing a brave long shot over wa­ter for any­one wish­ing to get there in two. Most golfers play it safe as a three-shot­ter, and this to me weak­ens the ex­cite­ment factor. Surely it should be a long par 4, forc­ing more golfers to think about risk and re­ward.

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