Sunshine Tour’s new vision for development.
Soweto Country Club is undergoing its most extensive upgrade to date as part of the Sunshine Tour’s drive to find a more holistic solution to the development of South Africa’s previously disadvantaged golfers.
The Tour’s new development focus has highlighted a need to tackle golf development as a social issue, eliminating the obstacles preventing talented golfers from progressing through the professional ranks.
At a purely golf level, this has seen the launch of the Gary Player Class of 2017 which has identified 30 previously disadvantaged professionals who are being given free access to practice facilities, nutrition and fitness advice, coaching, mental training, and financial assistance to travel to and play in tournaments on the Sunshine Tour, IGT Tour, Big Easy Tour or MENA Tour.
The upgrade of Soweto CC is being done in partnership with the City of Johannesburg, Investec Property, SAIL Rights Commercialisation, Gauteng Provincial Government and Bent el Associates International. Funds were also donated from the Gary Player Golf Day hosted at the club, and individual contributions from Larry Nestadt, Greg Cohen, Solly Kramer, Sam Hackner and Robin Magid.
The upgrade was targeted as a key step in the Sunshine Tour’s development initiative as it remains an important facility for a community with a history of producing talented golfers from a previously disadvantaged background.
“There is an exciting youth golf movement taking place in Soweto,” says Selwyn Nathan, Executive Director of the Sunshine Tour. “We need to give these youngsters a facility they can be proud of, one which continues the great history of this club and its legends such as Cox Nhlapho, Vincent Tshabalala, Theo Manyama, Derrick Lekomo, Norman Mashaba, Solly Oliphant and others.”
Under Phase 1, the clubhouse is being upgraded as part of the goal to make the facility a community asset beyond just the golf course. Golfers will have access to a new 400-square metre practice area in front of the clubhouse and a synthetic practice putting green with various tiers and levels and a bunker installed by Southwest Putting Greens (SWG). Phase 2 is the erection of palisade fencing around the property, and Phase 3 will incorporate a redesign of the course by Gary Player.
For Nathan, this upgrade is a means of making sure the club benefits the entire community – from being able to host business conferences to its core purpose of being a viable golf club for Soweto’s promising young golfers and rising professionals. “When we launched the Gary Player Class of 2017 I made it clear that this is a social programme, not a development programme,” he says. “We have been through many evolutions of golf development and now we have a workable solution to effective development at all levels, from the excellent work done by the Golf Development Board through to our professional structures. Upgrading Soweto CC is another key step in this process.
“From a Sunshine Tour perspective we want to create a situation where a previously disadvantaged professional can at least have the same start to his career as a more privileged professional.We want a black professional to be able to stand on the tee in one of our big summer tournaments and feel he can win because he’s at least had the same opportunities as the man standing next to him.”
Gary Player interacts with members of the Class of 2017.
A new look awaits Soweto Country Club.