Comparing the spectator experience at two pro events
Iwas fortunate to attend both the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City and Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek late last year. These two excellent events do South African golf proud, and attending both allowed me to witness the remarkable contrast between the two.
As a Nedbank Wealth client I was one of many invited VIP guests at Sun City (16th green pictured), and I was able to appreciate the enormous budget that Nedbank and all the other lesser sponsors invest in the event. The organisation was slick from the welcoming reception to the huge hospitality tent and VIP grandstand.
The Gary Player CC is always a treat for galleries. I don’t know what the gate was, but the course was full and the marshals did a pretty good job. On the negative side, it is difficult to follow one group for 18 or even nine holes. The reason is that spectators have to follow the cart paths and this often means that by the time you get from the green to the next tee, the players have teed off and are well down the fairway.
I timed a visit to the Kruger to coincide with the Leopard Creek event. The Alfred Dunhill is a lot more laid-back than Sun City. I would guess that the on-course spectators numbered about five percent of those at Sun City. The organisation is just as slick, but less obvious. One hardly notices the ropes even though they are there. The spectators were a lot closer to the golfers at Leopard Creek and it was easy to overhear the general chat among players, mostly about game sightings.
The marshals were excellent in that they seemed to be only where they were needed. It is hard to believe that this course could be any better than it is and yet all the kikuyu turf is to be lifted and replaced with indigenous turf grass.
Watching the pros up close is an awesome experience. They all hit the ball miles. On a number of occasions I positioned myself on a par 5 where the drives were finishing, then watched the ease with which they hit the green in two. The second hole at Sun City is one example. What impressed me is the live sound that the club hitting the ball makes. Something we hackers never experience in our own golf. John Reid, Cape Town