Com­par­ing the spec­ta­tor ex­pe­ri­ence at two pro events

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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

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