WORCESTER GOLF CLUB
This Top 100 contender in the Western Cape, an early Peter Matkovich design, has several distinctive features.
Travellers on the N1 highway will catch a glimpse of Worcester Golf Club as they bypass this large Western Cape town which is the administrative capital of the BreedeValley region.Take time to drive through the suburbs to the clubhouse, and you will discover one of the Cape’s lesser-known golfing gems set against a backdrop of the majestic Brandwacht mountains.
Golf has been played in Worcester since 1895, but the club’s 18-hole par-72 layout is a fairly modern one. First-time visitors may be surprised to learn it is one of the earliest designs by celebrated course architect Peter Matkovich, constructed when he was still working for Gary Player. It was opened for play in 1988, and even back then Matkovich was highly creative in modelling his greens complexes. Several of them have interesting slopes. Currently the course is contending for inclusion in the 2018 Golf Digest Top 100 Course Rankings (it has been there before), and its exceptional conditioning in recent years – members enjoy fast and flawless greens to putt on – has certainly boosted the chances of that again happening.The course is a strong challenge from tee to green – the Boland Golf Union has hosted Interprovincial tournaments here at Junior and Mid-Amateur level – while at the same time maintaining excellent playability for a wide range of golfers.
The course, which is 112 kilometres from Cape Town, has a diverse mix of unusual features which stand out in terms of providing uniqueness and variety throughout the 18 holes. Coupled with its quiet, rural setting, and sense of open spaces, there’s lots for golfers to admire.
The most distinctive feature is the massive double green serving the two finishing holes on each nine in front of the spacious two-storey clubhouse, set on a high ridge and offering those in the 19th Hole a panoramic outlook over the course.The green houses both the par-3 ninth, played from a tee on the right as you look over the property from the top balcony, and the closing par-5 18th.When first opened, it was reputed to be the biggest green in the southern hemisphere. Certainly you are left with a mammoth putt if you find the front of the green playing the uphill 18th, and the pin is located in the back section.
Worcester’s layout could be defined as “Karoo parkland,” because the fringes of the course border the dry bushy scrubland that is indigenous to an area which has limited rainfall.The green fairways provide a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. Low hills close to the clubhouse make for three very different feature holes on the front nine, the third to the fifth, which fit beautifully into the undulating topography and give a sense of “desert” golf as the fairways wind through the natural terrain.
The par-4 third is played from an elevated tee to a narrow uphill fairway, and the green is even higher still; the par-4 fourth has a splendid high tee on the side of a hill where you drive downhill to a generously wide fairway; and the par-5 fifth curves right around the lower edge of the hills and the scrubland. Natural rocks and a water hazard guard the green of this hole.
The third prominent feature is a sizeable dam on the front nine.While this first comes into play on the short par-4 sixth, it makes for a particularly dramatic setting on the par-3 seventh hole, where it’s water all the way from tee to green, with limited bail-out options. Several different tees positioned
along an angled bank and pathway mean the carry to the green can be stretched to testing proportions.
The back nine provides the sternest test in terms of a challenge, and it comes as no surprise to learn that three current Sunshine Tour professionals, Oliver Bekker, Christiaan Basson and Ockie Strydom, all started playing the game at Worcester.They would have had to contend with wind, too, because the area can be breezy in summer, as much as it is at the coast.
Nos 10 and 11 are both stern par 4s running alongside the left-hand boundary fence of the course, and the 10th asks for a top tee shot to clear a ravine and find the distant fairway.The 12th is a superb riskand-reward short par 4, and the par-5 16th has a deep water hazard fronting the green. Fail to find the putting surface with your approach, and your ball could roll back down a steep slope into the water.
The nature of the landscape means that there are superb mountain bike trails on the course, and it is popular with registered cyclists.
The clubhouse has a pro shop and halfway house, and the large lounge area is ideal for functions and conferences, for up to 180 people.
The club’s annual flagship event is the Wijnlander, a fourday tournament first played in 1990 and which this year will take place from October 4 to 7. Visit the Worcester Golf Club website for all relevant information on the event, special accommodation offers and more. Book early if you wish to play in it.
Worcester’s opening hole is a medium-length par 4. The second, third and fourth holes are in the background among the hills.